Preflop scenarios for poker

Mar 15, 2016 3:00 AM

As commonly used in the entertainment industry, a scenario is an outline of a movie, TV show, novel, or stage work giving details of the plot and individual scenes. Scenarios also apply to the game of poker. Indeed, poker is a game with many possible settings and “plots.”

Let us explore two of the more common pre-flop poker scenarios. We will focus on low-limit hold’em games, especially $4-$8 with a kill, one of the most popular poker games.

You have been dealt two holecards and now must decide how best to play them, considering all aspects – whatever information you have gained or can glean during this hand, including tells you might observe.

Scenario No. 1

You are in the cut-off position (just before the button) at a full table (nine players) at your favorite local casino. During this session, you have been playing at that table long enough to have a good idea of your opponents’ traits, especially those to your left who will declare after you act. Those are the players of most concern to you.

In this scenario, let’s assume your holecards represent a borderline (marginal) starting-hand based on the criteria of the Hold’em Algorithm. Your two cards barely meet – or only slightly exceed – the pertinent numerical criteria.

Our rule here is, in order to invest with such a hand, the Hold’em Caveat (a multi-way pot with no raises preflop) must be satisfied. Of course, there can be exceptions, but we won’t consider those in this scenario.

Everyone folds to you. You have observed the three opponents to your left – the button and both blinds – are rather tight, conservative players. If you fold, the chances are the pot will be “chopped” (with the remaining players taking back their bets, and the house taking one chip from the Small Blind as its rake); and, then a new hand will be dealt.

So, instead of folding, you make a raise. Using the Esther Bluff tactic, the Button and both Blinds fold; and so you win whatever is in the pot (less the house’s one-chip rake).

In a $4-$8 game, you will have gained 5 chips – more than enough to pay for your next big blind. No big deal; but, your raise also serves another purpose: It gives your opponents reason to respect you from this point on during this session. As a consequence, they are less likely to try to bluff against you.

Of course, it is quite possible one of your opponents decides to call your raise. Perhaps his hand is well worth a call. Perhaps you were not aware that he is a calling-station – prone to call raises once he has invested in that hand.

In addition, if you have done this maneuver several times before, it’s all the more likely you will be called. (It’s best to limit how often you deploy this situational strategy.) On that basis, we suggest you hold at least a borderline/marginal hand. If the button folds, and it’s one of the blinds who calls, you have gained position over him. That gives you an edge. He must act before you throughout the hand.

Scenario 2

It’s the same situation as above, with one major difference: There is a very aggressive player (he may even be a “maniac”) three seats to your right. Everyone folds preflop to him. His raise forces out all of the opponents before you.

Now, with the same borderline hand (or, preferably better, according to the Hold’em Algorithm), you re-raise. Chances are the remaining players (the Button and both Blinds) fold to your three-bet. Now you have isolated the maniac and have position over him.

Since he is a maniac (often playing weak hands), chances are you hold a stronger hand, and are most likely well in the lead. The edge is all in your favor.

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