From an outsider’s perspective, a poker game looks like a collection of people shuffling chips, observing each other’s body language, and thinking deeply about the right move to make. In today’s article, I’ll cover the four key elements that you should look for in Phase #2 – Pre-Flop. You’ll find that you can cut out much of the fluff associated with the above in order to make the correct Poker Model play. Be sure to understand what phase we are referencing here:
- Phase #1 – Hand Setup: Dealer shuffles, the button moves one player to the left, players ante (if applicable), the small blind contributes a fee, the big blind contributes a fee 2x the small blind, and the cards are dealt clockwise, starting with the small blind.
- Phase #2 – Pre-Flop: Each player has an opportunity to fold, call, or raise, starting with under the gun (UTG) and moving around the table.
- Phase #3 – Flop: Three community cards are dealt face up in the center of the table with another round of betting for the remaining players in the hand.
- Phase #4 – Turn: One community card is dealt face up in the center of the table with another round of betting for the remaining players in the hand.
- Phase #5 – River: A final community card is dealt face up in the center of the table with another round of betting for the remaining players in the hand.
- Phase #6 – Showdown: Players flip their cards and a winner is determined.
The following four elements may be reviewed in any order, without a strong priority for one over the other.
Element #1 – Blinds
As discussed last week in The Big Blind Blowout, understanding how to calculate your # of big blinds and your opponents is key because you need to have a frame of reference for how big these stacks are compared to the small and big blinds amounts. You will make decisions not based on having “$33,574” chips, but on having “32” big blinds. It is useful to know how to calculate your big blinds fast so you can play multiple tables at once. Here is the formula to use to calculate big blinds:
# of chips / 1 big blind = big blinds
In the image above, divide each # of chips by $200 (1 big blind) to calculate the # of big blinds that each player has. See below for the correct answers.
Element #2 – Seats
The seat that you and your opponents are in is another key element because position will affect your decision making. Acting last gives you an advantage because you can see what your opponent does before having to make a move. Consider the difference between sitting under the gun vs. sitting in the small blind. See below for a reminder of where these two seats are on the table.
Under the gun is first to act in Phase #2 – Pre-Flop. This means that he must face the possibility of playing against all of the other 8 seats at the table. Generally speaking, he must have a stronger hand to enter the hand from that seat because if there are 8 players left there is a better chance one will have a good have vs less than 8.
Now look at the the small blind. If all of the other players fold around the table and it’s the small blind’s turn to act, he will only have to face one other player, the big blind, on his left. Generally speaking, he can play much weaker hands from this seat. Remember that a hand range that is wide means there are more within the range while one that is tight is more specific. There are instances where “Any two cards” may be a playable range from the small blind, where that is almost never your range from other seats around the table.
Element #3 – Previous Action
Following the same logic about seats is the element of previous action. If it is your turn to act and nobody has entered the hand in front of you, you will have the ability to play weaker hands than if a player has already raised in front of you. This is because no previous players have shown strength. They have chosen to keep the pot small or not play at all. You can play more hands because of this. On the contrary, if there are one or more raises in front of you, then you must tighten up and only play stronger hands generally. This is because a raise in front implies that there are good hands already in play.
Element #4 – My Hand
Perhaps the most important element of all are the two cards in your hand. You will assess the previous three elements, look at your two cards, and then determine the best move to make. Take a look at how a Poker Model player views a full hand in Phase #2 – Pre-Flop.
I’ve assessed the four elements in the hand above and determined my action is to call:
- Element #1 – Blinds: I have 29 big blinds.
- Element #2 – Seats: I am on the Cutoff, my opponent is on the Cutoff+2
- Element #3 – Previous Action: There is one raise in front of me
- Element #4 – My Hand: Kh-Qh
The Poker Model recommendation: With 29 big blinds sitting on the Cutoff holding Kh-Qh, facing one previous raise, call. Also make this call with K-J, A-10, A-J, A-Q, 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, 5-5, 6-6, 7-7, 8-8, 9-9, 10-10, J-J, Q-Q. The Poker Model labels this group as call behind hands, hands that you will call one raise with in a Pre-Flop situation with over 25 big blinds. With premium hands, A-A, K-K, and A-K, you will make a raise in an attempt to be all-in. Fold all other hands.
As you have probably guessed, there are many combinations that will occur. For now, focus on finding the elements and we’ll help you make the correct decision.