Preflop Checklist and Strategies

While preflop play sounds relatively simple, many players still struggle with this because of two main reasons: They lack any plan and don’t know their position. So, to help you beef up your game plan, we have listed a checklist that includes no-nonsense strategies and the mistakes you have to avoid. 

Before the flop, it is important that you make a series of high-quality decisions if you want to put yourself in the best money-making position. Unfortunately, many players do the exact opposite, resulting in missed opportunities or huge losses.  

After you have dealt your cards preflop, gauge all the different variables in the hand. One common mistake of players is that they anchor their decisions solely to the cards they’re holding without even bothering to know their position and the type of opponents they are facing. 

When you consider your position and your opponents’ and understand good starting hand requirements, you can put yourself in a highly advantageous position. Simply put, the success of every flop relies on creating a solid foundation based on a series of intelligent preflop strategies.


Preflop Checklist 

Poker is relatively easy to learn but difficult to master. However, this checklist can help you fine-tune your strategies, turning yourself from a novice player into an expert.


Your Position 

Knowing your position in the hand is arguably one of the most important factors, although it is surprising to learn that players often ignore this cardinal rule. 

The general rule of thumb is to play more hands when you enjoy a stronger position than your opponents. Remember, there are slight differences during the preflop betting round when small and big blind act last, which is the complete opposite of every other betting round. 

Simply put, avoid playing too many hands in an early position because being one of the first to make a move in each hand can compromise your preflop strategies unless you’re holding a premium hand. 

In addition, be careful when playing in the blinds. In this situation, it might be better to take a more conservative stance–give up marginal hands rather than call raises.

Also, don’t feel pressured to enter more pots just because you have already committed a lot of money to the pot. 


Pro tip summary: 

  • Know your position in a hand.
  • When in the blinds, don’t be pressured to commit to playing hands.
  • Avoid playing out of position except when you have a notably strong holding.
  • You may loosen up your starting hand requirements in later positions. 
  • In many cases, your position has more influence than your opponents’ cards; hence, maintain your dominance by combining good position with excellent cards. 


Showing Aggression 

In general, aggressive players create discomfort (or even panic) in their opponents, which increases their chance of getting the pot uncontested preflop. Nonetheless, it doesn’t mean that you should completely exclude limping and calling raises to your preflop strategies. The point here is to take advantage of the moments when aggression provides a better outcome than passiveness during preflop and postflop. 


Pinpoint the Weaker Players 

When identifying the weaker players, be as objective as possible. Many people fall into the trap of believing that they are better than everyone at the table. Hubris can put you into a lot of trouble because of the following reasons: 

  • You may overlook the fact that there are other stronger players at the table. 
  • You may not realize that some players are weak postflop but strong preflop. 

Once you identify the weaker players, it becomes easier to estimate the probability of O-way vs. HU vs. MW, allowing you to decide if it makes sense to constrict or expand your preflop ranges. 


Pro tip: 

  • When the pot leans more toward MW, the tighter you want to be on average. 
  • When the pot is more likely to get one caller or result in folded preflop, the wider range you want to be. 


Betting Tips in Preflop 

Limping in is generally not a good strategy. This happens when you are faced with the decision to fold, call, or raise. If there’s no raise before you, the call will automatically match the size of the big blind. 

Simply put, limping in is the exact opposite of aggressive (but intelligent) play. 

A player who is limping in with a hand is either entering the pot with a weak hand, or worse, playing a decent hand but doesn’t know that raising or showing aggression can put him in a good position. 

If you decide to enter the pot, a good rule of thumb is to make a raise 3-4 times the size of the big blind. With this minimum raise technique, you are luring in players with marginal hands.

The goal of preflop raise is to reduce the number of players, making it easier to make favorable decisions. Therefore, make sure that you increase the size of the raise if there are opponents with marginal hands still calling raises OR if other players have limped in before you, plus you have a strong 3 or 4 BB. 

When there has been a raise before you, fold if you have a poor or marginal starting hand, call if you have a good starting one (3 or 4 BB), or raise if you have top starting hands (AA or KK)

Pro tip: 

  • Instead of limping in or calling the big blind, your best bet is to “pump” it or “dump it.” Simply put, the right dose of aggressiveness is good. 
  • If you’re the first one to enter the pot before the flop, ask yourself this question: “Should I fold or raise?”
  • Avoid limping in with poor hands. 
  • When entering an unopened pot, make solid 3 or 4 BB raises. 
  • Only limp in if others have limped before you and you’re objectively sure that you have a strong hand.