Holdem Early Position

Hold'em is a positional poker game, perhaps more so than any other form of poker. This is because the button indicates the order in which players act for all the betting rounds. (The only exception to this are the blinds, who act last on the first betting round but act first on all the following betting rounds.) As a result, a number of holdem hands that can be played easily from the early position - which we will defines as the first three positions to the left of the big blind in a ten-handed game - is limited. As you are out of the position on all the betting rounds, you need a best starting hand to make it worth playing.

Particularly, in early position in a standard hold'em poker game, if you are first one in, or if there is only a call to your right, be ready to play only those hands in the first four groups. In a loose holdem game, as the long as the players are not too aggressive you can add the Group 5 hands, especially the suited connectors. In a tough holdem game, it is probably best to discard even the Group 4 hands. These guidelines are very essential. Playing too many hands up front is one of the most expensive mistakes that you can make.

We stated that the Group 5 hands can be played in non-aggressive loose games, but also mentioned "particularly the suited connectors." The game would be very good for hands like


can be played in early position.
Moreover, as the holdem game becomes more aggressive, you should throw away some of the weaker Group 4 hands like AJ and KT's. Such holdem hands are difficult to play out of position, especially if you feel isolated by any aggressive player.

A poker game "loose" means a game without much before-the-flop raising and with many players in most pots. (This game would be loose and passive.) And a game "tough" means a game with a fair amount of raising, but not many multi-way pots. (This game would be tight and aggressive.) There are also other types of games where several players play brilliantly, but only once the flop comes. If you are not sure which of these types you are playing, it is better to assume that the game is tough until you can determine otherwise. Keep in mind that the big pots do not necessarily make a game good. If the big pots are made up by raising, your correct holdem strategy would be to look for a loose game.

We also want to clarify that loose and passive holdem game are not the same thing. If the game is loose but very aggressive, you should not in many pots. However, you can play a fair number of holdem hands in a tight but passive game.

In other words, passive or aggressive should have a great impact on the number of poker hands played, while loose or tight should impact the mix of the hands played. More information on this topic will be discussed in the entire site.

Sometimes you will need to add some poker hands to those you play up front to knock your rivals out. For example, you should rarely play poker hands like

In early position, even if the game is tough, to prevent your more attentive rivals from stealing against you when "rags" flop. Also, this can be a good holdem hand to raise with if you feel that your early position raises are getting too much respect. (That is why you are not getting the action.) On the contrary, irrespective what the reason for playing a poker hand like this, make sure that your hand is suited and only play it rarely.

If there is raise to your right and the game is tough, you should narrow down your play to those hands in Groups 1 and 2. Playing against tight player in a tough game, it may be correct to throw some of the Group 2 hands like:


However, if there is a raise to your right and the game is loose, you should be able to play safely Group 3 hands also. Even in a loose game, this hand does not play well against an early position raiser if many players are left to act behind you. (If AQ is suited, you can of course play the hand.)

Let's pause for a moment and point out that you should not be calling many raises if no one else (except the raiser) has willingly entered the pot when playing hold'em, regardless what your position or what your two starting cards are. You should either fold or can re-raise occasionally. We now mentioned that if the poker game is loose it can be correct to play a Group 3 hand in a raised pot. But to call a raise with a hand like

before anyone else is in you have to sure that several other players are coming. If you are wrong always it can prove to be expensive to your overall Holdem strategy. (The exception is if you are in the big blind. This will be discussed later)

As now we are on this topic, we would also like to mention loose raisers. That is players who have weak raising standards and often are first to put two bets in the pot. If you follow the above guidelines you will particularly play only Group 1 and 2 holdem hands against an early position raiser. However, against the loose raiser, you should go ahead and play AQ, 99 and 88 or can also re-raise with them. (You should also be no doubt re-raising with the Group 1 and Group 2 hands with the exception of AJ and KQ which are best only to call with.) Again, to make this play holdem correct your judgment need to be accurate. If you are not sure then you should throw these additional hands away. (Here we are making a distinction between a loose raiser and loose holdem game.)

If no one has called yet, almost always with raise AA, KK, QQ, aK, and AQ. The reason to raise with these holdem poker hands is that they lose value as the pot gets more multi-way (especially if your rivals see the flop for one bet rather than two). If there are already been callers, usually raise with hands in Groups 1 and 2, aQ, and maybe some other hands at random. (Again, these random raises should be very rarely.)

If no one has willingly put the money in the pot, you should raise about two-third of the time with AK's, aQ's, aJ's and KQ's. The reason for sometimes calling with these hands is not only for deception purposes but because they play well in multi-way pots. Because of the big blind structure in hold'em game, it is not necessary to just call with these holdem hands very often. Against weak rivals, it is best to almost always raise with them, as the deception you are trying to gain by just calling won't do much good. However, if the holdem game is tight and most players respect your raise, be ready to limp with the big suited connectors. Again, these holdem hands play well in multi-way pots.

You can rarely limp with AA or KK. You should do this only when your early position raises are not getting any callers. If raised, you would often, but only always re-raise. (However, if you are heads-up and are raised we recommend that you should just call with aces or kings to add deception against your one rival. Then be inclined to raise on fourth street.) Further, be less inclined to limp with two kings as against two aces. This is because with a pair of kings, an over card - the ace - might come on the flop, while no over cards can come to a pair of aces.

Eventually, if no one has called yet, you can raise about one-third of the time with a hand like

till the game is tough. This is especially for deception purposes. Again, always remember how strong your oppositions are. If you are in a game with very weak rivals, it is usually best to call with these holdem hands. That is, in a game where most of your rivals are going to come, this play will lose its value in the long run.

If you call with a large suited connector and are raised, go ahead and re-raise with AK's and also with AQ's. Furthermore, if many players are in the pot, you can re-raise occasionally with a holdem hand like:

The reason for the above raise needs some explanation and will be understood clearly by reading further into the advanced texas holdem poker site. You are making the pot larger so that if you get a flop you like, such as two flush of the same suit, then your rivals will be influenced to stay for one or two more cards with much less to one over card.
Let's come back to the loose holdem games. Remember that some hands like

do well against many rivals. If there are many callers but not much raising, this type of holdem hands becomes playable in early position. However, overplaying such hands in early position - and many players do the same - can make you get into trouble. Always consider that the requirement of loose and passive is met. Still you are not sure it is correct to throw away these hands in an early position.
It is correct with the small pairs such as:

In an early position you can play such texas holdem hands only when you are sure that you will get a multi-way pot. However, there can be little more action than the suited connectors. But if many pots are going to three bets or more, they are likely to be never worth playing, even if you expect several rivals to join in.

One thing to remember always when deciding to play small pair or a medium to small suited connector is how passive or aggressive the texas game is, in addition to its being loose. Small pairs are played well in loose aggressive games but not too aggressive. This is because if you flop a set you can expect many bets going into the pot. If the game is too aggressive and you have a small pair you will often be forced to play for many bets and now your hand will not achieve the requisite implied odds for it to be profitable.

If the game is passive, you want the suited connector to the small pair. This is because a "set" would find it difficult to collect many bets. However, if the suited connector flops something like a gut shot draw it won't necessarily be bet out of the pot.
Let's take a simple example. Say you started with the 87 mentioned above and the flop comes:

If the holdem game is passive you can still proceed further on fourth or fifth street with the expectation to catch a six if it slides off. If the holdem game is aggressive you may find yourself out of the hand.

Sometimes, the game can be partially aggressive but will have two or three players who will play particularly any ace. In games like this, (and are very common with the limits as high as $20-$40), we suggest that you play A9s, a8s, 77, and 66 as long as the pot is not raised. Now if you hit your ace someone may have aces with you, but with a worse kicker, or if you flop a set someone may call a bet trying to chase an additional ace.

One thing we have not mentioned is a pair of jacks in the pocket. If no one has opened and you are in an early position, it is best to raise with JJ in a tight game and to just call with it in a loose holdem game. With two jacks you want either to have no more one or two rivals in the expectation that your hand holds up without any improvement, or to have many rivals as far as possible when much of your profits come from flopping three-of-a-kind. The worst thing would be when exactly three or four rivals see the flop along with you. This would happen if you are called in a tight game or raised in a loose game.

If you have JJ and the pot has been raised and re-raised before the actions gets to you, you should in this case fold. This would also be true when you are in a middle or late position. However, if you have already opened with JJ and the pot has been raised and re-raised behind you, then it is correct to go ahead and call only because of the pot odds. In this situation you would be thinking to flop trips. If you fail to make a set, then you should be ready to fold (even though folding is not necessarily natural).

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