poker.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Poker is many things. It’s one of the most popular games in the world, with a massive online and offline player base. Despite the element of luck involved, it is still fiercely competitive and is even considered by some to be a sport. Its competitive scene is just as large as many sports’, with annual tournaments like the World Series of Poker offering over ten million dollars in prize money. A large part of poker’s success is its barrier to entry. It’s easy to set up and play, especially when playing online. The rules are straightforward, attracting many beginners who think they can start playing and winning with minimal effort.
However, winning with minimal effort is not the case in poker. While you may occasionally get lucky with a good hand and win a pot, a skilled player will easily win more over time. Poker is a game about the long run, rewarding those willing to put in the time and effort to improve. With all this being said, do not get intimidated by the depth of poker strategy as a beginner. There is no better time to start playing poker than now because many resources are readily available online. This poker guide is one of them, and it will focus on giving you quick, actionable tips for the pre-flop you can use in your games.
Importance of the pre-flop
If you are a complete beginner to poker, you may not know what the pre-flop is. Poker, specifically Texas Holdem, is divided into five rounds: The pre-flop, the flop, the turn, the river, and the showdown. Community cards are dealt on the flop, the turn, and the river, collectively known as the post-flop. The pre-flop is where your two hole cards are dealt, and it is often regarded as the most important round in poker. That is because your decisions during the pre-flop lay the foundation for all the following rounds.
Tip 1: Stop limping
Open-limping is the “cardinal sin” of pre-flop poker, and for a good reason. An open-limp is when you enter the pot by calling, which is seldom a good idea. Limping does nothing except give you a slight chance to see the flop. Aggression is favored in poker since it gives you a second way to win the pot besides having a good hand at the showdown. Limping also builds the pot, making it easier for more people to join, giving you a lower chance of winning. Finally, you miss out on the information that comes from making an aggressive action. Your opponent has to decide how to handle a bet, and their folding, calling or raising all give you valuable insight into the hand they have.
Tip 2: Pay attention to position
A foreign idea to newer players, the position is one of the most critical concepts in poker. It determines when you act relative to the other players, giving you information. For example, if you see multiple passive opponents ahead of you check, you can bet big to deny them the free card they wanted. The later you act, the more you can get away with. You can play more drawing hands since you know checking will move on to the next round, you can get away with more bluffs since other players do not have information on you, etc.
Tip 3: Size your bets properly
You can’t just know when to bet; you need to know how to bet. In no-limit Holdem, the bet size is vital to success. There are only two reasons you would ever want to bet in poker. The first is to make your opponents call and build the pot, known as value-betting. The second is to make your opponents fold, particularly if you have a weak hand. These bets require different sizes, though some bets can do both (a bet can make weaker hands fold and stronger hands call). For a pre-flop raise, you want to do just that to gain information and reduce the risk of multiway pots. Size your initial raise to around three or four big blinds; you can increase or decrease it over the game based on your opponents’ habits.
Tip 4: 3-bet more often
A well-known beginner’s mistake is lacking aggression. One of the best aggressive techniques in poker is the 3-bet, when you re-raise someone else’s raise. Many passive beginners will be daunted by committing this many chips to the pot, but 3-bets are vital to your gameplay. They allow you to build a pot quickly and often win the pot all on their own. As you try 3-betting, it is vital to balance your range and 3-bet with drawing hands, strong hands, and even some bluffs to become less predictable.
Tip 5: Fold and pay attention
Many casual players think that folding means you should give up on the current game and wait until the next game begins. While you can’t do anything after folding, you can and should still watch the game to see how it develops. By watching the showdown, you can see your opponents’ cards and understand their thought processes throughout the game. Folding can allow you to see things you would not have seen while playing. While playing, you are focused on yourself and your opponent, whereas folding allows you to analyze your opponents without thinking about anything else.
The best place to practice
We hope this article taught you poker tips you cannot wait to try in your own poker games. If you want to improve at poker, the best way is to visit sites like GGPoker, the world’s largest poker room. They offer a free poker tracker and heads-up display, game-changing software that analyzes your gameplay to help you improve. Online poker is also more convenient and allows you to play many games simultaneously through multi-tabling.