Group 2: Middle Pairs and Triple Raise from Player in Third Position

Part 2. If You Have Middle Pairs and Threefold Raise from Third Position Player

In late (sixth) position or on the button you wouldn’t like to make a raise three times higher than the big blind. Your bet in this case is more likely to be interpreted as trying to steal the pot and less likely as a bet simply to increase the pot, and you’d like to stimulate bargaining because hands calling in response will be a little weaker than usually. In this situation you’d like to limp more than usual as well especially if you have noticed that the big blind player aggressively protects his bet by raises. Let him try and kick you out of the game.

JJ, TT, 99

In early position with these hands you should use mixed strategy of raising and calling. I prefer the combination of 70% raises and 30% calls. And when you make a raise, it must be bigger than a raise you would make with premium pairs, because you’d like to win right now. Though probably they are the best hands at the table at the moment, these cards become difficult to play when they get call in response and overcard appears on the board. I’d like to make raises four or even five times higher than the big blind with these hands.

In middle position you prefer to raise aggressively with these three hands especially in fourth or fifth position. (In third position you should be a little more conservative.) Think of them as premium hands and make raises 3-5 times higher than the big blind. However, unlike premium hands you must not be limping with these cards. Since these cards become so weak high cards come on the flop you can’t allow players with pictures enter the pot after you by limping.

In sixth position or on the button you still prefer to raise with these hands but now you afford to add more cards to this combination. Keep on raising 3-5 times higher than the big blind but make 75% of raises and 25% of calls.

Group 8: Various Weak Hands and Blinds

Part 8. How to Deal Various Weak Hands

Various weak hands

In sixth position I would play suited king-ten, king-nine and queen-ten. I would play them varying folds and raises fifty to fifty. And when I raised I would try and steal the pot by a simple raise three times higher than the big blind.

On the button I would as well raise with the following hands: either suited or not suited king-ten, king-nine, queen-ten, queen-nine and suited jack-nine.

With these quite board hands a lot depends on what I can find out about players contributing blinds. You can understand why studying of three players next to you on the left is so important. When you are in one of two late positions, second player on your left is always on the small blind. When you’re on the button, a player next on your left will be always on the small blind, and third player on your left will be on the big blind when you are next to the button.

A player contributing the small blind against a player contributing the big blind

Here’s my general strategy for small blind against big blind situations:

1. Play any pair.

2. Play any hand with ace or king.

3. Play hands with queen-x down to queen-five.

4. Play suited jack-ten and suited jack-nine.

Playing in this situation you’ll prefer to limp in half cases and raise in other half. When you raise make the sum five times higher than the big blind. The reason for this more than usual raise lays in the fact that you’ll be playing in bad position and so you need to prevent bargaining.

Group 7: Suited Cards in Holdem Poker

Part 7. How Do You Use Suited Cards to Your Advantage?

Suited cards

I have one uncommon move that I like to use with suite. If I’m in first or second position I will raise on them in 15% of cases pretending that I have top pair. I have to bluff from time to time in early position and suite as randomizer keeps my opponents from reading my bluff. When liaisons turn in a strong hand on the flop, hardly can anyone suspect me of having it, and when in the end I open the winning hand my opponents remember it for long time.

The remaining part of the chapter describes ordinary bets on suited liaisons subject to card hierarchy.

We’ve already discussed suited liaisons down to queen-jack hands.

With suited lack-ten in early position at a weak table I would enter bargaining with limping. In middle position I would be more aggressive combining raises and calls in correlation fifty to fifty.

I would fold suited ten-nine in early position, limp them in middle position (having of course made a few raises) and raise in late position.

I would fold suited nine-eight and eight-seven in early and middle position, fold them in sixth position and raise on the button.

I fold seven-six and six-five always but on the button in which case I would raise if I see players contributing blinds fold their cards.

And I usually fold suited five-four, four-three and three-two in any position. These cards are too weak to play them.

Group 6: Suited and Not Suited High King and Middle Ace Combinations

Part 6. If You Have Small Cards with Ace or Middle Cards with King

Not suited A9, A8

In early position fold these hands.

In third and fourth positions get rid of them as well. You can start playing these hands from fifth position. When you play them tend to raise in order to lower the necessity of seeing flop. Use the following raise and call correlation – 70% of cases to 30%.

In late position you should also raise with these hands. Raise in 90% of cases and call in 10% because it’ll be to your advantage simply to take the pot.

Suited and not suited A7 and lower

At a serious table I would fold all these hands, if only I am not on the button or next to it. On the button I would raise with any ace hand. If I’m next to the button I raise only on ace-seven and ace-six hands. The following recommendations concern weak tables and the cases when players contributing blinds refuse to defend their positions.

I would play suited ace-seven from fifth position and further combining raises and calls fifty on fifty. Not suited ace-seven I would play from sixth position with the same ratio of raises and calls.

Hands between ace-six and ace-two I would play only in late position raising in all cases in order to steal blinds. However if players contributing blinds have shown toughness before, I would simply get rid of these hands.

Suited and not suited KQ, KJ, QJ

These hands are very dangerous and tricky for beginners which having seen two pictures think they have a great hand. Though they can be played in certain situations, they should be used very carefully.

In early position just fold king-jack and queen-jack combinations both suited and not suited. In tight games either suited or not suited king-queen hands should be folded as well. In loose games with suited king-queen combination you should raise in 50% of cases and in 50% call. If your king-queen are not suited then call in 50% of cases and in other 50% fold.

In middle position these hands are a little better. Having king-queen in middle position I’d play varying raises and folds as 60% to 40%. In third or fourth position I would play king-jack in correlation fifty on fifty of raises and calls. In fifth position I’d raise in 60% of cases and in the rest 40% I would call. I would play both hands in the same way no matter if they are suited or not. As for queen-jack combination, I would fold this hand in third position, play it in suite in fourth position varying raises and calls equally and raise oftener in fifth position.

In late position I’d raise all these three hands trying to win blinds.

All the percents given in this chapter are of course just general recommendations based on my own experience. Bear in mind also that the kind of table (tight or loose, weak or strong) will influence your decision to play those hands.

Group 5: Suited and Not Suited Unpaired Middle Cards

Part 5. If You Have Middle Unpaired Cards With Ace

Not suited AJ, AT

In early position I would simply fold not suited ace-ten and at a serious table give up ace-jack. At a table with not so serious players I would try and play ace-jack with 50% of raises and 50% of calls.

In middle position it is more difficult. In third position I would fold ace-ten anyway but play ace-jack in 70% of raises to 30% of calls. In fourth position I will play ace-jack in a similar way and begin to play ace-ten active varying raises, calls and checks in equal proportions. In fifth position I tend to raise both hands.

Suited A9, A8

When we turn to weaker hands with suited ace we find ourselves in a dangerous zone. Unlike previous hands, ace now is hardly good news, since there is a possibility of playing against ace with a higher kicker. The real power of these hands appear either when we catch nut flush on the flop or when we get an opportunity to catch nut flush or two pairs, each of these hands can win an enormous pot.

I consider ace-eight a transitional hand among all hands with aces. If my opponent will play against me any hand with ace, then there are five ace-x combinations higher than my (AK, AQ, AJ, AT, A9) but six that are lower (А7, А6, А5, А4, А3, А2). In this situation I am still in advantage with ace-eight while ace-seven make underdog of me.

In early position you should get rid of these hands (except the case when your opponents are weak players and few raises are made in preflop).

In middle position everything becomes even more difficult. If I were in a good mood at a weak table I could call with these hands in third position. Take into account that calling with these transitional hands you have to be able to play strong after the flop. In fourth position I am sure to play combining raises and calls fifty-fifty. In fifth position I would raise oftener. In late position these are raising hands as well.

Group 4: Suited and Not Suited Unpaired High Cards

Part 4. If You Have High Unpaired Cards With Ace

Suited and not suited AK, AQ

Now we turn to hands without pairs. There are two strongest combinations among them: ace-king (big sleak) and ace-queen, which can be played almost the same as high pairs. Note that these hands are strong enough in order to (unlike smaller unpaired hands) make similar moves regardless of their suit.

In early position you are likely to raise with these hands. I use 75% of raises and 25% of calls combination. When you decide to raise, it should be three-five times higher than the big blind varying randomly of course.

In middle position you will raise oftener, possibly in 85% of cases and 15% of them call. Pay attention that with these hands you must be quite satisfied simply with winning the pot (especially if there is ante in it in addition to blinds). Bear in mind that when you get bargaining in response and cannot catch your hand on the flop you become an underdog with high chances to lose in favour of any small pair.

In late position these hands are played similarly to middle position. Raise in most cases and don’t feel upset the moment you win the pot.

Suited AJ, AT

In early position with suited ace-jack use fifty-fifty raises and calls and your raises must be as before three-five times higher than the big blind. Suited ace-ten in early position is the border hand. At a table with serious player I tend to fold these cards. At a weakling table I would be limping.

In middle position I would normally raise with suited ace-jack and vary my actions in 75% of raises and 25% of calls.

In late position those would be good hands and I’d raise seriously with all these cards.

Group 3: Small Pairs and a Big Blind Call

Part 3. If You Have Small Pairs and Someone Called the Big Blind

88, 77, 66

These hands are evidently weaker than the previous group and they should be played properly.

You will play these hands in early position anyway but more carefully. You’ll prefer to enter bargaining with these middle-small pairs by limping but you need to add a few raises to cheat your opponents. I use the combination of 20% of raises and 80% of calls.

In middle position everything is a little trickier. I play in third position like in early position. In fourth position I begin to raise with eights but keep on limping with two weaker pairs. In fifth position with all the three pairs I switch to a different strategy based mostly on raises. In late position all these hands become raising. I make 75% of raises and 25% of calls.

55, 44, 33, 22

Small pairs are undoubtedly dangerous cards by two reasons. Of course high pair beats small pair. But besides that small pairs can be substituted when high pairs appear on the board. Assume you have 3♦ 3♥ in your hands and 9♣ 9♦ 5♠ come on the board.

Now you have two pairs – nines and threes. But if five comes on the turn you won’t get points for three pairs! The pair in your hands will disappear (this is what we call substitution) and your hand turns simply in the combination board plus three as a kicker. You must play these hands very carefully.

In early position generally fold these hands.

In middle position consider limping with fives and fours but fold threes and twos.

In late position in most cases raise with either fives or fours and call with threes and twos. If the players contributing blinds seem weak to you, raise with all these hands.

Group 1: No One Has Yet Begun Bargaining for the Pot

Part 1. If No One Has Entered the Pot Yet

This is the most advantageous situation since no one at the table has yet shown any strength and a bet can easily win the pot. Let’s see how you should act with various hands in certain situations.


With these two premium pairs you may raise in any position. In online games I would always raise on these hands, because it’s not likely that you will meet the same players so often that they would be able to learn and read you. In live tournaments where good players try and remember their opponents’ actions you should always vary your gaming style. With these hands I’d raise in 80% of cases and simply call in the rest 20%.

You should understand that slow-gaming in this case is a theoretical error which will cost you your money if you are not sure that your opponents are not studying your style. But they will study you and you’ll have to balance your style changing somehow your approach in a random way. This advice can be applied to all hands discussed in this chapter. When I combine two different approaches to the same hand I try to give you the percentage of every gaming style.

You should know that in elite poker you’ll meet a number of players which after each gaming session go home and write down into their notebooks everything they have seen at the table. There are players with notebooks of enormous size in which habits and manners of hundreds other players are written. So when I speak about random style changes I’m not kidding! Any your permanent move or manoeuvre will be wrote down into their databases shortly.

And what about the size of raises? The sum that I’d like to raise on these hands is about three or four times higher than the big blind. And again I have to vary this sum randomly so that my real bets looked like these:

35%: raise is three times higher than the big blind
35%: raise is four times higher than the big blind
15%: raise is like the big blind doubled
15%: raise is five times higher than the big blind

(Pay attention that I like to describe the raise size in preflop as multiplied big blind and not the pot. And after the flop I introduce bets in terms of parts or multiply of the general pot. In a way it is accidental differentiation but if you live in poker tempo for a while you’ll understand that this is how players think and talk.)

Should you bet all-in with these premium pairs? This move is very uncommon because usually with so strong hands you’d like to stimulate bargaining from the only opponent and try to create a big pot. A bet all-in usually kicks the players out of the bargaining and leaves you with no more than claims for blinds and ante. You must think this move over if you are at a hyper-active table where you have already seen calls to all-in bets. (Even in this case this move would be uncommon.)

Who Participates in Holdem Poker Pots?

Who Enters the Pot in Holdem Poker?

What hands you decide to fold, call or raise depends mostly on the bargaining you’ve seen before you and on your position at the table. You have one set of criteria for the situations when all players before you have folded their cards and completely another one if two players have already made raise and reraise. It would be completely impossible to lighten all the possible raising, calling and folding combinations for each and every table position in a pot of holdem poker. I’ve classified them into five groups instead leaving you with good review of different possibilities.

The five groups of raising, calling and folding combinations

1. No one has yet entered bargaining for the pot.

2. Player in third position made initial raise thrice as big as the big blind. You’re in fifth position. Players in first, second and fourth positions folded their cards.

3. Player in third position called the big blind. Like in the previous situation you are in fifth position and players in first, second and fourth positions folded their cards.

4. You’re on the button. Player in third position raised to the sum three times higher than the big blind and player in fifth position made nine times higher call. All other players folded their cards.

5. You’re on the button. Players in second, fourth and sixth positions joined bargaining by limping (calling the big blind). Players in first and fifth positions folded.

Although you won’t appear in the same exact situations quite often, my analysis must show you how to think about entering bargaining.

Preflop Gaming Tactics in Unlimited Holdem

Unlimited Holdem Poker Main Strategy in Preflop

On the next few pages I will describe main bargaining strategy in preflop. This is a general strategy which shows my actions in the following situations:

1. I’m at the full table of nine players at the beginning of a tournament middle stage.

2. I don’t know very well any of the players.

3. As far as I can say all players act in quite serious conservative style.

4. There are no too big or too small stacks.

5. We all have a lot of chips as compared with blinds and ante.

This isn’t some exceptional number of conditions like you could have thought. Now tournaments have become so big that there often happen situations when at the table I know only one or two players. Most players which have laid out $500 or $1000 for participating in a major tournament are likely to play conservatively at least for some time. And stacks tend to stay in quite the same size until certain players begin to answer all-in for some actions.

The strategy I’m going to describe is rather aggressive than strictly conservative, but more conservative than many individual gaming styles you might see. It is meant to help you get out of difficulties and at the same time understand whether you have something serious for the game or not. In live tournaments this strategy is a little more conservative than that one of an average player beside you. In online tournaments you are sure to be one of the tightest players at the table.

When you’ll be implementing this strategy in practice, don’t worry if you feel that you fold your cards too long. It happens to all players when they play good.

If you get a little tired constantly folding great number of cards, remember these two facts:

1. Though poker on TV is real poker most hands aren’t shown anyway. There are a lot of cases when one player bets and all the rest fold their cards. Those hands are cut out in editing.

2. In unlimited holdem all your chips are under constant risk every time you start bargaining for the pot. A player wasting his money for a lot of pots is likely to flunk out of the tournament than a player bargaining for fewer pots but choosing them more careful.

When I’m finished with the strategy I will describe some corrections to be made when these preliminary conditions are changing. If you’re new in tournaments don’t worry too much about these corrections. If you can simply learn and apply the basic strategy you will of course play better than most players at your table. After you’ve studied thoroughly this strategy you’ll be ready to make changes based on your opponents’ gaming styles or differences in stack size.

Pay attention that in describing the strategy I call the player, who has to enter the game first after blinds, player in early position, and so on right to the button player which is in the seventh position. After them there are players who put in small and big blinds. Though I describe a game with nine hands, you should just remember that at a table with ten hands you have to play tighter.