The first thing any No Limit Hold’em (NLHE) player needs to master is their pre-flop fundamentals. This crucial first round of betting sets the stage for the rest of the hand, and any mistakes we make will only compound as we go down the later streets.
If you’re looking for the best place to start improving your poker game, start with pre-flop fundamentals. By playing a rock-solid pre-flop strategy, you’ll gain an immediate edge over the people who aren’t.
While there’s tons of variables that we can think about in poker, we’re going to narrow in on the three most basic. Work on these foundations and your poker game will improve.
The first thing you do in a hand is look down at your cards, so you’re going to need a way to effectively analyze their strength in real time for poker hand selection. In general, these are the best starting hands that you’ll want to play:
-Big pocket pairs: AA-JJ
-Strong big cards: AK, KQ, etc.
-Medium pocket pairs: TT-77
-Suited aces: AKs-A2s
-Suited connectors: T9s, 98s, etc.
-Weak pocket pairs: 66-22
If your hand falls anywhere in this range, then you should almost always consider playing it. However, on the other end of the spectrum, we have the worst starting hands.
-Junky connected cards: 64s, 43o, etc.
-Junky suited cards: J5s, 73s, etc.
-Big and little cards: K5, Q4, etc.
-Unconnected low cards: 72, 83
In general, you want to stay away from these cards.
Turn order is huge in NLHE. The dealer button is the most valuable position because they always act last in post-flop play. We call this being ‘in position.’ So, the small blind, big blind, and under the gun are some of the worst positions because they almost always must act first.
This means that they don’t have as much information. Factor this into your pre-flop play by playing more hands in position and less hands from out of position.
Reasons to Bet
While we can think of other reasons to bet, it almost always come down to two reasons.
Before you put your chips into the pot, ask yourself why you’re doing so, and this will help you to develop a deeper strategy.
First, you can bet for value. This means you have a good hand and you want weaker hands to call. So, we value bet with our best hands to build the pot and try to win more chips with them.
Second, we can bet as a bluff. This means that we’re trying to get better hands to fold by acting like we have a better hand. In general, some hands are better to bluff than others. Either way, the first step is understanding why you’re betting and using that knowledge to factor into your later decisions.
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