Preflop Play in Poker and Strategy
Preflop play in poker is very important; this is the first stage of an poker game and where the action begins. It starts with two players posting the blinds. These forced bets have an important chapter in every poker school, poker pre flop strategy. The fact that there’s a pot to be won even before the betting starts makes it profitable to raise and try to steal the blinds with weak hands too.
The other reason why the blinds generate action is because this way no one can just sit there and wait for big hands forever, or else by posting the blinds they will slowly lose all their chips. It is common sense that if you want to be a winning player, you will have to try to steal other players’ blinds in the preflop play as often as possible, preferably more often than losing yours.
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Stealing Blinds in Poker
Best preflop play most of the time, you should be stealing blinds in poker by raising in late position, with as many hands as you can get away with, regardless of opposition from the blinds. If they tend to call a lot, we’re happy with it, because it’s always good to play raised pots in position. Against such blinds, try not to play extremely weak hands, but the ones you find in the starting range I suggested will all do just fine.
In case the blinds fold a lot, you can raise with 1,5 times as many hands as the ones I recommended (I still mean playable hands of course, not hands like 83o, but the ones right below the bottom of the suggested range).
The trouble is that sometimes you’ll find players in the blinds who like to reraise you. Against these opponents, raise with a bit tighter range, but play your good hands more aggressively, and re-reraise (4bet) with your strongest hands.
Raising Pre Flop in Poker
There are basically two goals in the strategy of raising pre flop in poker. One is to increase your expected value with a strong hand. Compared to a limped pot, you’ll be able to bet bigger on all streets for value with your big hands in a raised pot, and you’ll have a much higher chance of making your opponent commit all his chips to the pot before the river with a losing hand.
The other, just as significant goal, is to thin the field. All hands have a lower equity in multiway pots than versus one player, and you want to keep your equity as high as possible once you put money in the pot. Chasing away random hands from the pot is crucial even preflop.
If you don’t raise, you fail to defend the potentially strongest hand. The more players see the flop, the higher the chance that someone outflops you. The ideal case is when only one player calls your raise, and since you’re the one who raised preflop, you will be in control of the hand throughout. To achieve that goal, you must first figure out where each of your opponent’s threshold level is, where he starts to consider folding rather than seeing the flop.
To put it simple, you should always put as much money in the pot as possible while you have the best hand. If your opponent never folds any two cards, the best you can do with AK is to shove all your chips in preflop. To go all in right away with no action beforehand is not necessarily the best preflop play however, unless there’s someone at the table who’s guaranteed to call.
I only brought up this extreme example to illustrate the idea that you should always try to find the highest raise your opponent calls with the worse hand (if that highest raise is all your chips, then go all in, but it’s usually 3-6 times the big blind). By doing that, you maximize your winnings preflop (we will get to postflop play later). Once you figured out how many of your opponents are willing to commit with weak hands that should be your standard raise size at the table preflop. It’s important to add a big blind to your raise-size with each limper.
Poker 3 Bet
Poker 3 bet is not something you will do very often at first, but there are certain hands you will have to defend with a reraise even as a beginner. Refer to the previous chapter for hand ranges depending on position and other factors. I don’t advise you to reraise lighter than what I suggested while you’re learning the game.
A frequent mistake typical of inexperienced players is 3betting too light to defend their blinds. When their opponent calls, they might bet the flop when they don’t hit, but then give up on the turn. Advanced players will pick up on that and exploit it. In general, building a big pot out of position where you’ll be in trouble if your opponent calls your bet on the flop is always a mistake. It’s true even if you have the best of rank poker hands, since you will have no idea whether your opponent called you on the flop with third pair, a gut shot straight draw, any other draw, a weak top pair or a really strong hand, because weak passive players tend to call all the time whatever they have. You will play for stacks with borderline hands too much of the time in situations like this, and you might end up running unnecessary multi-street bluffs because you feel you must win the pot you built by then.
All this can be avoided by using a strategy where you 3 bet tight with legitimate hands preflop. As long as you’re playing against weak opponents, there’s absolutely no need to defend your blinds and make any fancy light 3 bets. Simply play your position and build big pots when you feel comfortable about it.
Conclusion On How to Play Preflop In Poker
Keep your involvement in the game to the minimum preflop if you are out of position. If you raise and someone reraises you in late position, there are few hands that are worth calling with, but it’s time to re-reraise (4bet) with QQ, KK, AA and against looser opponents, AK. Calling can be considered against players who 3bet too light.
You can 4bet this type of player with a much wider range, and call with bluff catcher hands like AQ, AJ, KQ. These hands can flop strong top pairs that will be ahead of your opponents range. Even so, it won’t be easy to gain much value from these situations, so try not to call 3bets out of position too often as a beginner, and only consider it against very loosely 3betting players.
All other hands, apart from the ones I just mentioned, should be folded preflop to a 3bet out of position. From the blinds, only play hands in the last chapter, and never defend too light.
Preflop play, how to play preflop in poker, is perhaps the most clear-cut part of poker theory. Even at this stage of a hand, you can draw some fine distinctions based on player types, positions and some other factors, but keeping to a basic poker strategy from the blinds you can’t go wrong too often. What this also means is that most of the edge of a highly skilled player over a weak one comes into play on later streets.
By being too curious, inexperienced players will make a lot of mistakes preflop too of course, and that means an advantage for players familiar with the basics strategy, but it’s on later streets where the real difference on skills in poker comes out.
- It’s more important to steal the blinds than to defend them.
- Raise most of the time, sometimes call, and rarely if ever limp.
- If you raise, you’ll have a chance to win the pot with the worst hand.
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Good luck at the poker tables!
Team Chocolate Poker