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StrategyFixed Limit

Pre-flop: Advanced play before the flop

Video: Click here


In this article
  • 7 Charts for special situations before the flop
  • Playing more aggressively
  • Blind defence

In the beginner sections, you were given a very good basic strategy for playing various hands before the flop. With this knowledge you are already in a position to beat the low limits.

After you have played several thousand hands and become more experienced in playing after the flop, you will start to wonder whether you can expand and build upon this strategy. This is taken care of in this article.

This article presents you with an even more categorical starting hand chart, listing more specific situations, or rather, 7 charts designed for distinct situations.

Please note that you will only be able to use this information properly if you are experienced at playing post-flop and know the various playing styles. Otherwise, you may end up not knowing what to do on the flop.

If you have just passed the quiz or only played a couple of hundred hands, you may be overconfident and make the mistake of trying advanced strategies too early. This should be avoided. It's better to learn how to play step by step, just as any other professional trade is taught in society. You would not let someone with only 2 semesters of medical school operate on you.

The following pages show you how to use the 7 charts. A complete presentation of the 7 charts can be downloaded in PDF format here:


Extended charts for playing before the flop

An overview on the mathematics of poker - Odds and Outs

How to play when nobody has entered the hand

It is often the case that everyone folds before you. Now you can be the first to enter the hand, which is known as "first in". In this situation you either want to raise or fold; you should not consider calling.

You will learn which hands to raise with in the first chart: "First-in - if everyone before you folded, you raise with these hands".

The playable hands are organised into categories:  pairs, suited and offsuited hands. The column names are the positions you might be in during the game. If you do not know what is meant by UTG+1 or MP2 for example, take a look at the following diagram:


















Here you can see that we distinguish the early positions using the abbreviations UTG, UTG+1, UTG+2, where UTG is always the player immediately left of the big blind. He is first to act in the betting round before the flop.

The middle positions are denoted MP, MP2 and MP3, and the last two positions CO (Cutoff) and BU (Button) are named individually.

Now you can identify your exact position. All that remains is to clarify what the chart entries mean. It is best to use an example. Suppose you are the dealer, in which case you are in the BU position (on the Button). You have an ace and a three, both hearts, which we denote A3s. All players before you folded and you want to know what to do next.

Look for the group "Suited Hands" in the chart and you'll see the first line entry "A2s" for the BU position. What does this mean? It means that with A2s we should raise. It also means that with every better hand that contains an ace and another card of the same suit, we should also raise. We should therefore raise with our A3s and also raise with A4s, A5s, A6s, etc.

In the next line down, we find hands categorized by a king and being suited. For the BU position the entry is "K5s", which means: raise in this position with K5s, K6s, K7s, etc.

In the offsuited chart, you will find the entry "K9o". This means that with a king and nine of different suits, we raise. If you have a king and ten of different suits (KTo) you also raise, (KJo) and so on. If we have a K8o, however, which is a worse hand than the chart entry, we fold.

When do you raise again if someone has already raised?

The next chart: "3-bet against a raise from these positions including small blind defence", answers the question of when to raise after someone has raised before you.

We call this a 3-bet. The first bet is the Big Blind. The second bet is an opponent's raise. When we raise, we put an extra amount into the pot for a third time, so we name it a 3-bet.

This chart is used in the same way as the last one, although there is a difference: the positions at the top of the table refer to the position of the player who raised, not yours.

Suppose a player sitting in MP2 raises. You want to know with which pairs you can raise again. In the chart, the pairs entry for MP2 is "88". This means that with a pair of eights, or any higher pair, we can make another raise.

How to play when one player raises and another calls?

The chart "Calling/Raising with raises and callers in front of you" indicates how to play in such situations. Here your play will depend on the number of people who called the raise. This also applies to situations in which you are in the small blind. It depends on how many players (callers) have called the raise and how many limped before the raise.

In the column headers you find the number of callers, and the rows are named with the hands you should call or raise with. These two are separated by a slash, for example "55/TT" means that with a pair of fives or better you call, but with a pair of tens or better you should raise.

In this context you have to make sure that the hand you are raising with is also listed in the 3-bet against a raise chart. With TT, for example, you would not raise if the original raise was made by an UTG or an UTG+1 player.  In this case, you would simply call (you would call here with 55 or better).

With what hands do we raise as often as we can?

After you raise and a player raises after you, what hands can you trust to raise again with? The answer can be found in the chart "Against a 3-Bet you cap with these Hands." This chart indicates the hands you want to raise as much as possible before the flop. In many poker clients, such as Everest Poker, it is possible to raise a fifth time. You should refer to the same chart in these situations.

With which hands do we defend our big blind?

If you are in the big blind, you have been forced to put money in the pot. If someone now raises, it costs you less to see the flop. The more advanced players will frequently attack the big blind with weaker hands, with the so-called “blind steal”. You cannot always simply abandon the money you have put in without a fight. We term this "blind defense".

The chart titled "Big Blind Defence – Call/Raise" shows you which hands to defend your big blind with. It also reminds you when you should call a raise and when you should raise again.

You will find both situations separated by a slash, e.g. "22/TT" means: call the raise with every pair 22 or better, but raise again with a pair of tens or higher.

"ATo/AQo" means: with ATo and AJo you should call and with AQo and naturally AKo you raise again. Hands like A9o or worse should be discarded.

To recap, you call with hands before the slash and you raise with hands after the slash. The entries always show the lowest values for each hand category.

Many hands in the table do not make this distinction however. For example, the lone entry "KJo" means that we should call, but there is no hand in this hand group which is strong enough to raise with. "KJo" means: call the opponent's raise with KJo and KQo.

By the way: the entries for this chart refer to the position of the player who made the raise. If the raise was in the Cutoff (CO), you will find the appropriate entry under the "CO" column.

With which hands can you call in the small blind position?

As with the big blind, in the small blind you are forced to put some money in the pot. It is not as much as the big blind but it is there nonetheless. Since the cost of seeing the flop is cheaper and you can call with more hands, the question is: with which hands should you do this?

The answer to this question depends on how large the pot is. Put differently: how many players have entered the hand without raising? Normally referred to as a caller, the poker term for these players in the pre-flop betting round is "Limper".

In the chart named "Calling from the small blind without any pre-flop raises", you learn with which hands you should call from the small blind with no previous raiser.

In the table we no longer reference entries by position, but rather by the number of limpers (callers). There are four columns representing 1,2, 3 limpers and 4+ respectively. You can see that the chart individually covers the situation in which at least one person limped.

The table usage follows a familiar pattern. You will notice however the term "connectors". Connectors is the term used to describe a hand where the two cards are of consecutive ranks. For example a four and a five (45). The entry "54s" means: play all suited connectors from 54 upwards (so this includes 54s, 65s, 76s, 87s and so on).

How do you play when someone before you simply calls?

The last chart "Actions against callers in front of you – Calling/Raising" answers the question: what do you do when players before you call but don’t raise?

Your action here is once again dependent on the number of players who call. The entries themselves follow the pattern used in the chart for big blind defense. For example, the entry "KTs/KJs" means that with KTs we call, but with KJs and KQs we raise. An entry such as "-/QTs" indicates that you should not call with suited hands containing a Queen as the high card. Q9s or worse you throw away; with QTs and QJs you raise.

Again, you call with hands before the slash and you raise with hands after the slash. The entries always show the lowest values for each playable hand in this category.


You have perhaps already noticed that play becomes complicated. So to quickly print off the charts and get going is the wrong way of going about things. First, you must make sure that you understand the system behind the charts, and make sure you know exactly which ones to use and what the entries mean.

Also note that you can only begin to use these charts effectively if you know how to consistently play the post-flop hands. Simply playing according to the charts and hoping to hit something, or that the opponent will let himself get bluffed out, is not the way to do it. Only by having a good post-flop game, in combination with using the charts, will you gain any benefit from them.



Comments (13)

#1 gape0000, 03 May 08 18:30

Im just wondering with what hands do we defend our big blind if :

1. there is a call and a raise before
2. there is a raise and a call before

I know there is a "Calling/Raising with raises and
callers in front of you "chart
but in the big blind its cheaper to call, so im wondering what the range is according to this strategy?

Thank you,

#2 zulemazalabardoi, 07 Jun 08 00:31

quiero jugar pero mi problema es que debe salir la explicacion en español. gracias

#3 mouse89, 05 Oct 08 15:09


#4 Gambitwd, 18 Nov 08 17:25

Now this will be a lot of fun to play with, but also a total brain wash from the way I used to think and play :)

#5 PORTUNEN, 30 May 09 05:11

already knew this

#6 Bogdan1190, 31 Jul 09 06:32

how do you play if you raise acording to the first in chart and someone 3-bets you ... do you call ? cap ? or fold

#7 xero100, 19 Aug 09 19:10

how to use this chart for 6 player table?

#8 eestipoiss3, 27 Aug 09 22:53

I've got the same question as gape0000.
What do I do if I am in BB and there is a raise and callers before and/or after the raise?
According to the Big blind defence chart I can play against a single raise with no calls before nor after the raise.
According to the "Calling/Raising with raises and callers in front of you" chart I can act while in small blind and other positions, not in the big blind.

You are in BB.
CO and BU call.
SB raises.

Maybe I shoulld use the "Calling/Raising with raises and callers in front of you" chart in this case. Not sure.

Thanks for advice.

#9 ok1234ok, 21 Sep 09 11:37

Nice , SB BB UTG1 2 3, then MP 1 2 3 , CO, next BU...

#10 SoWe, 29 Dec 09 16:15

Doesn't say what to do when someone raises behind you, or if there is more than one raise behind you.

Also: you never enter the hand by calling when everybody folded in front of you, unless you're the SB?

#11 krumvirek, 15 Aug 10 22:34

that´s greated manual

#12 whong, 05 Mar 11 12:49

call and a raise before,raise and a call before

nice info
thank you.

#13 ScottyMeltzer, 30 Aug 15 17:37

I have the same question about defending your BB against a raise with one or more callers.

This is not the situation addressed in the chart labelled “Calling/Raising with raises and callers in front of you” because this chart doesn’t include the fact that you can call from the blinds at a discount.

So far, I have been using the chart labelled “Calling from the small blind without any pre-flop raises” in a modified way to deal with this situation:

For example: Assume you’re in the BB and UTG opens for raise and the button and SB both call. You’re getting 7:1 to call. These are the exact same pot odds offered in the second column of the chart labelled “Calling from the small blind without any pre-flop raises.” Using this logic and that chart you would call with:

all pairs,
any 2 suited cards,
off-suit connectors down to 65o, plus
A2o+, K6o+, Q7+, J7o+, & T8+.

What do you guys think? Is this a good way to use those charts? Is this good play?

It makes sense to me to use the “Calling from the small blind without any pre-flop raises” chart because you’re getting the same pot odds in my example as you would be getting if you were in the SB and there were 2 callers in front of you (7:1). The problem is this doesn’t adjust for the fact that those other players will have stronger hands on average in my example than the small blind chart expects.

Specifically if you’re in the BB facing UTG raise + BTN & SB calls you’d expect your opponents to have a much tighter range than if you were in the SB facing a CO limp + BTN call which is what the chart is directly addressing. The pot odds are the same, but the ranges you expect to face are different.

If you take your opponent’s tighter ranges into consideration, you might want to fold all of your weak off-suit Aces in my example even thought you’re getting the same pot-odds that the “Calling from the small blind without any pre-flop raises” chart has you calling with those hands.

I do understand that every table is different, and that it depends on what kind of player is UTG and who is on the BTN and that you have to adjust your play accordingly, but I’m not asking about any of that. I’m asking about how to correctly use these pre-flop range charts, or if there are any more detailed pre-flop range charts available that address playing from the blinds.

If my example has confused you as much as it confuses me, maybe we’ll get lucky and there will be someone out there, maybe even one of the people who developed those charts, who can help us