Playing Before The Flop
Before the flop is where it all starts; you are dealt your cards and you are able to make your first decision in the hand.
Preflop play is not as complex as other betting rounds due to the fact that the hand is in its very early stages. The majority of your strategy simply involves choosing your hands carefully and betting the right amount of chips.
Starting hand selection.
Good preflop strategy involves choosing the right cards to fight with and having a good starting hand strategy. Just as you wouldn't send your weakest friend into battle, you don't want to rest your hopes on hands that have very little strength and are likely to get a good hiding from your opponents.
If you have the best hand or one of the best hands every time you enter a pot, you are dramatically increasing your chances of winning money from each and every hand.
The best starting hands are the big pairs and big cards. You should try and stick with big cards like Aces, Kings, Queens and Jacks as much as possible, and avoid hands that do not have any of these cards in them. Do not fall into the trap of playing any two cards because you had a 'feeling' that they would do well. If you want to win money, you should fold the cards that are likely to get you into trouble and cost you money.
Betting before the flop.
If you have a strong hand and you want to enter the pot, you should almost always make a raise. If you simply call the big blind, you are giving weaker players the opportunity to see a cheap flop and outdraw you, when it will be better to reduce the number of players who see a flop by making a decent-sized raise. So the next time you want to play with your strong hand, aim to weed out the weaker players and make a good raise.
Bet sizing guidelines.
As far as bet sizing goes, your standard preflop raise should be around 4x the big blind. If you just double the big blind and make that minimum raise, you are not betting enough money to scare other players out of the pot.
With a minimum raise, you will find that a large number of weaker players will still come along for the ride and your raise will not be respected, leaving you open to being outdrawn when the cards come down. Make sure that your preflop raises are strong and are able to sort the men from the boys.
The ideal situation is to be going to the flop heads up with a strong hand. If you are in position too, all the better.
If there has been a raise before you and you have a strong hand, your main plan of action should be to just call if your hand is strong (but not amazing, e.g. AQ, AJ, KQ, JJ), or reraise if you have a very strong hand like AA, KK, QQ or possibly AK. Preflop bet sizing is all part of a good poker betting strategy.
Your position at the table is going to play an incredibly important role in every hand that you play. As you should know, being able to act after your opponents will prove to be very valuable, and can easily make the difference between winning and losing a hand.
The best position in every hand is going to be the player that is on the button, as this person is going to be acting last on every round in the hand. Seats to the right of the button are also quite favorable, as they will also be one of the last players to be acting on each betting round in the hand.
You can loosen your starting hand requirements a little in late position, as your position is going to give you a big advantage over the other players at the table.
The least favorable positions are going to be the small and big blind, and the first few seats to the left of the big blind. These players will be one of the first to act on each round, which can make playing a hand very difficult. Therefore you should stick to playing only the strongest starting hands from these seats, as your position is going to be a severe handicap that can make marginally-strong hands quite unprofitable.
Before the flop strategy tips.
- Limping is rarely a good play. Always look to either 'pump it' or 'dump it'.
- Raise more if there are limpers before you. Add 1BB to your 4BB raise for each limper.
- If you consistently have lots of players calling your raise preflop, try raising more.
- You can loosen your starting hand requirements at short-handed tables.
- Just because you raise preflop, it doesn't mean that you are committed to the hand.
How to play before the flop overview.
If you always start out with a strong hand, you have a much greater chance of winning money from poker. There is no doubt that it is going to be more fun to play every hand under the sun in the hope of catching a big hand and cashing in, but this is just going to lose you money in the long run. Don't fool yourself into thinking that limping saves you money, because it is just a weak play that will consistently drain your bankroll through every session, so don't do it.
The key to good preflop play is to be selectively aggressive, with there being very little in the middle - you should either always be raising or folding. This makes things a lot easier if you are a new player because you have limited yourself to 2 simple (and profitable) options rather than getting confused with whether it is worth limping-in.
Playing a hand.
Go back to the sublime Texas Hold'em guide.