The Basics of Poker Strategy in Cash Games
In this article, we’ll talk about the basics of poker strategy: playing preflop and flop – the first two streets of the trade. The strategy is very simple to understand, and it will not be difficult for you to apply it at the initial limits.
Preflop is the easiest street to trade in poker. By following simple guidelines, you can avoid most of the mistakes beginner players make and make it much easier to play hands on late streets.
So, if there was no raise before you, then preflop you should always have a choice between just a fold or a raise. Making a call, that is, simply delivering a big blind bet to the pot in the hope that no one will raise, and you can see the flop cheaply, is by no means possible! There is a simple explanation for this: with strong hands you want to win a big pot, and therefore you need to build it up on the first street of betting. With weak hands, you will lose control over the distribution and force yourself to play with a weak hand without initiative, that is, your chances of a successful bluff will be greatly reduced, and you most likely will not have other opportunities to win the pot.
Whatever cards they have, remember, you need to play aggressively, make your opponents nervous and give out the strength of your hand. This is why we place our bets. Also, with a simple preflop raise, you will greatly facilitate your game and determine the ranges in the future – opponents are unlikely to call your raise with random cards, and you will have an idea of what they have in hand.
As little as possible, you should play and call your opponent’s preflop raise, no matter how much you want. Remember, the main goal of poker is to play aggressively, play tight and play in position. That is why you need to focus on being the aggressor in the pots as often as possible and in one of the late positions with strong hands – this way you can get the maximum advantage over your opponents.
The standard raise size if all opponents have folded before you is 3-3.5 big blinds.
If one or more players limp into the game and you are going to raise, then its size should be equal to 3 big blinds plus one BB for each player who limped.
If you are going to 3-bet, then in position, its size should be no more than three sizes of the opponent’s initial raise (usually 10-11 BB), and out of position – four (usually 12-15 BB).
Flop strategy can be divided into two broad categories: when you opened preflop with a raise and got called from one or more opponents, and when you just called a raise from one of the other players.
As you can already see, the latter type of situations will occur much less often, and therefore it will be easier for you to navigate in them.
Flop as aggressor
One of the most common actions in poker is the so-called “continuation bet” or simply continuation bet. This flop bet is made by the preflop aggressor, confirming that he is still strong on the flop, no matter what happens! After all, he may still have the strongest hand. And since a player who calls preflop will only get a match on the flop 33% of the time, the preflop aggressor can bet a lot of flops and take the pot without further resistance. A continuation bet usually serves one of two purposes.
The first is to increase the pot (for value, i.e. collect money from weak hands). In other words, when making a continuation bet with top pair and top kicker, the player expects the weaker combinations to call. The second is a bluff, where a player bets without coincidences or with a garbage hand, relying on the fact that the opponent will fold. A continuation bet is only made if you are the preflop aggressor. It doesn’t matter if you hit the flop or not.