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Pre-Flop Strategy

Pre-flop strategy for Texas Holdem is especially important because the basis of playing winning Texas Holdem necessitates that pre-flop decisions be correct. Pre-flop strategy becomes even more important during the latter stages of No Limit Holdem tournaments as the increasing blinds and antes account for an ever-increasing percentage of a players remaining stack.

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The term 'Texas Holdem' can refer to three different variations of the same poker game, namely No Limit Holdem, Pot Limit Holdem or Limit Holdem and the pre-flop strategy differs depending on what Holdem variation you are discussing. As a result, the only accurate way to analyze a good pre-flop strategy is to specify, or separate, Texas Holdem into its three distinct variations. Even better would be to further categorize whether the pre-flop strategy would be best-suited to ring games or tournaments.

Pre-Flop Strategy for No Limit Texas Hold 'em Tournaments

The most popular way to play Texas Holdem today seems to be in the No Limit format in a tournament setting. No Limit Holdem tournaments have become increasingly popular due to expansive television coverage and local casinos are holding smaller buy-in No Limit tournaments almost every day of the week. Without getting into too much detail between the differences between ring games and tournaments, suffice it to say that tournaments require a tighter strategy as your chips can not be replaced once lost. Due to the very nature of tournaments, your pre-flop strategy in No Limit Holdem tournaments should be somewhat tight, but this strategy changes once the blinds and antes escalate.  

One of the main considerations for raising, pre-flop, with any given hand is determining whether your hand can stand a re-raise. Why is this so important? It is because, let's say you have a stack of 12k and you raise 4k with your hand before the flop and someone re-raises you, the worst thing that can happen is that you now think 'my hand is not that strong' and fold because the 4k you bet with your 'mediocre' hand just represented 1/3 of your overall stack. You can NOT win a No Limit tournament by consistently betting 1/3 of your stack and then folding to a re-raise. If you were just raising to steal the blinds you should have bet less so that folding would not be as disastrous OR you should have considered the strength of your hand BEFORE you raised in the first place.  In No Limit tournaments you want to always put pressure on your opponents, you can accomplish this by only raising with solid hands in the beginning stages of the tournament so that, if you are re-raised, you can come back over the top of the person who has raised you WITH A SOLID HAND.

As the blinds and antes increase later on in the tournament, you will not have the luxury of waiting for premium starting hands. Your pre-flop strategy should 'loosen up' as the tournament progresses, otherwise you will run out of chips!

Pre-Flop Strategy for Pot Limit Texas Hold 'em Tournaments

Pot-Limit Hold 'em is also, primarily, played in tournaments. The strategy is vastly different from No Limit, however. Since the bets are not usually large before the flop, it is usually correct to see a cheap flop with a drawing hand. You generally do not have to be as worried about being raised off of your hand as you do in No Limit tournaments. Since the nature of Pot Limit allows the betting to gradually' escalate, drawing hands have more power as they can sometimes connect with the flop and enable you to bust an opponent. The correct pre-flop strategy for Pot Limit Holdem tournaments is generally much looser than for No Limit Holdem tournaments.

Pre-Flop Strategy for Limit Texas Holdem Tournaments

Playing solid starting hands in Limit Holdem tournaments is the best strategy. In general, you should NOT play as loose before the flop in these tournaments as you should in Pot Limit tournaments because the benefits of connecting on weak drawing hands is not as significant as it is in Pot-Limit tourneys where you can often bust an opponent and win a huge pot if your hand connects with the flop. It is often said that the 'implied odds' are higher with drawing hands when playing Pot Limit.

Pre-Flop Strategy for Limit Texas Holdem

There have been entire books related to this subject. What is interesting to note is that the actual limit at which Holdem is played has a great influence on, not only the pre-flop strategy, but the strategy in general. In ring games where many players see the flop, it is sometimes correct to discard high pairs (as these can be very costly and do not play well against many opponents) in favor of pre-flop hands with Nut potential, like A-x suited or 10-J.

As the limits at which the game is played increase, you will generally find less players playing pre-flop and solid starting hands increasing in value.

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