Before I move on to flop play I just want to do a quick recap of preflop play and guidelines.
1) Tight is Right
The biggest mistake most small stakes players make is that they just play way too many hands preflop. Your only objective preflop should be to play hands that have a positive expectation. It is very easy to fall into the trap of playing too many hands because so many of your opponents will be playing so many hands and you will see them win a lot of hands. But even though hands that have a negative expectation preflop will still win sometimes postflop does not mean that you should start playing wider too. So tighten up preflop – very rarely should you be playing more than 20% of hands.
2) Raising vs. Limping preflop
At a passive table where few players are raising preflop and many players are coldcalling raises, it is often fine to openlimp marginal hands from EP (hands like small pairs or suited broadways). And when people have limped in front of you it is often correct to limp behind with hands that play well multiway but don’t have a clear preflop equity advantage (again small to midpairs and suited connectors).
However, we should always be raising our value hands from any position when the pot has not been raised. This means that we should always be raising TT+/AK everytime from every position in unraised pots.
Moreover, when we are in mid to late position and the pot has been folded to us, if we enter the pot we should almost always come in for a raise. We want to do this for a couple of reasons: 1) everyone might fold and we will take down the blinds with no show down which is fine; 2) limping from late position means that we will often be screwing ourselves due to the rake – if we limp from the button in a 4/8 game which takes 1.5 Sbs in rake and the SB folds then we will be playing only for the 1 SB that we put in the pot preflop. This means for our limp to be profitable we would need 100% equity (putting in 1 SB to win 1 SB = 100%). We will never have this equity so our limp is always wrong. So when you are the first to enter a pot from MP on, you should almost always raise.
3) Don’t Bluff Preflop
Because you can only raise in increments of 1 bet in limit poker, bluffing preflop is just a waste of money in almost all cases. Passive players who play too many hands are going to coldcall your raise anyways and they won’t fold postflop when they hit any piece of the flop. So just stick to playing your cards and playing them correctly.
4) Don’t Go Apeshit When You Don’t Win a Hand Forever
Because so many players are seeing so many flops, you are going to get bad beat over and over and over again. Limit is a game for masochists. If you are prone to tilt, it is not the game for you. However, if you play well both preflop and postflop, in the long run you should be able to capitalize on your opponents mistakes and show a profit. So hunker down, play well, but be prepared to grab your ankles and smile because those AA and KK hands are going to get beat over and over again.
So that’s basically it for preflop play. As with any game, the more hands you play, the more comfortable you will get. A good preflop game should patch up most players biggest leaks and should ensure that you become a breakeven or even a modest winner. In my next posts I will begin talking about postflop play which should take you from being a breakeven to small winner to a longterm consistent winner.