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StrategyFixed Limit

How to play before the flop


In 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.

Video: Fixed-Limit - Playing before the flop
Watch Video

You can also watch the entire content of this article in video format. Simply click on the picture to open the video.

You should still read the article to ensure that you have really understood the strategy. Your bankroll will be grateful.

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:



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?

Click on the picture to open the chart

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.

  A   Ace
  K   King
  Q   Queen
  J   Jack
  T   Ten
  9   Nine

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

Position Early Position
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.

Position Late Position
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.

Position Late Position
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.

Position Middle Position
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.

Position Early Position
Situation You raise from an early position with a pair of tens. Everyone folds, until one player in middle position re-raises you.
Your pair is not strong enough for you to re-re-raise him. But folding is out of the question too. Regardless of what you entered the game with, it's not worth folding because of just one more small bet. In this example, you'd simply call his raise.


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.


Comments (81)

#1 Rahapada, 15 Jan 08 09:01

i find the htc quite usefull whilst playing jacks or any other strong hands

#2 EncT, 08 Mar 08 20:30


#3 elmx, 18 Mar 08 08:41

Good topic!

#4 xxxxx000, 09 Apr 08 08:25

nice<br />

#5 styc0, 15 Apr 08 18:31


#6 styc0, 15 Apr 08 18:32


#7 styc0, 15 Apr 08 18:32


#8 nekaf, 19 Apr 08 16:07

very good 10x

#9 manwithn0name, 20 Apr 08 00:07

nice one

#10 DiMagico, 21 Apr 08 13:18


#11 AK18, 06 May 08 19:51

I have just learned something today<br />

#12 nezinomas, 25 May 08 11:02

good topic for beginners

#13 jonibor, 01 Jun 08 18:48


#14 mouse89, 28 Sep 08 15:24


#15 alanleckov, 28 Sep 08 20:03


#16 Rap1d007, 29 Sep 08 14:24

Nice starting guide with very important things to begin play Hold Em<br />

#17 Dan279, 20 Oct 08 18:15

Nice starting hand guide, but a bit too tight. The big blind should defend more often. Certainly against a late raise with a9 suited and also suited connectors. However, overly tight is probably best for beginners, since good post flop skills are required in marginal situations.

#18 GarethFleming, 31 Mar 09 17:02

Great guide to any person who plays poker

#19 badmambajama, 14 Apr 09 08:16


#20 theboydave, 26 Jul 09 17:15

good guide and chart.<br />

#21 stouned, 28 Jul 09 07:50


#22 yorkaz, 23 Aug 09 12:18

Good work :)

#23 MadMagpie999, 22 Jan 10 17:37

very good advice for fish

#24 yamzeq, 28 May 10 20:36


#25 elirana1, 13 Sep 10 07:38


#26 Monoreticle, 20 Sep 10 13:45

Very good guide, but very tight. Folding with AJo or ATs in early position if ONE player calls the BB seems to me really tight --> but I think this is the way to build up the bankroll in the long run!

#27 David, 21 Sep 10 07:55

@26: Thats exactly the reason!

#28 grimble, 26 Sep 10 23:34

Please can someone explain me why a raise called with a speculative hand we call always, but with mediocre hand, that is considered to be stronger, we call only from BB or with KQs?

#29 Ribbo, 27 Sep 10 10:28

grimble, we play hands that are not dominated.<br /> <br /> So if we play 4h 5h against someone who has already raised, it is unlikely to be dominated by A5 or 65. But if someone raises and we call with KJ we can easily be dominated by AJ, KQ, AK so we risk losing a lot of money when we hit a pair of kings or jacks.

#30 VladimirLaki, 06 Oct 10 14:15

Great article,Thank you pokerstrategy

#31 Kid00, 16 Oct 10 12:07

10q for tips

#32 clarkemax, 19 Dec 10 04:26

awesome, very useful

#33 k0y17, 15 Feb 11 19:35

wow nice..ill try it in areal game game..: )

#34 Namirapayne, 04 Mar 11 00:24


#35 ronaldjoshualorenzo, 06 Mar 11 22:17

good strategy to start with... =)

#36 dusicahetzel, 24 Jun 11 12:47


#37 shuvotw, 12 Aug 11 12:19


#38 mschowdhury, 15 Aug 11 16:18

Thanks, it good.....

#39 BatMachh, 20 Aug 11 18:35


#40 ristegjoshev, 25 Dec 11 14:14


#41 BossX1, 05 Jan 12 17:26

you can say thx, nice tactics but dont work on luckerstars, riverstars or how is that mafia portal named, after you win some money with good game, or very good game then comes something strange like to me, thousands of games that i absolutely hit almost nothing on flop, but when i hit what happens there? idiot which has low set against my fullhouse reraises me to river and the river brings him FOURTH CARD!!!, or? what about other hero which always beats my set or two pir with rerasing me having hit nothing only having 3 colors? turn bang color, river bang his color and he has flush and again and again this things happen and again and again, mafia rake portal ...

#42 elenaella77, 11 Jan 12 23:34

Great article,Thank you

#43 hh3mesgar, 23 Jan 12 19:22


#44 pjibonkundu, 19 Feb 12 21:49


#45 Gnillperker, 01 Apr 12 01:29

How many people at table for this chart to work???

#46 payizan, 06 Jun 12 20:03

very good...ty

#47 dimasmartinez123, 23 Jun 12 06:18

Im. Starting to get thiz<br /> Now

#48 sengxiong1986, 14 Oct 12 17:28


#49 arachmir, 04 Nov 12 23:19


#50 igorexa2710, 14 Nov 12 11:04


#51 igorexa2710, 14 Nov 12 11:05


#52 JamesB7, 04 Dec 12 13:30

sometimes the basics are the most significant, good job!

#53 auria, 19 Dec 12 18:18

YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!! it helps soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much

#54 helmyxyahya, 23 Dec 12 17:40

very helpful strategy for beginner like me, thanksss

#55 mindbreaking, 11 Jan 13 01:32

I didn't actually knew, that it's a bad sign to call with AJo ATs if you are taking place in Early position...<br /> So let me get this straight, you need to fold if there hasn't been any raises or all- in? And it's a bad situation to limp? <br /> <br /> (Beginner)

#56 mindbreaking, 11 Jan 13 01:35

@ BossX1 i belive you are talking abt freerolls, or MTT's?

#57 Angelface21, 26 Mar 13 13:55

There was exactly one raise behind you:<br /> You call this raise. If you have a hand out of the group “very strong hands” you raise. <br /> <br /> BUT....if you sense you are behind why calling?

#58 Rthai, 01 Apr 13 03:03

Thanks. I am just starting to play/learn FL. The SHC is great!

#59 tinkerer, 05 May 13 11:26

thank you

#60 Ntobek4Kwazi, 10 May 13 07:40

thanks for the knowledge.

#62 patrakis7, 20 Aug 14 06:47

good for beginners

#63 parke, 01 Sep 14 19:23


#64 biggood, 03 Sep 14 10:56

very good

#65 Dolly54, 14 Oct 14 16:03

very good

#66 PKoKo, 03 Dec 14 22:37

I should have known that sooner! Thank you so much indeed, man.

#67 wanbi869, 19 Dec 14 03:50


#68 Yakut228, 07 Feb 15 02:02


#69 KosttuxxRNMD, 16 Feb 15 20:02

still seems no limit better for me

#70 PsyPachamama, 01 Jun 15 17:46


#71 Dorri120183, 23 Jul 15 14:23


#72 4FT3R, 24 Jul 15 01:14


#73 ynkshop, 21 Dec 15 13:52


#74 nattapong, 29 Dec 15 12:34

n0 money

#75 edison23041989, 12 Jan 16 11:17

yeah good job bro

#76 chicongacc, 30 Jan 16 22:21


#77 Pazri, 31 Jan 16 02:27

I did not understand what he meant

#78 Misterbimce, 03 Feb 16 02:46


#79 Nhoxalone, 18 Feb 16 15:49


#80 Shomix88RNMD, 03 May 16 10:02


#81 Viskamul, 18 Jun 16 22:17

Banyak bonusnya.. Gabung sekarang juga

#82 Cleivercmm, 09 Aug 16 00:03