Some players believe pre-flop play is simple, at least in comparison to post-flop play. However, not only is pre-flop the only street you’re involved with on every hand, a small pre-flop mistake can often lead to more costlier mistakes on the flop, turn or river. Here’s your starter for five…
1) Changing your bet size based on hand strength: Altering your pre-flop bet size is fine, if you’re three-betting from the blinds and going to be out of position you need to charge opponents more to continue. Likewise if there’s a limper in front of you then you need to take that into account. What you don’t want to do is start changing your opening raise sized based on the cards you’re holding. Often you’ll see a player who usually opens to three times the big blind, make it 2.5x or 4x the big blind. It’s likely in the former instance he’s got a big hand – the smaller raise it to ensure action – and in the latter a marginal hand – like a small pair – that he doesn’t want to see a flop with. Don’t make the same mistake.
2) Putting yourself in their shoes: The old maxim ‘play the player not the cards’ rings true here, if a player shoves 12 big blinds from the small blind into your big blind, it’s so tempting to make your decision based on what you’d shove with if you were the small blind, when what you need to do is get inside their head and make a decision based on what they, not you, would do in that spot.
3) Sticking rigidly to a template: Whilst having a default set of hands you raise from each position is a solid starting point there’s a myriad of factors that should make you differ from your default. A simple one involves late position raises. If you’re on the button and you have two tight players to your left you can open more often. On the flip side, if one or both of the players to your left are aggressive or have a shoving stack then lopping off the lower end of your button raising range isn’t a bad idea.
4) Allowing your opponents to play perfectly: Leaving chips on the table when you have a big hand is up there with making a bad call, both cost you chips only you might not even realise that the former is doing just that. For instance if you three-bet with aces and get four-bet, then five betting seems the natural thing to do. However, in doing so you allow your opponent to fold all of his bluffs or hands he thinks are behind your five-betting range. If stacks allow flat calling and allowing your opponent to continue with a weaker range could well be more profitable. Think of it this way, you don’t want to rely on your opponents having to make big mistakes to win big pots.
5) Calling too much from the blinds: It can seem so tempting to flick in the extra chips from the small or big blind, especially in multi-way pots. Not only are the odds compelling but you’re also getting a discount! However, be it in a multi-way pot or versus one opponent most players call too liberally out of the blinds. Winning pots out of position is hard, winning pots out of position without the initiative is even tougher.
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