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How to play before the flop
WelcomeIn this article
- Your position at the table has an effect on the strength of your cards
- Always know how to play: The Starting Hands Chart
Welcome to PokerStrategy.com's beginners course for Fixed Limit. Our goal is to give you a comprehensive crash course that introduces you to the current best and most advanced beginner strategy for Fixed Limit Texas Hold'em.
This article teaches you how to play poker and specifically deals with the strategy for the first betting round. You find a good table, buy in and are finally part of the action. Your two hole cards appear in front of you and now you have to ask yourself if your hand is good or bad, and what you want to do with it.
This is what you will learn in the following article. Your position at the table influences your playing style and based on this, you will learn which cards to play in the first round of betting.
What is your position at the table?
Position is in fact another way of representing how many players are left to act after you. From a logical point of view this is important, because the more players that act after you, the higher the probability that one of them has a better hand.
Therefore, the more opponents to act after you means, the earlier your position is and the better your own hand has to be.
Starting from the dealer, you count the seats anti-clockwise
To determine your own position, you start at the current dealer (Button) and count the seats between you and him in an anti-clockwise direction. Take a look at the following chart:
|THE FOUR POSITION GROUPS|
As you probably already noticed, there are four different position groups:
- 2 late positions
The dealer himself and the player to his right form the late position.
- 3 middle positions
The following three players form the middle position.
- 3 early positions
The next three are in the early position as they have to act early in each betting round.
- 2 blind positions
The two players who pay the blinds make up their own group. The player to the left of the dealer is the small blind, followed by the big blind.
What if a player leaves the table? When this happens, the first early position simply drops out, so there are only two early positions instead of three. If another player leaves the table, only one early position remains.
Is your hand worth playing?
PokerStrategy.com's Starting Hands Chart tells you which hands to play in which way. Simply print it out and you will always know what to do during the game.
The chart combines three bits of information:
- Your starting hand
- What your opponents have done before you
- Your position
If you click on the image on the right, the chart will open in a new window/tab as a PDF file.
The playable hole cards (hands) are seperated into five different groups, e.g. strong and marginal hands.
So if you want to know how to play your hand, first check which of the five groups it belongs. If it can't be found anywhere, it is unplayable and you should muck it. It'll only bring trouble.
The cards themselves are named as abbreviations, e.g. AA means two aces, 99 means two nines.
An s behind the card name signifies suited and means that both cards are of the same suit. For example AQs means Ace Queen of the same suit. An o signifies offsuited and means that the cards are of different suits.
|In the first column you see every possible answer to what your opponents could have done so far. Of course you play differently if e.g. there has been a raise, as this usually represents a strong hand.|
|Your current position tells you which column to check. If you are in the early position, you look at the second column; if you are in the big blind, you look at the last column.|
An easy to handle, special case arises if more than one raise takes place before your turn. The SHC only shows you what to do if there has been one raise, as the inclusion of cases with multiple raises would only make it unnecessarily long.
If more than one raise happens before you bet, you muck all your hands except for the very strong ones, like AA, KK, QQ, AKs and AKo. With these hands you raise even further, as they are top hands and you can use them to inflict maximum pressure.
Some practical examples
|Situation||You only have one player before you. He folds and now it's your turn.|
It's clear that you should raise here. With two Kings, you're always well ahead, and should try to get as much money in the pot as possible, before the flop.
|Situation||All players before you fold except for two - the first player, in the middle position, raises. The player right after him raises for a second time, and now it's your turn.|
Although both players before you have clearly demonstrated their strength, your hand is strong enough to re-raise yet again. You raise, because Ace King before the flop is just a really very strong hand.
|Situation||A player in middle position raises. The player directly next to him calls the raise. Now it's your turn.|
AQs is a nice hand, but in this situation not strong enough for another raise. The Starting Hands Chart says, for the situation "exactly one raise followed by one call" means you should call this raise.
|Situation||A player raises from early position. Every after him folds except for the player positioned right before you. He re-raises. Now it's your turn.|
Regardless of how good these cards look, in this situation it would be wise to just fold the two Jacks. Usually in such a situation, one of the two players most likely has a better hand.
What to do if somebody raises after you?
The SHC covers almost every possible game situation, except for one: you join the pot and there's a raise after you. These special cases will be dealt with now.
If there has only been one raise, you call it with any hand you joined the pot with, in any situation. If your hand is part of the very strong hands' group, such as AA, KK, QQ, AKs or AKo, you raise even further.
With more than one raise, you need to act carefully as this represents strong hands. You therefore only call with hands from the strong hands' group, such as JJ, TT, 99, AQs, AQo and AJs.
If your hand forms part of the very strong hands' group, like AA, KK, QQ, AKs or AKo, you raise even further as previously mentioned, because your hand is strong enough to build up significant pressure.
|Situation||You raise from an early position with a pair of tens. Everyone folds, until one player in middle position re-raises you.|
Congratulations. With this article you already learned a major part of the fixed limit strategy. You now know that your playing style depends on your position and that the starting hands chart tells you which cards to play. Last but not least, you know how to react accordingly if players raise after you.
In the next article Evaluate your hand on the flop, you learn how to proceed once the first three community cards have been placed on the board. In the following articles you will learn how to play these card combinations in the most profitable way.
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