In Texas Holdem, you get to make your first choice before seeing any of the community cards. You decide whether to enter the pot or not, based only on your hole cards. If you learn a good Texas Holdem preflop strategy, you will have a significant advantage over your opponents!
Do not be fooled by watching televised poker! The hands that make the cut are not representative of the actual preflop action as many hands that are not interesting enough are left out.
Hands with little action most often are not displayed as they are less attractive to watch. If you adopt a more tight approach, you will be folding most of your hands preflop, and this is ok. You may even encounter long stretches where you are not dealt a proper hand to play, and you must remain patient.
As a beginner, it is safer to adopt a tight-aggressive preflop strategy until you gain experience and confidence. So, being patient and selective become important aspects of your game. When you gain experience and understanding, you can begin to loosen up and add more hands to the mix.
So, what is a winning texas Holdem preflop strategy?
The strength of the starting hands in Holdem is, by itself, very important. Stronger hands have higher chances of winning at showdown. However, it is essential to understand how the value and playability of starting hands are affected by factors like position, opponent’s playing styles, and the previous action.
These factors should be weighted and you should adapt your preflop strategy accordingly. For example, some hands that are good enough for a raise from late position must be folded in an early position. This tutorial will help you understand how the different factors affect the playability of the starting hands and prepare you to face different situations!
Every player has a different preflop style. The tight, conservative players play fewer hands. They depend more on the strength of their starting hands to carry them throughout the hand evolution. By selecting premium hands, they try to avoid getting into difficult post-flop situations.
On the other hand, loose-aggressive players are willing to play more hands preflop, so not only the strongest. They feel more comfortable with uncertainty, and use their skills to decipher unclear post-flop situations. They try to pick up some pots when they smell weakness and get away with minimum losses when they are behind.
As a general guideline, you must give more credit for holding strong starting hands to raises coming from tight players than from loose-aggressive players. So, you can tighten your value calling or raising range against tight openers and widen it against loose opponents.
If, on the other hand, you are first to open the preflop betting, you must tighten your opening range against opponents that call loosely, and widen it by including some light, bluff hands, against opponents that are tight. This is because tight opponents will fold frequently enough to your open raise to make stealing their blinds profitable.
Understanding position, where you are seated relative to the button, is essential for good preflop play.
The most advantageous positions are the late ones, with the button being the best possible one. When you are seated in late position, you get to act after most players, so you have already extracted some information on the strength of their hands!
Possessing this additional information gives you a significant advantage over your opponents and allows you to loosen up your preflop requirements. On the other hand, when you are seated in an early position, you will be acting without knowing anything about your opponent’s strength. Therefore, you must tighten up and play fewer and better hands to make up for your positional disadvantage. For more details, you can check out the tutorial on understanding position.
The previous action certainly affects your preflop strategy. For example, if one or more players have shown strength, it means that you must adapt your hand requirements accordingly. Even when you are facing a single opener, you need a better hand to call with, than you would need to raise with yourself from the same position, as the gap concept suggests.
The number of players left to act after you is also critical. If you have many players after you, a hand like A9 is risky to play as there is a high probability that one or more players have stronger hands. On the other hand, if you are in one of the late positions with the same hand, you may well have the best hand, and raising becomes a good choice.
Along with the above factors that affect preflop decisions, you must consider the particularities of your starting hands. For example, some hands play better against fewer opponents, like ace-high or king-high, with a good kicker, or big pairs. These types of hands, when they connect with the board, are often strong enough to win a showdown against one or two players, but not strong enough in a multiplayer pot. As a general guideline, you should raise with these hands to try to limit the field.
Other hands play better against many opponents, like suited or connected cards, as they can make strong hands, like flushes or straights. As a general guideline, you should try to enter pots cheaply with such hands in multiplayer pots to take advantage of the good implied odds of making your hand. You can check the tutorial on Texas Holdem starting hands to learn how to treat the different hand categories.
in a nutshell
Apart from the playing style that you embrace and that best suits you, the type of hands that you will play preflop also depends on other factors, like your position, the previous action, and your opponent’s playing styles. Taking into account these factors, along with the specificities of your starting hands, will help you adopt a winning preflop strategy!
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Once you feel ready, you can test your skills with our Basic Poker Strategy Quiz 🙂