If you want to play better Texas Hold Em poker, one of the best things you can do is to improve your pre-flop strategy. This means ensuring you make the right decisions when you’re dealt your two hole cards.
A lot goes into making good pre-flop choices, but we’ve compiled this short guide with some essential tips you could try to improve your game.
What is a pre-flop strategy?
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of improving your pre-flop strategy, let’s briefly go over what it is.
A pre-flop strategy is the choices you make before the flop (the first three community cards) are dealt. This includes everything from deciding whether to play a hand to how much you should bet if you choose to stay in.
Because the flop hasn’t been dealt yet, your pre-flop strategy is based purely on the two cards you’re holding—your hole cards. These are the only pieces of information you have to go on, so making good choices here is crucial if you want to give yourself the best chance to win the hand.
To make things a little more complicated, you also have to consider the actions of the other players at the table. If someone has already raised the stakes, you’ll need to decide whether it’s worth matching their bet or folding your hand and saving yourself some money.
Why is a pre-flop strategy important?
Simply put, the decisions you make before the flop significantly impact how the rest of the hand plays out. This is especially true if you’re playing Texas Hold Em, where the player with the best hand after the flop wins the pot.
If you make a bad decision pre-flop and end up with a weak hand, you’ll be at a disadvantage for the rest of the hand. On the other hand, if you make a good pre-flop decision and end up with a strong hand, you’ll be in a much better position to win the pot.
In other words, your pre-flop strategy sets the stage for the rest of the hand. With that in mind, let’s look at some key pointers to help boost your pre-flop strategy and improve your Texas Holdem poker game.
Tips to improve your pre-flop strategy
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to pre-flop strategy. As mentioned, your pre-flop decisions will be based solely on your two hole cards and key game factors like the pot’s size and the other players’ actions.
That said, some general moves can help you make better decisions at this point in the game. Here are a few to keep in mind the next time you’re playing Texas Hold Em:
1) Know the value of your starting hands
One of the most critical aspects of pre-flop strategy is understanding the value of your starting hands. This means knowing which hole cards are worth playing and which ones you should fold. The logic behind this is simple: better starting hands give you a better chance of winning the pot.
Consider that Texas Hold Em poker has 169 possible starting hands. Of those, only a handful are considered premium hands. These include high pairs and face cards like AA, KK, QQ, and AK.
Premium hole card combinations are hands you’ll want to play almost always because of the chances they give you to make a strong hand after the flop. On the other end of the spectrum are hands like 2-7 off suit, which you’ll almost instantly want to fold. Between these two extremes are a wide range of starting hands with varying degrees of value that you can play in specific circumstances.
Of course, there’s no telling which starting hand combinations you will get. Moreover, the value of your hand can change based on the size of the pot, your opponents’ actions, and other factors. But knowing which starting hands are generally considered strong can help you make better choices pre-flop.
A simpler way to look at it is this: you’ll want to play the game with cards that have the highest chance of making a winning hand, like a royal flush or a straight flush. And that’s what good starting hands do.