One in a series of beginning Texas Hold'Em articles

Preflop strategy for Texas Hold-em poker.  I use this strategy for playing low-limit games in real money online tables and live tables.  I have also used this system (modified, of course) at small no-limit ring games.  The general principle is that these games are popular with less skilled players who call too much (passive) and play too many hands (loose).  To respond to this, I use a tighter, more aggressive strategy so that I can be freely aggressive.

Texas Hold-Em Philosophy Before the Flop:  Early position.  You are one of the first three people to act.  In this position, you have 7-9 other poker hands to beat, so you need a big hand to open from this position. 

You are going to fold a lot here, and that will keep you from losing a big pile of money.  But every hand worth playing here is a monster hand, so I raise with most of these hands.  No matter how many people are seeing the flop, I rarely call:  if it's worth playing, it's worth raising.

1.  Raise when opening with AA, KK, QQ.  With these first three hands, the game is simple, and it's called “make lots of money”. 

2.  Raise with AK and AQ.  You get AK or AQ twice as often as AA, or any other single pocket pair.  But as much as these hands are great in computer simulations, they need help from the board to win.  So you raise instead of calling – sending a message to those wimpy pair's of fours and 98 suited's that they aren't welcome.  Every fold gets your AK and AQ closer to the pot.

3.  Call with AKs, KQs, and AQs - you want more folks in when you flop a flush draw with these hands.

4.  Call carefully with JJ, TT, 99 – if someone before you has already opened, it's not bad to fold here.  I know it's hard.  Fold anyways.

5.  The Danger Zone:  Don't play AJ, AT, or KQ.  These are 'Win Small and Lose Big' hands in early position.  Again, it can hurt to fold these.  Fold them anyways.  And if it's not mentioned here (even 'good hands' like 98s, 55, and A9), fold those, too.  They just aren't good enough to beat the 7-8 players in front of you.  Save those for later!

6.  If someone has called already, then raise only with AA and KK, and call only with AK and AKs.  If someone raised already, call with KK, and AKs only, re-raising only with AA. 

When to break the rules:

Break Rule #1 when you aren't getting action on your raises.  If everybody folds when you raise twice in a row, then you need to be calling with big pairs, and semi-bluffing a little bit (maybe once every few rounds) with hands like KQs, JTs, or 77.

Break Rule #2 and #3 when almost everybody's calling all the time.  If more than half the time, you are getting six or more players taking the flop, then smooth call your AK and AQ, just to take advantage of better hands.  On the other hand, raise you AKs and AQs to get the maximum money in the pot for your possible flush draw.  You might even chance playing those danger zone hands in Rule #5.

Break Rule #4, 5, and 6 only when you are very familiar with the game and know it's easy.  If you know several players are weak, then you can take advantage of them by playing these hands.  But if your opponents have any quality at all, there's no loss in folding!