In this post I am going to continue with my basic guide on how to play specific hands preflop.
2) The Big Broadways and a note about suitedness (AQ-AT; KQ-KJ)
Our big broadway cards are profitable because most limit players are playing way too many hands, so when we hit top pair with these hands we will often have them dominated. For example, if we have AJ and our opponent is playing J8, then we will have our opponent drawing slim on a flop of J52. Whether or not our two big broadways are suited makes a pretty significant difference in how profitable they are. In general, your equity value will increase by about 3% when your hand is suited versus being non-suited. This may not seem like much, but when you are talking about a hand that has only 30% equity to start with, this is actually increasing the hand’s value by 10%. So being suited does matter… just don’t become one of the players that plays any two suited cards.
Ok, so back to the nitty gritty.
AQo and AQs should be raised from any position when there is no raise in front of you. When there is a raise in front of you, then how you play will depend on your specific game. If the raiser is someone who never raises unless they have JJ+/AQ, then you will often want to either simply fold preflop or coldcall (depending on how many people you expect will see the flop – the more who will see it, the more you should coldcall). If the raiser is someone who is raising 20% of hands, then you should 3-bet.
AJo and AJs is a raise for me from any position when there is no raise in front. Some people open limp these hands. Some people raise the AJs and limp the AJo. I don’t really think it matters that much what you do. These are playable hands and should show you a marginal profit, just don’t go crazy with them – i.e. If there is a raise and a re-raise in front of you in a generally passive game preflop, then these hands are pretty obvious folds.
ATs and ATo is where I start to differentiate. I will raise ATs from any position when there is no raise in front of me. I will often just fold ATo from Early Position. If there are a lot of limpers in front of me and I am in the CO or button, then I will sometimes raise with ATo and sometimes just limp behind. This really depends on knowing your opponents and their tendencies. If the players in front of me are playing any two cards, then I have no problem raising ATo for value. If the players in front of me are tight, passive players (many older men play this way) who fold hands like A9- but limp everything they do play preflop, then I will either limp behind or occasionally just fold.
KQo and KQs play very similarly for me to AJ. Obviously suited is better and I am fine either open-limping or open-raising these hands depending on the game.
KJo and KJs play similarly to AT for me. They both have the potential to win hands as a top pair hand; but they both also can be dominated and hard to get away from postflop when you do flop top pair (i.e. KJ vs KQ on a K hi flop). So again KJs I will always raise from any position as long as I am the first one to raise. KJo I will either raise, call, or fold depending on the game dynamics.
Except for occasionally AQ, none of the hands in this section will very often be worthy of 3-betting a raise in games that are so often passive. However, whether or not to coldcall will depend on whether your hand is suited, what position you are in, and how many players you expect to see the flop. The better your position and the more players you expect to see the flop means the more often you should coldcall.
3) The Medium Pairs (99-77)
Medium pairs are some of the hardest hands to handle mentally in limit poker. You often know that you have the best hand preflop, but with so many players entering so many pots, you also know that you will often lose the hand unless you hit a set.
99 is a hand that is good enough that you should be raising it from any position when there is no raise in front of you. Many live players will tell you this is hogwash. They will say that you should basically play this hand like a small pocket pair and just play it for set value by openlimping it from any position. But just like the TT example from my last post, 99 has enough of an equity edge against the field that you should be raising this hand for value from any position when there is no raise in front of you. Against a raise, 99 should either be re-raised or called (only if the game is tight and the raiser is tight should you fold 99 facing a raise) depending on your game’s characteristics.
I play 88 almost the same way I do 99. However, 88’s equity value is more marginal then 99’s so I have no problem with players who open-limp 88 or limp behind with 88 instead of raising it.
77 is where I make my cut-off. From EP I will open-limp 77. From MP on, I will raise 77 as long as I am the FIRST ONE IN THE POT (i.e. everyone has folded in front of me). If there are limpers in front of me, I will just limp behind with 77. Against a raise I will coldcall with 77 as long as I am pretty sure that there will be at least 4 players to the flop and it is unlikely that the remaining players will raise behind.
In my next post I will continue to go through my preflop guidelines.