Pre-Flop Strategy

General Groups of Starting Hands

Before we discuss specifics when it comes to pre-flop strategy, consider the following groups of starting hands:

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Group 1: AA, KK, QQ, JJ, AKs, playable in any position

Group 2: TT, AQs, AJs, KQs, AK, playable in any position

Group 3: 99, JTs, QJs, KJs, ATs, AQ, playable in any position except for under the gun

Group 4: T9s, KQ, 88, QTs, 98s, J9s, AJ, KTs, playable in any position except for under the gun

Group 5: 77, 87s, Q9s, T8s, KJ, QJ, JT, 76s, 97s, any suited ace, 65s, playable in middle, late and button positions

Group 6: 66, AT, 55, 86s, KT, QT, 54s, K9s, J8s, 75s, playable in middle, late and button positions

Group 7: 44, J9, 43s, T9, 33, 98, 64s, 22, any suited King, T7s, Q8s, playable in late and button positions

Group 8: 87, 53s, A9, Q9, 76, 42s, 32s, 96s, 85s, J8, J7s, 65, 54, 74s, K9, T8, playable only when you are on the button.


Now that you have a general idea of what a good pre-flop strategy is, you could actually just go out and play poker well if you memorize the above list. It has the hands that are good in comparison to each other and it has position and that is truthfully all that you need. However, there are going to be times when you need to adjust your pre-flop strategy and some of those times are discussed below.

Firstly, you might need to change your pre-flop strategy if you start to get low on chips. Play to conserve your stack and then go all in when you get a hand that is truly worth an all in confrontation. This would be hands from preferably the first two groups and in a pinch group 3 as well might be possible.

Secondly, depending on how the table is playing, you might want to consider changing your pre-flop strategy as well. For example, if the whole table is playing extremely aggressively, then tightening up your starting hand requirements by a one or two group upward shift (i.e. only play down to group 3 where you would normally play down to group 5) will allow you to play in a manner that is opposite to that of the table and that is really when you end up making the most money.

Thirdly, you will also want to consider the tolerance for risk that you have. If you do not have a high tolerance for risky propositions, then playing tighter than what is discussed above might be the thing to do. Really tight players are known as Rocks and in lower limit games with little-skilled opponents, rocks are going to be profitable players. However, if you want to start chopping away at opponents and potentially winning big pots in exchanging for losing a lot of small pots, then loosening up and being more aggressive is the way to go. As you mature as a player, you will realize what your optimal starting hand strategy is and use it to its full effectiveness.