Starting Hand Requirements

I’m going to tell you the most important thing about Hold’em: location, location, location; no wait, that’s real estate. Ahem, what I meant to say was position, position, position. Okay, there’s ‘shortstop,’ ‘quarterback,’ ‘goalie,’ and… er… I’m sorry I was reading from the wrong notes. I guess my mind was elsewhere. What I really mean is your position relative to the ‘Dealer Button’ (that’s the little white disk with the word ‘Dealer’ on it). Please look at the picture below.

Sorry, wrong picture this is the one:


That’s better. Anyway, picture that you are seated at a poker table and you’re first to act. The more people there are to act behind you, the more perilous your position. Reason: you have no information as to the strength of their hands. With this in mind, you don’t want to enter a pot in early position with a hand that is vulnerable to a raise.

Because of that I’ve made this handy-dandy little chart to show you what hands are playable from what position. Any hand not on this chart is absolutely unplayable, unless you smell weakness, then they’re all playable. (Remember: Nothing is absolute in poker, unless of course, you’re talking about the vodka.)

Pairs and Suited Cards
AA AK KQ QJ JT T9 98 87 76 65 54 43 32
KK AQ KJ QT J9 T8 97 86 75 64 53 42  
QQ AJ KT Q9                  
JJ AT K9                    
TT A9 K8                    
99 A8 K7   Off Suit              
88 A7 K6   AK KQ QJ JT T9 98 87 76 65
77 A6 K5   AQ KJ              
66 A5 K4   AJ                
55 A4 K3   AT                
44 A3 K2                    
33 A2                      
22                        

Blue=6 or more people to act behind you (early position).

Red=5 or less people to act behind you (middle position).

Green=3 or less people to act behind you (late position) with at least 2 callers in front of you in a limit game—no limit you don’t need any—if you’re first in raise 80% of the time.

Black=on the button with at least 3 callers in front of you in a limit game—no limit does not matter—if you’re first in raise 80% of the time.

By counting the people left to act behind, your opening criteria will automatically adjust for short-handed play. (This little nifty added benefit is cool, huh?!)

 

Once again, Hold’em poker is a game of position. (Am I repeating myself?) When you are in early position with a lot of opponents behind you, you have very little information. :-(

But when you are in late position you already know what most of the other players have done. :-) And you can act accordingly. Use the chart and it will keep you out of trouble.

Any hand in Blue, open with a raise (about 3-4 times the size of the big blind) from any position. If there are callers (no raisers) in front of you raise about 5-6 times the size of the big blind. If there is a raiser in front of you, call unless you have one of the top 3 pairs, in which case re-raise (2-3 times the bet of the raiser).

Any hand in Red or Green or Black, just call if you meet the position criteria. If it’s been raised before you, you must fold.

If the pot has been raised and re-raised before it gets to you call only with the top 3 pairs (AA KK QQ) re-raise with AA.

How you play from the blinds deserves some special consideration. Sure, you are last to act, but after the flop you will be first to act. This is a distinct disadvantage.

As a general rule if the opener (raiser) is in early position, call only with any hand in Blue and re-raise with the top three pairs (AA, KK, QQ). If the opener is in middle position, call with any hand in Blue or Red and consider a re-raise with any hand in Blue. Definitely re-raise with the top three pairs. If the opener is in late position, call with any hand in Blue, Red, or Green and consider a re-raise with any hand in Blue or Red. Again, re-raise with the top three pairs.

If you are faced with limpers, you have to determine if these individuals are truly weak. If you think they are indeed weak, you might try to steal with a raise of a little more than the total of everyone’s bets. If you’re considering just calling from the small blind that’s okay too, as long as you’re getting the right price (pot odds).
I prefer (70% of the time) to raise rather than call for two reasons: Everyone demonstrated weakness with their limps so there’s a good chance you’ll win the pot right there. If you get called and the field is down to one or two players there’s a good chance the flop will miss them both and if you bet you’ll win the pot. So you have two chances to bluff at it. Of course, if you get played with after the flop, you will probably have to throw your hand away.

This is also how I would play a premium hand in this spot, so it makes it hard for anyone to figure out if I have the goods or not. Remember, to a limper a K Q offsuit doesn’t look so hot facing a raise of 5 or 6 times his bet. Most good players will lay it down.

If there is a raise and a re-raise throw away all those suited connecting cards, even A K (especially if the raises come from tight players). You should only call if you have one of the top 3 pairs (AA KK QQ) and re-raise only if you have AA.

Knowledge is power in poker. If you play the way I tell you to, you will not be playing very many hands so you will have time to do the most important part of poker: over tipping the cocktail waitress (just kidding, let’s try that again.)

Knowledge is power in poker. If you play the way I tell you to, you will not be playing very many hands so you will have time to do the most important part of poker:
GATHER INFORMATION. (How much was in the pot when he called? What odds was the pot laying him? Did he fold to a small raise? Did he over tip the cocktail waitress? Etc.)

But that will be the subject of my next article, “Gathering Information or How to Over tip the Cocktail Waitress.”

So what have we learned here?

A. Position is very important.
B. Hand selection relative to position is very important.
C. Dr. Hope likes to over tip the cocktail waitress.
D. Position and hand selection are very important.

Am I repeating myself? Am I repeating myself? I guess so, but some things in life are worth repeating, like ‘do you want fries with that? Or I pledge allegiance to the flag…’ Darn, I guess my mind was elsewhere again, but I think you know what I mean.

So until next time, remember the number one thing in poker is to have fun and enjoy it. It’s not whether you win or lose that counts; it’s whether I win or lose.


C’ya

Dr. Hope, J.A.P.D
(Just A Pretend Doctor)



 
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