Advanced Pre Flop Strategy

As we discuss in another article, predictability is to be avoided at all cost in online poker if you want to show a profit at the end of the day.

Of course this is true of any aspect of your play including how you act pre flop. If you feel like you are playing in a sort of routine fashion pre flop without much thinking, this is a sure sign that you have become predictable to some extent.

Mixing your pre flop strategy

As we all learn regarding the ABC strategy of NLHE, there is a rather well defined method for optimal pre flop play as explained in great details in books such as Harrington on Cash Games. In these books it is told for example that under the gun in a full ring cash game, you should raise 90% of the time with {AKs, QQ+} and fold the rest. From middle position and first to act you can relax your range a bit. Etc.

If you play at micro or low limit tables on a casual basis, it is recommended to follow this discipline and this precise strategy will almost surely lead you to good profits (assuming you play correctly post flop). But whenever you move up in limits and meet more observant adversaries, this is going to be a leak.

If you always raise preflop with a very strong hand, then it is going to be difficult to win large pots as you are playing pretty transparently. On the contrary you may lose big pots if you are against a tricky opponent who is trying to hit the flop big or to set mine and you do not use the breaks when he appears to have a good hand.

Advanced pre flop strategies include the so-called early position steal. A steal is normally a raise with a weak hand when first to act in late position. As you guessed the early position steal is the same except that you do it from UTG or UTG+1 or 2. This is a move few players try given the positional disadvantage to play a marginal hand and the risk associated with it.

But if you have a tight image, you should attempt this play infrequently to mix up your opening range. There are two ways that you can win the hand. Either by continuing to represent the same premium hand post flop, or by surprising your opponents with an unexpected hand in case you hit the flop.

This type of move works best in low or medium stack situations. In a deep stack scenario, experienced players tend to call early position raises in the hope of cracking your kings or aces, and you will have less fold equity. Note that in the early steal move you should not count on getting bluffed too often given that you are representing such a strong hand.


Adding deception to your preflop strategy

Taking about late position aggression, another type of move that can add unpredictability in your game is the following. If you have small suited connectors or a small pair from the button, it is an obvious move to limp after a few limpers as this situation offers great odds for your draws. But what if there is only a single raiser from middle position in front of you?

Calling such pre flop raise is often a bad idea against a solid player, as the odds are not in your favor and even if you hit your hand, it may be quite obvious to your opponent, depriving you of the chance to win a big pot. The advanced play is to 3-bet.

You can win the hand a number of different ways. He can fold immediately, giving you the pot without contest. If big cards show up at the flop, you can continue to represent your strong hand and make him fold with one or two barrels. Or the most beautiful way to win the hand is when you hit the flop big and your opponent can never suspect that you did.

Another move in the arsenal of the advanced pre flop tactics is to smooth call a single raiser out of the blinds with big slick. This is particularly efficient in the early stage of a tournament.

The usual play is to 3-bet but by doing so you become rather transparent.

On the other hand calling in this spot under represents your hand and prepares for a deceptive play. If you hit the flop, chances are good that you dominate your opponent and that you can win a big pot.

Use these three advanced pre flop strategies and you will become more unpredictable, confusing your opponents.