Playing Tight Poker

In Texas Hold’em it is very important to be selective with your starting hands. In future rounds of betting, it will save you from making difficult decisions, and you may be able to save a significant portion of your stack.

First and foremost, it is important to determine the range of starting hands “premium” or “speculative” that you can continue the hand with, and “bad” starting hands, which should be folded to prevent losing anymore chips. The fact of the matter is that some combinations are more likely to win than the rest. So if we play only good starting combinations in the long run our game will be profitable.

The best starting hands account for around 10% of the total number of possible starting combinations. For a good starting hand in Texas Hold’em, you can can include high pocket pairs and high connected cards. For example AA, KK, QQ, JJ, AK, AQ, AJ, and KQ.

These are the best starting hands which you can play from any position at the poker table. If we fold all other cards and wait only for those hands in the long run we will be in the black. But such a strategy can only work when you play at the micros, when other players will not think about the fact that you don’t play anything but the very best starting cards.

Even though these starting hands can be called “premium” hands, there are other good starting cards, which if we are getting good odds to draw, in the long term they will have positive impact on our bankroll.

For example, small pairs and suited connectors although considered “speculative” hands, they have the potential to flop very big hands that can win big pots, which makes them very attractive to play in the right situations. By playing more hands that can flop very well, somewhere in the range of 20% of the total number of possible starting combinations, you are also more likely to get paid off when you make big hands, since you are playing a wider range of hands.

Your position at the table has an important impact on the starting hands you decide to play. By playing hands in position, you are more likely of getting paid off, since you will get to act last in the hand. From early position you should play much better hands than in later position.

Conversely, if you are in late position at the table, you can play a wider range of hands. If you are wanting to play these more speculative starting hands, you have to play these hands from late position and when there is a multi way pot so that you are getting good odds to draw to the best hand.

Not only does having position in the hand help you to extract more value with your big hands, it assists in limiting your losses when you have the second best hand. For example, if on the flop you have a second pair hand, you do not know if you have the best hand or not, and playing this hand out of position is going to be difficult.

Such situations arise in poker very often as more often than not you are going to have a medium strength hand. But in position, with your opponents having to act before you do, this is going to give you a lot more information about their hands, and you can act accordingly. If an opponent is showing extreme strength, we can very easily let go of a second pair type hand.

In Texas Hold’em, this situation occurs quite often and inexperienced players will often lose a lot of money, because they are playing weaker hands out of position. The mistake made pre-flop will compound the mistakes that are made post-flop. There is absolutely nothing wrong with folding.

Once you’ve been dealt your two hole cards, evaluate their strength and think about the range of hands you’re opponent is raising with from their position. By determining this range, you can more comfortably decide what starting hands you can call or raise with to continue in the game. Use this knowledge to reduce the requirements of starting hands you play, to prevent finding yourself in situations where you are playing a dominated hand.

As you become a more experienced player, you will ready to begin expanding the range of starting hands you can play from any position, especially in late positions at the table. But if you’re just starting to play poker, we recommend you stick to playing a relatively tight range to prevent making serious mistakes post-flop. As alluded to above, a tight playing style will be a very profitable strategy in the micro stakes poker games.