Texas Hold'Em Pre-Flop Strategy
Pre-flop strategy? (including starting? hand selection)? is the most important part of Texas Hold'em poker. Playing your hand correctly pre-flop will ensure that you are set up to make profits post-flop. You will utilize pre-flop strategy in every single Holdem hand that you are dealt. The same cannot be said about post-flop strategy or any other aspect of Hold'em poker.
Holdem Pre-Flop Hand Selection
The most important part of playing Holdem is to start off by playing the right hands. No Holdem? poker? strategy guide in the world is going to help you make money by routinely playing crap like 73s or Q8. In a previous article we discuss Holdem hand selection and I encourage you to read that article before going any further. I just want to reiterate the most important point in hand selection: You must be selective and disciplined in? Texas holdem? or you will go broke.
When to Open with a Raise
Suppose you've decided to play the hand you're dealt and the action comes to you with the pot still unraised. Since you've eliminated folding, you now have two options: raise or call. A common mistake many amateur holdem players make is opening with a call rather than a raise. You need to raise rather than call at least 75% of the time or you're probably doing something wrong. You should never take poker advice from a movie, but? just this once? I'll quote Mike McD from Rounders: If it's good enough to call you have to be in with the raise. Raising will give you a chance to steal the blinds pre-flop or take the pot post-flop with aggressive play even if your hand misses. If you're scared to raise pre-flop then go home and play tiddly winks because Texas Holdem isn't for you. Why only call 25% of the time? You need to vary your play style a bit so other players don't catch on. Just call once in a while for deception.
Calling Two or More Bets
If someone raised ahead of you before you have a chance to act then you need to tighten up your play. The raiser is signaling to you that he has a great hand so in order to play against him you must also have a great hand. TT or better for pocket pair of AQ or better non-pocket pair is about all you should consider playing in this situation.? If you decide to play then be aggressive and frequently re-raise rather than just calling the bets. Re-raising will encourage others to get out of the pot and? you will be able to probe for information from the original raiser by his? next? call or cap-the-pot action.
Against Two Raisers
If two players raise the pot before you have a chance to act then you need to tighten up your game even more. If two people are raising in Holdem then chances are at least one of them has a monster hand. If you don't have a monster hand then you need to fold. Fold JJ or AQ without a second thought, chances are you are beat and drawing to three or fewer outs. QQ, KK, AA, AK and maybe? AQs is what it takes to call three bets or raise to four bets. Anything else doesn't make the cut.
In Texas Holdem the small blind is usually 1/3rd or 1/2 of a single bet while the big blind is a whole bet. When you're blind you need to change your hand selection a small bit. From the big blind spot if the pot is unraised and you have an okay to poor hand then just check and see the flop. "Free" flops are always good news. If the pot is raised then you need to be selective, so don't call the raise unless you'd normally play the hand if you weren't blind. From the small blind position you can play a little looser than normal on an unraised pot. If the pot is raised then just ignore your blind, pretend that you're just calling two bets and decide how to act based on that. Remember that you have horrible position when you're blind so when in doubt just fold.
Here are some Usenet links to more information on Holdem pre-flop play:
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