The Preflop Strategy
The pre-flop strategy was designed with percentage of advantage in mind. Poker is much more complicated. A suited connector 5 4 has a positive advantage in a full table game, yet negative in a short-handed game. Pocket pair 4 s has a positive advantage in a full table game and negative in a short-handed game. If you only play preflop hands that have a positive advantage of +4% or greater you will only play 1 out of 5 hands to the flop. This makes for a long boring game, even though the percentage of winning per pre-flop hand increases, the overall winning per hands played decreases. Also, if you play squeaky tight, other players will soon know you only play high value preflop hands. After analysis, a +2% advantage in a full table game was the most optimal with a about a 1 out of 3 hands played to the flop. A comparison of the +2% advantage in a short-handed game led a simple discovery; A strategy can be designed that could be used in a short-handed and full table game. This strategy was created by combining the two strategies and removing the hands that should not be played in either game. With this pre-flop strategy, 26.9% of the pre-flop hands will be played. Furthermore, this strategy can be used in a short-handed game to a full table game in any position on the table.
When playing poker the amount of players that will call a preflop hand will change. When less players remain during the preflop, the pot is not as large, thus calling a preflop hand with a slight advantage is not worth playing because of the pot odds. A general rule of thumb is when less than 50% of the players play their preflop hands it is considered a 'tight' game. Meaning also that most players are only playing their best preflop hands. When you are in a 'tight' game, it is best to also play 'tight' and play only the preflop hands with at least a +3% advantage. Only 17% of preflop hands have a +3% advantage or above. When more than half of the players call their preflop hands, it is concidered to be a 'loose' game. Which means you should call the preflop hands that have at least a +2% advantage. Of course, if there is no preflop raise before your turn to play, always check your hand. This includes that worst possible hand, the 7 2 off suit.
Loose Game (27% preflop hands)
Play/call any pair 5 s and above. When playing a full table game (10 players) pocket deuces have a positive advantage of +2%. However, playing a short-handed game (5 players), deuces have a disadvantage of -3%. Pocket fives have a +2% advantage in a short-handed game. Because you may be playing between a short-handed and full table game, play/call any pair 5 s and above.
Raise pocket Q s and above. It is a 'made' hand and has a +12% advantage in a full table game.
Play/call any suited Ace. Even a suited with a two has a +4% advantage in both a short-handed and full table game.
Play/call any suited King. A suited king with a two has a +2% advantage in both a short-handed and full table game.
Play/call suited over-cards 7 and above (two suited cards that are both a seven or above). Suited connectors 5 4 have a +2% in a full table game. However, in a short-handed game, they have a negative -0.5%. To maintain the optimum +2% in a short-handed game and full table game, play/call two suited cards that are a seven or above. It is interesting to note, when the top card is a face card, the odds are increased because of the possible high flush and high pair. When the both cards are not face cards (7 8 9 T), the odds are increased because of the possible straight (which makes up for the low pair you might flop).
Play/call an ace with a nine and above. This hand has a +2% in a full table game. In a short-handed game, an ace can be played with a five, +2%. Which is fine, but for simplicity and removing 'marginal' hands, those hands were not included in the pre-flop strategy. The same is true for other face cards, they can be played with lower value cards in a short-handed game.
Play/call over-cards T and above. The term 'over-cards' on the preflop means you have two cards that are both a ten or above. Without the possibility of a two card flush, these hands have other qualities. Both cards can give the player a high pair. Both cards can lead to a high two card straight (ace - ten) or a winning one card straight. Don't forget there is as slim chance of catching a one card flush with the winning high suited card.
Play/call connectors T 9 and above. This hand is often overlooked. Both cards can possible give you a decent pair. That along with the possible straight possibilities gives this hand a +2% advantage.
Play/call means play the hand when you have to call, no matter what. Some players will advise that if there is more than two raises, you better have pocket Q s. When there are two or more raises, there is more money in the pot and those that stayed in will be more likely to keep playing their hand. The pot odds justify playing these hands to the flop. Then decide whether of play/call or fold. Remember that we are only playing limit Texas Holdem. Raise only pocket queens because they are 'made' hands. Even though a suited ace king is considered a raising hand by many players and the percentage advantage is +11%, you still must hit an ace, king or two suited cards on the flop to continue playing.
During the 2013 Texas Hold`em main event, the percent of calling, raising and reraising preflop hands for each player that got to the main table was released. The average preflop hands called was 24.1%. Thus if you want to play a 'tighter' game, simply do not play an non-suited Ace with a nine and do not play a non-suited ten with a nine. These meaning that only 25.4% of your preflop hands will be played.
Tight Game (17% preflop hands)
When you are in a game and consitantly less than 50% of the players play their preflop hands, the game is concidered a tight game. That means you are playing against players that are only playing their best hands. This also effects the pot odds. Because there are less chips in the pot, you must play only your stronger preflop hands. When you are in a 'tight' game, it is best to also play 'tight' and play only the preflop hands with at least a +3% advantage in a full table game.
Call pair 8 s and above +5%
Call any suited A +4%
Call suited over-cards 8 and above +3%
Call over-cards J and above +4%
Playing Aggressive and Raising
Playing aggressive and raising during the preflop is a good way to insure players with weak hands to fold. Even a seven with a two offsuit can become trips on the flop and become the winning hand. If you a sure someone behind you will raise, just check to concele your hand. During the 2013 Texas Hold`em main event, the percent of calling, raising and reraising preflop hands for each player that got to the main table was released. The average preflop hands called was 24.1%. The average preflop hands that were raised was 16.8%. The average preflop hands that were reraised was 3.4%. Only 3% of preflop hands have percentage advantage of +9% or above. Thus, if you want to play aggressive on the preflop, raise the preflop hands that have a +9%. I found little difference in the outcome when raising these hands while testing with 'game simulator'. Of course, playing aggressive in this manner will make the game more volital ie. your will win more and also loose more in the short term, but in the long term (more total hands played) you will still come out ahead.
Raise (3% preflop hands)
Raise pair J s and above +9%
Always Raise (1.5% preflop hands)
Always raise these hands. Even if there was a raise and reraise, you can raise these hands. Unless, of course you want to slowplay to concele your hand. For instance, if you are sure someone following you will rasise. Especially, if you a on a table where there are several players how constantly raise and reraise on the preflop.
Raise pair Q s and above +12%
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