Preflop betting is crucial in tournament no-limit hold’em. Early on in a tournament, many good players like to limp in preflop often. They will limp in from late, middle, or even early position with a wide variety of hands, both weak and strong. When limping in with a weak hand preflop, the limper is intending to see a flop cheaply, with the hope of the weak hand developing into a big hand or big draw on the flop. Also, especially depending on what position the limper came in from, the hand that he flops could be very deceptive. For example, let’s say a player limps in from early position with the 4hearts 3hearts and several players limp in behind him. The flop comes down A-5-2 rainbow, giving the early-position limper the nut straight. Now, if any of his opponents make a set or two pair with this board, they will often lose lots of chips or even go broke, since it is so difficult to put the early-position limper on the straight, given where he limped in from. Now, this is an extreme example, since it is very rare that you will flop the nut straight with the 4hearts 3hearts. However, just flopping a draw with this hand can win you lots of chips. A flop like K-5-2 can be very profitable if you can draw cheaply to the nut straight, because when you hit it, you are very likely to get paid off, since it is a very deceptive hand. If a 6 comes off, anyone with a big king or better will still like his hand, and if an ace comes off and someone makes aces up, you may be able to bust him with your straight.
A very important part of limping is doing so with not only your weaker hands, like the 4hearts 3hearts, but also your stronger hands, like aces, kings, queens, and A-K suited. If you always limp only with junk and raise with your premium hands, good players will quickly pick up on this and will often come after you when you limp. When you limp, they will often raise preflop to pressure you into folding your weak hand. However, when you also limp with bigger hands and they raise your limp, you can either smooth-call and try to trap them on the flop or reraise preflop to put the pressure back on them. Once you show that you are capable of limping with big hands, good players will notice it and will not try to bully your limp nearly as often.
Some players prefer to always or almost always come in with a raise preflop if they are first to act. This is a fine strategy, although I think that at the highest levels of poker, one must be able to both limp and raise preflop to maximize success. When players raise preflop, they generally raise between two and four tim es the big blind. One of the arts to playing well preflop is knowing how much to raise every tim e you do decide to come in. Lots of good players have a strategy of always raising the same amount when they raise first in, this amount often being three tim es the big blind. This strategy has some clear advantages, since it gives nothing away as to the strength of your hand when you raise. If you always raise three tim es the big blind, you are going to show the same ratio of premium hands to weaker hands every tim e you raise. If, for example, you vary your raising amounts and always raise four tim es the big blind with your premium hands and two tim es the big blind with your weaker hands, you are giving away a tremendous amount of information about your hand preflop. Another reason why the consistency strategy is strong and so widely used is that it is very easy to execute. How much simpler can raising get than raising the same amount (relative to the big blind) every tim e? Despite the advantages of a consistent raising strategy, many of the game’s top players tend to shy away from it because they find it very constrictive in regard to what it allows them to do preflop.
I tend to raise two to four tim es the big blind preflop, varying my raises with the intention of manipulating my opponents into doing what I want them to do. For example, late in a tournament if I want action with a particular hand (like aces) and I am in middle position, I may make only a small preflop raise, hoping to be called or even played back at. I will also make this same play with a trash hand when I’m just trying to steal the blinds, with the logic that if I do get played back at, I won’t lose as many chips as I would if I had raised more. Also, if an opponent just calls, the pot will be smaller than if I had raised more, and I will feel less inclined to make a move on it and potentially lose lots of chips post-flop with my rags. I also vary my raises a great deal based on what position I am in. A raise from early position generally looks a lot more in tim idating than a raise from the button. Therefore, I will often raise more from late position and less from early position to balance out the impact that position has on how strong my raise looks. When raising preflop, it is crucial to be aware of how the players behind you are acting. If lots of players are gambling behind you, you might as well make a strong raise with your big holdings, because they will likely pay the extra few chips to come in. If the players behind you are playing tight, you often do not need to raise as much to complete a successful steal.
The most important Pkv Poker player to have a read on when making a raise (especially a steal) preflop is the big blind. Lots of players hate defending their blinds and will fold all but their best hands to even a minimum raise. Keep track of these opponents, as they will often become your bread and butter later in a tournament when the size of the blinds and antes becomes more and more significant. You can often get away with stealing these players’ blinds with a small or minimum raise, and then if they do call you, it is often easy to put them on a hand, since they are not calling you with rags! Be wary of raising loose players’ big blinds with weaker hands, since you will often be called and forced to see a flop with your trash hand. Also, be very careful of raising the best players’ big blinds without a premium hand, since many of the game’s best players defend their blinds frequently and have no problem playing from out of position.
Good luck, and may all of your steals be successful and all of your aces get action!