Basic Preflop Play for Micro Stakes No Limit Texas Hold’em

Now that you understand how to determine if you have a hand that you can open-raise with from a specific position, you will need to learn to make adjustments so that you understand how to play when there is action before you.

The first situation that I would like to address is when to call or re-raise. While calling is a bit more in depth, re-raising someone is a very easily understandable situation in micro stakes games. If you have the following hands, you enough “power” to re-raise:

  • Pocket Aces
  • Pocket Kings
  • Pocket Queens
  • Ace/King suited

After your re-raise, if someone raises you again, you will can shove all in with:

  • Pocket Aces
  • Pocket Kings
  • Pocket Queens

If someone shoves all-in over your raise, you will call with:

  • Pocket Aces
  • Pocket Kings
  • Pkv

As you can see, as our opponents actions get more aggressive, we increase the strength of our hands in response. If you recall from the first article, The best way to make money in poker is to fold.

In these raise/re-raise situations, we are not looking to play post flop in a bloated pot. We are looking to take down the pot or get in with powerful holdings. In the micro stakes, players tend to over value their hands. In a raise/re-raise situation, you may find yourself all in against an opponent with pocket tens against your pocket kings or they will hold Ace/Ten against your pocket Aces. We only want to play big pots with big/powerful hands. There is no reason to try to “get lucky” with a medium strength hand in an all-in/re-raised situation. Money that you don’t lose is just as “spendable” as money you win.

Calling a raise pre-flop requires a tiny bit of math. We will call if we have:

  • All Pocket Pairs
  • Suited connectors Jack/Ten or Higher
  • Suited Aces Ace/Nine and higher

But only if the raisers stack meets the following qualification:

The raiser must have at least 15 times the raise in his/her remaining stack. Since we will flop a set 1 out of every 10 times we call, we want our odds to be greater than 10/1. If we follow the “rule of 15”, we always have 15/1 odds. We will also only make our straights/flushes about 25%. This makes us need at least 4/1. The odds above this give us the ability to profit from the call even though we miss more than we hit.

If someone raises and you do not have a hand from the re-raise list, you do not have a hand that we defined as a calling hand, or you do have a calling hand, but you are not getting the odds described above; you need to fold. The best way to make money playing poker is to fold.

Now I would like to address something that is very common at the micro stakes, the pre-flop limper. Limping into a pot is a passive play and always a mistake. We will need to punish the players that limp by raising them. When a player limps, we will raise so that we can push out the other players on the table. This allows us to play heads up against a passive (and in all probability bad) player. This is called an isolation play.

When you make a raise to isolate a limper you can use any hand the meets 2 or 3 of the criteria that we laid out for a playable hand. This give you the opportunity to play a passive player heads up, with a hand that will flop a strong amount of equity. I would like to caution you before you arbitrarily begin raising all limpers without thought, DO NOT ISOLATE A PLAYER WHO NEVER FOLDS. The power of isolating a passive player is that we bet on the flop and take the pot down. If you attempt this play against a calling station (someone who will call with any piece of the board) you will be giving chips away.

So, now we have discussed how to determine if a hand is playable and where it is playable from and we have added how to respond if there is any action before you. The next article will address play on the flop and I will explain how pre/post flop play are not different stages of the hand, but one continuous flowing action.Remember to continue using the 3 criteria that we discussed to determine if a hand is playable and try to incorporate a bit of this discussion into your game.