How to Improve Your Poker Preflop Strategy
Welcome to Bodog Poker: the No. 1 online poker site for Canadian players. We’ve been a proud part of Canada’s poker scene since 2004, but our roots in the Great White North go even deeper, all the way back to 1994 when the first version of Bodog was launched. We’ve been working hard ever since to give you the very best online poker experience the world has to offer.
That includes our series of poker strategy articles. No messing around here; we’re giving you access to some of the brightest minds in poker, showing how players of every level can improve their results at the table. Let’s start at the beginning with preflop play – the most important part of a poker hand, but also the easiest to get right.
Why is preflop the most important betting round? Because everything else builds from there. The decisions you make before the flop are the foundation for the entire hand; do it right, and your house will stand strong and tall. Do it wrong, and everything will collapse on the later streets, where the pot gets really big.
With that in mind, here are five very smart steps on how to improve your poker preflop strategy
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Before the cards are dealt, you should have a blueprint for what actions you’ll take – this is rule no.1 on how to improve your poker preflop strategy; this blueprint will depend in large part on the other players at the table, and how aggressive or passive they are in general (more on that later). You also need to take the size of your bankroll into consideration, as well as how many chips you and your opponents have on the table.
Once you have this blueprint in place, you should also have a plan for which “starting hands” you’ll play. As a general rule, the further away you are from the button, the narrower your range of starting hands should be. When you’re opening from under the gun at a 6-max No-Limit Hold’em table, with everyone having at least 40 big blinds in their stack, you should consider opening just the top 15% of your hands; once you get to the button, you can expand your range to about 50%.
Knowing ahead of time which hands you’ll open from which position is a great way to start. Knowing which hands you’ll 3-bet, call or fold when someone opens ahead of you is even better. As you continue along your poker journey, keep working on your starting ranges; include hands you’ll open-4b or open-call when someone raises, hands you’ll 3b-5b when someone open else opens then 4-bets, and so on.
When you’re just starting out at poker, it’s highly recommended that you avoid limping when you open a hand. Limping gives the person in the big blind (and anyone else who calls) the opportunity to see the flop for free. If you open-raise instead, and it folds around to the big blind, they might fold as well, allowing you to win the hand uncontested.
More advanced players can and should start limping in certain situations with certain hands, especially from the small blind during tournaments. For the rest of us, open-raising instead of limping preflop will make the game easier, and prevent us from making the kind of mistakes that we’ll regret further along in the hand.
Commit to Your Strong Hands
It’s always amazing to see our favourite poker wizards pull off incredible bluffs and other winning moves when they’ve been dealt nothing but trash. However, most of the money you’ll ever win in poker will be when you’ve got the best possible hand – and your opponent has the second-best hand.
This is why knowing how to play your strong hands well is essential to your future success. Spend more time at the beginning of your poker career working on situations where you are 3-betting preflop with pocket Aces, Kings and Queens, as well as Ace-King (suited and offsuit). Getting these situations down pat is more than half the battle.
Attack Your Opponent’s Weakness
Unless you’re made of money, you shouldn’t be playing high-stakes poker until you’re ready to match wits with the smartest players in the game – and even then, you’d better have a lot of money on you. The lower the stakes, the more people you’ll have to play against, and the easier they’ll be to beat. Find their weaknesses and attack them with intention.
These weaknesses can be classified into four categories:
1. They call too much.
2. They fold too much.
3. They bluff too much.
4. They don’t bet for value often enough.
The first weakness will show up more than the others at the lower stakes, and you can take advantage by bluffing less and betting for thinner value. If your opponent folds too much, do the opposite: Bluff more, and check back those marginal made hands.
In the same vein, you should obviously call more often if your opponent bluffs too much (the second-most common mistake in poker), but if you find they aren’t betting those marginal hands enough, do the opposite: Call less often. Pay attention to the players around you, identify their specific weaknesses, and plan ahead of time to make the right adjustments to your poker strategy.
Don’t Play Too Tight in the Big Blind
Our fifth and last preflop tip is one that many novice players overlook – and experienced players, too. If you’re in the big blind and someone enters the pot for a standard raise, it only costs you a tiny amount to call and see the flop. Because the price is small, you can do this with a wide range of hands, especially when they open from late position.
Most of the time, you’ll end up folding when the flop comes out and misses your hand, but the potential reward is worth the small risk. Get in cheap and get out cheap.
There’s plenty more to learn when it comes to preflop play, but these five tips will get you started down the right path. Check out our ever-expanding archive for more helpful articles on how to play at Bodog Poker, keep working on your game, and we’ll see you at the tables.
So that’s how you improve your poker preflop strategy? Keep learning, keep at it, and keep to a budget. Enjoy some poker fun at Bodog Casino.