Planning a Hold’em Hand: Don’t Stop With Preflop
When it comes to beginning no-limit hold’em strategy advice, preflop play is often a favorite starting point for new players. It’s a logical place to begin one’s NLHE education — that is, learning about starting hand selection, preflop opening ranges, and position play so as to prepare oneself for what are often more complicated situations occurring after the flop arrives.
Many strategy books devoted to NLHE are in fact organized according to the stages of a hand, with sections on preflop, flop, turn, and river play presented chronologically, thereby foregrounding the preflop instruction as a kind of first step toward learning about the game. And since many of the lessons about preflop play are fairly straightforward, they often get absorbed early then thought about infrequently as players move on to more complicated strategic issues.
However, as Matthew Pitt points out this week in an article for Learn.PokerNews, even if many experienced players might argue that “preflop is the easiest street to play in no-limit hold’em,” that seeming simplicity can introduce further problems for players — including the one of following unthinking patterns of play before the flop and thereby getting into difficult situations afterwards. As Matthew explains:
One of the problems of the situation being relatively “simple” creates... is that players tend not to give preflop decisions their full attention. Instead, they play a robotic style where “Hand X” is always a raise from “Position Y” because that’s what they have always done in the past and have seen others do, too.
Raising first-in from the cutoff or button is an area where people know they should be aggressive and be playing a much wider range of hands than they would elsewhere at the table. But often players are too loose with their starting hand requirements from these two late positions and then subsequently will find themselves falling foul of that looseness after the flop.
In other words, what might seem a “correct” play to make before the flop — e.g., open-raising from late position when given the opportunity to do so — can sometimes be the first step toward a series of difficult decisions after the flop that might have been avoided had the player not played a “robotic” preflop style.
As Matthew goes on to explain, due consideration of “postflop equity” of one’s hand when making those preflop plays can help players avoid difficult spots in which the unnecessary loss of chips on postflop streets frequently occurs.
Read what Matthew has to say about the subject — including his examples of hands that have good postflop equity — in “Consider Postflop Equity When Selecting Preflop Hands.”