Pre-flop moves matter
October 24, 2018 3:00 AM
by George Epstein
Playing Texas hold’em, there are so many decisions to be made. Some are more important than others.
Your pre-flop decision is by far the most important. Why is that? First of all, that decision will mark your initial investment. Most of the time, your hand will not improve on the flop, so you muck your hole cards. You could have folded pre-flop and saved that initial bet, especially if there was a raise (Wasted bets add up over time). But you cannot win any chips if you fold all but made hands pre-flop.
Certainly, the decision is easy when you look down at A-A, K-K, or Q-Q in the hole. These are made hands that could win even without improvement. You may even decide to raise to thin the playing field so as to give your hand the best chance to hold up to the end.
Based on probabilities and calculations, if more than three opponents stay to see the flop, even pocket Aces becomes an underdog. Underdogs are bound to lose most of the time. But far more often, you will be dealt hands that must improve to win the pot.
We are not discussing bluffing decisions. Of course, the relative value of your two hole cards is quite important in making that decision. That includes their rank (Ace is best), whether paired, connectors and/or suited. The odds are that one out of three times you will pair up one of your unpaired hole cards. Pairing a middle or small card can cost you lots of chips when an opponent pairs a higher rank hole card. It’s best to catch top pair on the board.
Often you will be dealt one high card (a 10 or higher) and one low card (a seven or lower). We call that a Hi-Lo hand. Playing such a hand can be dangerous to your poker health.
Adding to the complexity of starting-hand decisions are Ace-rag and suited hole cards. Consider whether to stay in or fold with such hole cards – depending on all the factors noted above. Just Yes, your pre-flop decision whether to pay to see the flop is by far the most difficult and the most important. Making that decision is a big challenge – and so exciting.