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Pre-flop: Advanced play before the flop
IntroductionIn 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:
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.
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