How to develop a sound preflop strategy?

Poker Rooms | estimated reading time
2019. July 23.
When it comes to No-limit Hold'em, there are several aspects to consider other than our actual holdings.

When it comes to No-limit Hold'em, there are several aspects to consider other than our actual holdings.


No-limit Texas Hold'em, the Cadillac of poker as the great Doyle Brunson once famously said. If we think about the complexity of the game, it's easy to see why the living legend thinks so.

Aspiring players, who start winning first need to focus on a key aspect of the game, pre-flop strategy. Some hands can look nice while in reality, they can cost us a lot.

Other than the actual cards, there are several things to take into consideration, when deciding how to play our holdings before the flop. Of course, having aces or kings makes it pretty easy, but unfortunately, these monster rarely show up, so it's important to be able to make the correct decisions with all of the starting hands.

If we take a six-handed cash game table, hands like pocket jacks can be good enough to play for our whole stack in some situations, while sometimes, folding them is not even a question.

But what makes the difference?

The short answer is position. When sitting down at a poker table, it's vital to know basic preflop ranges, the list of hands that should be played from certain positions. On the internet, there are plenty of preflop starting hand charts, which can help us out, but they only focus on opening, while in reality, we can face a lot of open raises in front of us, or even three-bets, four-bets, squeezes, etc.

Let's say, we open pocket tens from the UTG position (first to act), an unknown player from the button re-raises, and the big blind shoves for 100 big blinds.

In this case, mucking the good-looking jacks is usually the correct play, as both of our opponents can have higher pairs (QQ+) or ace-king, in which case we're either a 4-1 underdog or slightly ahead (against the big slick).

In another situation, when we open from the button, the small-blind re-raises and the big-blind comes over the top, we can easily consider moving all-in (again, 100 big blinds effective).

While this may surprise the rookies, studying pre-flop ranges will make it easy to understand the reasoning behind this. The standard play from the button after others folded is to open about 40-45% of our starting hands including some pretty bad holdings like K-4 suited or Q-8 off-suited.

As the small blind likely knows this, they can easily start 3-betting lighter, to take down the dead-money. But of course, the big-blind can very well be aware of this and can come over the top more often than in the earlier situation, where we opened from the UTG and got three-bet from the button.

In this case, we would open with about 13% of our starting hands and pocket jacks are in the middle of our range.

An article is not enough to cover every situation that can occur pre-flop, but if you want to have a solid game, make sure to study the ones that can come up most often and always think about ranges rather than actual hands.

 

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