Best Preflop Poker Strategy (It Might Surprise You)

Preflop Poker Strategy
This post was written by guest contributor Roger Marquez.

Let's face it, your preflop poker strategy is one of the most crucial aspects of your poker game. If you want to become a solid poker player then you need to master the preflop game.

There's just no way around it. Preflop is where everything begins. Also, developing a solid preflop game will make playing postflop a lot easier.

It doesn't matter how much work you put into studying and improving your postflop game.
If your preflop decision making is not optimal, then you will be facing a lot of tough situations postflop.

Preflop Poker Strategy 101

Now before we even begin let's talk about how to analyze a poker hand. Is your preflop poker strategy one of the most important facets of poker? Yes absolutely.

But of course it is not the only stage of a poker hand. The flop, turn and river are just as important. But in order to avoid feeling overwhelmed when reviewing a poker hand it is best to take it step by step.

And so since everything in poker starts before the flop I always suggest that we learn to master this street first.

The most important thing to remember with your preflop poker strategy is that your position at the poker tables is literally everything.

You should be playing the majority of your hands in the late position seats (cutoff and button), because these are the most profitable positions at the poker table.

Since you get to act last after the flop you are able to win so much more by value betting and bluffing as show in the video I made above.

Basic Preflop Poker Strategy Principles You Need to Master

I know there are many variables to take into account when playing poker. And it can be overwhelming processing all that information especially when playing multiple tables online.

To overcome this, I came up with a set of basic preflop poker principles (below) that will help you tremendously with this.

If you feel so inclined, you can also reduce the number of tables you currently play until you feel more and more confidence when applying these principles.

By the way, if you want to know exactly how I play as many as 20 or 30 online poker tables at a time (maximizing my profits), here is my complete guide to multi-tabling online poker.

This is really important. You need to give yourself the time to first learn and then master the fundamentals about the game before diving into more advanced preflop poker strategy.

After you master these basic principles, then you can gradually add more poker tables. Remember, at the micros, we focus on quality, not quantity.

Principle #1: Stick To Our Preflop Poker Strategy Gameplan

You need to stick to your preflop starting hand selection. In my free poker cheat sheet I actually tell you exactly what hands to play in both 6max and a full ring poker game.

It is important that you don't try to play outside these guidelines, unless you have a very good reason to. Be patient, give yourself time to learn the basics and master them before adding more advanced plays into your game.

Honestly, you really don't even need to play more hands in order to beat the micros. There is no need to get fancy at this level.

It might sound a bit weird to you right now but by just playing a solid ABC poker game you can consistently beat these stakes. Tight is right at the micros.

I made $44,341 at these limits by playing tight and keeping everything as unbelievably simple as possible!

Don't listen to anyone who tells you that you need to make a bunch of fancy plays to beat the micro stakes. It simply isn't true.

Principle #2: Attack Weakness

At the micros, players often play according to the strength of their hands.

So, whenever you see someone playing too passively (checking and calling) it is often because they have a weak hand and they would just like to see the next street as cheaply as possible.

Also, whenever you see a guy not betting big enough it's often a sign they don't have a strong hand and just want you to fold without having to commit too many chips in the process.

The same goes for someone who is playing way too many hands. Their overall hand strength is going to be weak because of this.

There just aren't that many strong hands in poker. The vast majority of the time we're going to be playing with medium to weak hands and even complete garbage.

This is why the best preflop poker strategy in the world most of the time is simply to fold preflop!

But when you have a decent hand and you see these weak plays out of others (limping, calling, playing a lot of hands) it is always advisable to isolate these players.

This will be your bread and butter at the micros. Don't know what an "isolation raise" is yet?

Here is my complete guide to isolating the poker fish at the micro stakes.

Principle #3: Be Aggressive With Your Strong Hands - Don't Ever Slowplay

This is a common mistake many micro stakes players make over and over again at the tables. Always looking to induce action from their opponents by playing a strong hand too passively.

Having a strong hand is something that doesn't happen very often so when it does, we need to take advantage of it by putting as much money as possible in the middle to extract as much value as we can.

If our opponent also has a strong hand then we will extract the maximum value by making the pot as big as possible.

At the same time, if he doesn't have anything and he folds, then we can forget about the hand and simply move on to the next one.

Always remember, you aren't "scaring them" out of the pot. If they don't have anything, then there is nothing you can do!

But when you fail to bet with your strong hands, you are simply lighting money on fire at the micro stakes.

Principle #4: Don't Ever Limp

If you feel a hand is not worth an open raise then it shouldn't be played at all. It's really that simple. And this is because in poker, it makes a huge difference when you take the betting lead in a hand.

Very often, we will win an uncontested pot by just being more aggressive than our opponents. We can either take it down preflop by forcing everyone to fold or with a simple continuation bet after the flop.

And honestly, at the micros, most players simply aren't capable of adjusting properly. Otherwise, they would be playing at higher limits.

So it simply makes sense to just raise every single time you open the pot. It is simply a proven fact that it is more profitable.

If you don't believe me, just go load up your PokerTracker database right now, filter for hands where you raised preflop versus not raising preflop, and you will see the difference.

The cold hard facts never lie.

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Principle #5: Positional Awareness

As I already mentioned above, being able to play in position allows us to generate so much more profit in poker.

Because of this, whenever we're on the button or in the cutoff, we have to widen our range a lot. In contrast, whenever we're going to be out of position, we have to tighten up our ranges.

This is why our opening ranges from early and middle position are much tighter in comparison to the cutoff and button.

Here is an example hand where I play 84 (and make it profitable), just because I am on the button!

As I discuss in Crushing the Microstakes, you can literally play 3 times as many hands from the button as from under the gun (or even more!).

The more people who are left to act the higher the chances at least one of them will wake up with a stronger hand than ours and we will be forced to play a hand post-flop out of position.

So this is why it is best to limit your range considerably when you are in one of the early position seats.

Principle #6: Don't Play Passively Against Wide Ranges

Honestly, it is amazing how much profit people leave behind preflop by simply not 3-betting enough.

In my experience, this either because they want to trap their opponent or they are insecure about playing postflop in a 3bet pot.

Which is perfectly understandable if you're just starting out.

But you need to understand that this is NOT how you should play poker once you get some experience under your belt.

You will need to come to peace with the fact that in order to make "real" money playing poker, then you will have to be aggressive.

Over time, you will eventually learn to control these fears and apply aggression when you have to. It's about select aggression after all, not being a complete maniac.

Firing up a 3-barrel bluff for example takes time to master but with work and discipline, it will become second nature to you.

You will learn which poker player types you can do this against.

When we decide to take the passive line versus a wide range instead of 3-betting two things happen.

First, flatting an open raise versus a wide range leaves a lot of value on the table because often they would have simply folded. That, or they would have called and then folded to your flop CBet

And secondly, 3-betting prevents hands from developing into a multi-way disaster where you have no idea where you are at versus a bunch of loose fish.

If you want to know much more about exactly which hands to 3-bet in all situations check out Modern Small Stakes.

Principle #7: Defend Your Big Blind

We already have one big blind invested in the pot whenever we are on the big blind. So, every time a hand starts we have a ”discount” whenever were facing an open raise.

What this means is that we can call those open raises with a much wider range and do it profitably.

Let's put it this way, whenever we face a 3x open raise, we only need to win to win the pot around 25% of the time versus that opening range in order to defend the big blind profitably.

And if we're facing a smaller opening raise size (as often happens if someone is simply trying to steal the blinds), then we can widen our big blind defense range even further.

This is why it is important that your preflop strategy involves defending your big blind with a fairly wide range (plenty of suited connectors, suited aces, broadways etc).

If you want a much deeper explanation of exactly which hands to defend your big blind with I recommend checking out my new BlackRain79 Elite Poker University.

My advanced poker training program actually provides charts telling you exactly what hands to defend your big blind with in every situation possible.

Principle #8: Visualize the Entire Hand First (Have a Plan)

Before making any decisions at the table preflop, you need to take into consideration the effects it will have on later streets.

By checking, calling, betting or raising you're changing the hand dynamic and altering the situation.
You need to develop the ability to foresee this.

So for example, if you just flat on the button with Ace King, then you need to develop a game-plan to play the hand postflop when you hit the flop AND when you don't.

Conversely, if you choose to 3-bet with Ace King instead (as you often should), then you need to also develop a game-plan for how to play the hand after the flop depending on the board texture and the type of opponent you are up against.

Principle #9: You Have to Remain Patient and Disciplined

If I had to give one single piece of advice to those who are starting to play poker it would be to develop patience and discipline.

Because believe me, you are going to need it if you want to win consistently at the micros!

Now I know this is something that is really hard to do for some people who are starting out, but this is going to help your game a lot when you are moving up in stakes.

Hike a mountain, meditate, do whatever you have to do in order to develop your mental discipline in this game.

Best Preflop Poker Strategy

I live on an island so one of my favorite ways to destress is to just hop on my scooter and ride down the coast to deserted beaches.

Because to be quite honest, discipline truly is the core of all winning poker. I know that nobody wants to hear this because it isn't "sexy" or fun or exciting.

But it is the truth. And I really can't stress enough how important this is. It is very easy to lose your focus and concentration when you have grinded for many hours non-stop.

This is often when we will begin to deviate from our core strategy and begin to make dumb mistakes.
For example, playing more hands out of position and calling raises a lot lighter than normal.

And this is when our bankroll and our win rate also begins to plummet because we are playing badly and not sticking to the game-plan!

Staying at the top of your A-game at all times even after a 10 hour session it is a skill that is hard to develop but it is one of the most important things that you need to learn in this game.

This is why I believe that taking care of yourself away from the tables is extremely important. Getting regular exercise, proper nutrition and good sleep.

My Best Tips for a Better Preflop Poker Strategy

Alright, so let's summarize a bit here. Here are my top tips for having a better preflop poker strategy.

1. Stick to the preflop game-plan (charts if you use them) at all times.
2. Attack weakness right away
3. Be aggressive with your strong hands - Do not slowplay!
4. Don't limp - Seriously, just don't it.
5. Always be aware of your position at the poker table (play more hands in late position, less in early position)
6. Play aggressive versus wide ranges (just 3-bet them!)
7. Defend your big blind, don't just let people steal it.
8. Visualize the entire hand (know how your preflop decision making will impact what happens on the flop, turn and river).
9. Always remain patient and disciplined, they are the keys to winning poker!

Final Thoughts

So there you have my top 9 tips to creating a better preflop poker strategy at the tables.

Look, in all honesty, preflop poker is actually the easiest part of the game. This is why I recommend studying (or even copying) a proven preflop poker system.

There is no reason why you should ever be guessing about what hands to play or when to raise, call or fold preflop.

All of this stuff should be automatic. I hope this article gave you a few good tips on creating a better preflop poker strategy.

Lastly, if you want to know how to consistently make $1000+ per month in low stakes poker games, make sure you grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

Let me know in the comments below what preflop poker strategy you use.


This post was written by guest contributor Roger Marquez. Roger is a part time small stakes online poker player from Venezuela. He excels at the math side of the game and understanding how to utilize HUD data properly.

Preflop poker strategy


  1. Yes, in my opinion patience and discipline is the most important key here, followed by the ability to fold your hands to agression on the turn and river. But often I have to remind myself because as you stated it's incredibly hard.

    I sometimes play small stakes live poker at the casino. These are very soft games, often 6 people limp without any raises preflop. Ive found that it's profitable to limp as well with hands like 97,T8,76 because it can turn into a monster hand and people will call you until the river

    1. Hey Psyko,

      I agree, staying patient and disciplined is one of the most difficult things to do in poker. It's why many people don't win. But I think with experience you learn to get better at it.

  2. Excellent article, lots of great tips for preflop here especially for beginners.