Pre-flop Strategy Guide

Posted: 2016-12-07 22:04 By:

Learn to Play Pre-Flop Poker like a Pro
Learn to Play Pre-Flop Poker

If you build a house on shaky foundations it will never be secure and that's exactly the same principle you need to bear in mind when you're looking at your pre-flop poker strategy. Let me quickly illustrate this point with a quick story:

Recently I was playing $1/$2 Limit Texas Hold'em online and I noticed something striking about one of the players at my table. Although he claimed to be a good player, I noticed that he made a number of mistakes and one of the biggest was his pre-flop play. After studying this player I began to notice that he was not the only one at the table making these mistakes and that's when I thought to myself that there are many people who simply do not know how to play their hands pre-flop.
Aggression is Key

If you read any strategy books written by some of the game's best players you'll notice a common theme in what they say about pre-flop play: "Play tight, but be aggressive" (David Sklansky), "Play tight and also play aggressive" (Doyle Brunson), "Play the top hands and be aggressive" (Phil Hellmuth).

    "Play the top hands and be aggressive" - Phil Hellmuth

One of the biggest mistakes I noticed that my online opponent was making came when he was under-the-gun (UTG). Because this most dangerous seat at the table (namely because you will have between five and eight people to act after you), there's essentially one mantra you should abide by in this spot: "If it's good enough to call with, it's good enough to raise with."

Your range from UTG - both in 6-max and full ring games - should be extremely narrow and consist mainly of hands ranked among the top 8% of hands. Additionally, you should start any of these hands with a raise and never with a call. Indeed, this is the mistake our virtual friend made as he simply called with A-7o from UTG.
Finding Your Range
Finding Your Range

So what hands fall within the 8% of playable hands from UTG? Using a poker calculator you'll see that 8% of hands equates to: 99+, ATs+, KQs, AJo+ and KQo. Hopefully this explanation will show you that UTG is the most critical position and you should play extremely tight simply because you don't know what players behind you will do.

Obviously, you should always consider table dynamics when you think about your pre-flop strategy, but while you may need to make the aforementioned range slightly tighter if the table is aggressive, you should stick to this basic rule.

One other strategy you can think about when playing UTG is the re-raise. This would be a move where you choose one of the very strongest hands in the above range (think A-A, K-K and Q-Q) and call UTG and then re-raise when some raises you. However, this is a move you should use sparingly and only if you're certain that someone behind you is aggressive enough to isolate your limp with a raise. Indeed, in general your main strategy should be to raise pre-flop when you're UTG; especially when playing Limit Hold'em because the pressure you can exert on someone with a raise is significantly less than in No Limit Hold'em.

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