How to Correctly Bet Before the Flop in Poker
In poker, the flop is the first reveal of the community cards after the initial betting round. At this point, every player has received their two pocket cards and must determine how they want to proceed. It's important to make the right decision here because it will influence how the hand is played out. You can choose whether to fold and wait for the next hand, call the current bet or raise and increase the bet.
As a new player, knowing how to bet on the pre-flop is one of the most important things to learn and get right. Making a good choice before the flip will set the tone for the rest of the hand and offer you the best chance to make money. However, if you choose poorly before the flop, you could put yourself in a precarious situation or lose out on a hand that could have been profitable, which could mean you're playing at a negative expected value.
Playing the Right Hands
In online poker or any form, you want to make sure you're always playing the right hands. Knowing which hands to fold and which to play is essential, as playing too many weak hands will lose you money. In the same way, failing to play strong hands will also mean you lose out over time.
Strong pocket pairs from AA to TT are always worth playing, as are strong-suited connectors such as AK, AQ, AJ and KQ. These strong connectors can also be played when unsuited, although they offer a lower chance of success. Sticking to these cards as a new player is best because it keeps your play tight and means you're not playing hands that have a low chance of success.
While you could win from other cards, such as lower ranked pairs, you're also more likely to be beaten. The above hands are suitable for all positions, while some lower-ranked starting hands can only be played in late positions. In poker, there's no penalty for folding, and the only thing you can potentially lose is the blind. As a result, it makes sense to play cautiously.
Considering Your Position
Aside from your starting hand, your position on the table will also affect your play. The small and big blinds will act last in the pre-flop betting round, although they will act first in all other betting rounds, which changes the way that the game is played slightly. The fundamentals of position, however, will not change. You should always look to play more hands when you have an advantage over your opponents than when you don't.
In other words, you should avoid playing too many hands in the blinds or early positions, as being one of the first to act puts you at a disadvantage. Unless you have one of the premium hands above, you're going to have trouble playing from an early position, and your opponents will have a better read on your hand before they make their decision.
Placing the Right Bets
If you are in a good position and have a good hand, you can enter the pot with a raise. You should aim to raise by around three to four times the amount of the big blind. Making a minimum raise defeats the purpose of raising before the flop by allowing opponents with weaker hands to enter without a high cost.
It's a lot easier to read opponents and make the right decisions when there are fewer of them in the pot. Therefore, you should be using the pre-flop raise to decrease the number of players who follow you to view the flop. To do this, always enter the hand with a solid 3 or 4 BB raise, and if you notice that many players are still calling these raises with weak hands or if other players have limped in before you, increase the size of the raise.