Preflop Poker Strategy: Playing poker correctly before the flop

Every round of Texas Hold'em poker starts with the preflop. Contrary to beginners' belief, you must make some of the most crucial decisions before the flop, at a moment when you have limited information about your hand. During the preflop, you should lay the foundation for the rest of the round with coherent actions. By employing the correct preflop strategy, you position yourself in the best possible way to compete for the pot. It's not just about your hole cards; your position, as well as the opponents' playing style and actions, also matter. We will explain what a good preflop strategy consists of, what you should pay attention to, and what mistakes to avoid.

What does a preflop strategy entail?

Various factors influence your pre-flop behavior in Texas Hold'em Poker. These include:

  • Your starting hand, also known as your hole cards

  • your position

  • Playing strength of the opponents

  • The behavior of the group prior to your turn.

  • Your stack and possible limits being played.

If it's your turn before the flop, you have the option to either bet or fold. Depending on your position and the previous actions, when it comes to betting, you can choose between calling or raising, and as the big blind, you might have the chance to check. Your decision always depends on the factors mentioned above. A successful preflop strategy evaluates all these factors and influences the game in your favor.

Starting hands

To act correctly before the flop, it is essential to have knowledge about which starting hands are worth getting involved in the pot with. We have an extensive article dedicated to poker starting hands, but the table below will provide you with an understanding of how to play certain cards in different situations.

Hand cards Position Fold Call Raise Raise after you
Oh, the cake At Raise Raise Raise Re-Raise
QQ At Raise Raise Raise Call
AND At Raise Raise Raise Fold
JJ, TT, 99 Early Fold Raise Call 20 Call 20
Middle Raise Raise Call 20 Call 20
Late Raise Raise Call 20 Call 20
Blinds Raise Raise Call 20 Call 20
88 - 22 Early Fold Fold Call 20 Call 20
Middle Call Call Call 20 Call 20
Late Raise Call Call 20 Call 20
Blinds Call Call 20 Call 20 Call 20
AQ, AJ, AT Early Fold Fold Fold Fold
Middle Raise Call Fold Fold
Late Raise Raise Fold Fold
Blinds Raise Call Fold Fold
I cut - I cut Early Fold Fold Fold Fold
Middle Raise Call Fold Fold
Late Raise Raise Fold Fold
Blinds Call Fold Fold Fold
KQ, KJ, K10, QJ, Q10, J10 Early Fold Fold Fold Fold
Middle Fold Fold Fold Fold
Late Raise Call Fold Fold
Blinds Call Fold Fold Fold
J10s - 54s Early Fold Fold Fold Fold
Middle Fold Fold Fold Fold
Late Raise Call Fold Fold
Blinds Call Fold Fold Fold
Rest Early Fold Fold Fold Fold
Middle Fold Fold Fold Fold
Late Fold Fold Fold Fold
Blinds Check/ fold Check/fold Fold Fold

To clarify: Your hand cards are shown in the left column, and next to them are the positions and actions at the table. Fold indicates that all players before you have folded. Call signifies one or more calls, and a raise can occur before or after you. "Call 20" means that your stack still contains at least twenty times the amount.

Why the position matters

When it comes to preflop, let your decisions be guided by both your position and your starting hand. The first round of betting before the flop starts with the player to the left of the big blind, with the small blind and big blind being the last to act. However, in the subsequent rounds, the small blind opens the betting followed by the big blind. Preflop, the blinds can afford to wait, but they will be out of position after the flop. In early position, it's advisable to play fewer hands. The blind shouldn't force you to play a hand at any cost. In general, the early positions should play a tighter, more conservative range, while the later positions can afford a wider range. Fold hole cards with marginal winning chances instead of playing with a weak hand in a bad position.

  • Always pay attention to your position in a round.

  • Unless you possess formidable pocket cards, it is advisable to steer clear of playing out of position. Evade engaging in the game when you lack a robust hand. Resist the temptation to participate in unfavorable positions, unless you possess a strong starting hand. It is prudent to refrain from playing out of position unless you hold powerful hole cards.

  • Later positions can play a wider range.

  • Do not allow yourself to be forced into a round by the blinds.

Preflop Setzverhalten

If you are the first to act preflop, you are faced with a decision: fold, call, or raise. If no one has raised before you, by calling you are only contributing the minimum bet of the big blind. This move is also known as "limping in," which signifies a clear sign of weakness, like a lame appearance. Even if you have good cards, you are playing them too weakly. Limping in may be appropriate if you are following the example of multiple opponents before you and playing a strong drawing hand.

If you've made up your mind to play the round, the question arises about the amount to raise. The rationale behind it is this: you want to decrease the number of players in the pot, making your later decisions easier and putting yourself in a heads-up situation with just one more player. Opening the pot with a bet that is three or four times the size of the big blind is a powerful move.

If there was action before your turn, it's best to fold the round with a weak starting hand. You can determine the strength of your hand, for example, by referring to our table above. With good hole cards, you can take a cheap look at the flop with a call, but if you have strong hand cards, a re-raise is also appropriate.

  • Do not hesitate to open or raise the pot.

  • Don't simply settle for the minimum amount

  • Adjust your raises to match the behavior of the other players.

  • Avoid limping unless you are on a draw.

Tips and tricks for your preflop poker strategy.


Do not fear preflop bets and raises. Skilled players display aggression, and any hesitant behavior before the flop is interpreted as weakness and exploited. If you are not playing profitably before the flop, this style of play usually persists throughout the game. If you consistently struggle to play aggressively enough, you might be playing at the wrong limit. Try playing micro-stakes or even with play money to adjust your style.


Always observe your opponents and be aware of the level of play you are facing. The actions of a conservative player should be interpreted differently from those of a beginner who wants to play every hand. Even if you fold during a round, you can still gather information about your fellow players by attentively observing how the game unfolds.


In a 6-max game or during a shorthand round, you have the opportunity to adopt a more relaxed playing style in order to witness more flops. Otherwise, if you fold too frequently before the flop, your chances of winning real money in the long run diminish.

Spans between raise and call.

The disparity between a raise and a call fundamentally implies that you need a better hand for a call than for an initial raise and entry into the pot. Against conservative players, the gap widens, while against loose opponents, the gap narrows. When a player raises in an early position, you should assume greater strength compared to a later position.

Starting hand and ranges

Make sure to memorize our table listed above and be mindful not to play too many hands. Develop your ranges for the preflop opening rounds and never forget that your ranges should vary based on position and opponent strength.

Defend your hand.

If you find yourself in a favorable position, it is unwise to hastily fold your hand in the face of a 3-bet. Even if you miss the flop, you still have the opportunity to make a float or bluff. Suited connectors can be advantageous for mounting a defense. However, this strategy assumes that your opponent is not excessively conservative in their playstyle.

Avoid these common preflop poker mistakes.

Please make sure to avoid the following mistakes before the flop:

  1. Limping: Limping means to limp: You are the first to enter the pot, but you only contribute the big blind. This passive style of play diminishes your chances of winning the pot. All players after you in the round can call or react aggressively with a raise. Limping behind, also known as following another player with just a call in early position, can be appropriate in certain situations, such as when you have a chance for a good hand after the flop.
  2. Disregarding the position: In each round, your position should always have an influence on the range you're willing to play. The more players are yet to act after you, the more conservative you should behave. It is challenging to defend your range in an early position. As the button, you can play the widest range.
  3. Too passive against a raise. Many players tend to call too often against a raise in the round instead of making a 3-bet three times. By adopting an aggressive rather than passive playing style, you can both increase your profits and have a chance at a heads-up pot. This way, you protect the equity of your hand. If you act too passively against a raise, other players are likely to stay in the round.
  4. Big Blind: As the Big Blind, you are the last player to act preflop and should not miss this opportunity too often. Generally, it is beneficial to defend the Big Blind with a high frequency. Therefore, avoid playing too conservatively as the Big Blind.
  5. Small Blind: If you consistently choose to call as the Small Blind, you will constantly be playing out of position and vulnerable to a Squeeze Play from the Big Blind. By 3-betting, you can isolate an opponent preflop and build up the pot. Consider selecting an appropriate range to apply pressure on other players in the pot, defend the Small Blind, and prevent the Big Blind from seeing a cheap flop. If there is no action before you and all players fold in the round, you can attempt to steal the pot with a raise. At the same time, you decrease the likelihood of playing your hand out of position.
  6. Button: Don't make the mistake of folding too often or only calling as a button. Since you can assess the action before your turn, you can play a wider range in this position.
  7. Suited und Unsuited: Do not rely too heavily on perceived high hands with unsuited Broadway cards, which are card combinations that include a straight up to the Ace. Depending on your position, it is often better to instead Suited Connectors The article suggests playing connection cards like 9 and 8 of the same color.
  8. Calling big bets: Do not be tempted to call high 3-bets. If you genuinely have a strong hand, you can raise again, but be careful not to unnecessarily put chips into the pot with a moderately strong hand.
  9. Missing strategy: Simply adjusting your preflop behavior to the current game is not enough. Before entering a game, it is crucial to have a clear understanding of the hands you should play in each position, your ranges, and when to call or raise. Failing to establish this clearly will result in playing without a strategy.
  10. Random principle: Equally detrimental is incorporating random actions into your behavior to prevent the opponent from reading you. There is no reason, for example, to play two aces on hand passively just to confuse or surprise your fellow players. Each decision must maximize your profit in the long run through repeated application, leaving no room for random deviations.


The outcome of each round is greatly influenced by your preflop strategy and behavior before the flop. It is crucial to internalize the key factors: your starting hand, position, opponents, and the action in the round all play a decisive role in your decision-making process. As you have witnessed, you can enhance your preflop play by refining your starting hands, ranges, and betting habits. Utilizing a poker tracking software allows you to analyze your played hands and identify areas for improvement.