Preflop Strategy in Texas Hold’Em

Learn what Preflop Strategy in Texas Hold’em means, and when/how to use it to give you an advantages in your poker games with this guide.

Last Updated on February 15, 2024 by Avatar Author Adrian Sterne
Fact checked by Dusan Jovanovic
Image of Preflop Strategy in Texas Hold'emLearning to play Texas Hold’em takes time and patience, especially when every betting round requires a unique strategy. This article will discuss ‘preflop’ — the stage that sets the foundation for your entire game.

Read on if you’d like to hone your skills and find a preflop strategy that fits your style. We’ll give you useful tips and tricks to use.

Let’s get started!

What Is Preflop in Texas Hold’Em?

In Texas Hold’em and Omaha, preflop is the initial betting round before the first three community cards are dealt (the flop). Draw and Stud poker variants don’t have a flop, so preflop doesn’t apply to those games.

However, in the ones that do have it, preflop is where it all begins. You can look at it as a building foundation since the decisions you make in that round set the tone for the remainder of the game. That’s why a proper strategy and solid moves can give you an edge.

Here are the key elements you need to consider when developing a preflop strategy:

Starting Hand Options

Knowing when to fold and play is a crucial step in any game of poker. The strongest starting hands are big pocket pairs ( KK, QQ, JJ, AA, and TT) and big suited connectors (AJ, AQ, AK, and KQ), as they carry the biggest potential to win.

Playing other combinations can also give you an advantage, but determining a good hand requires experience and knowledge.

Preflop Position Strategy

Besides having a strong hand, your position plays a significant role in an efficient preflop strategy. While under the gun (UTG) is a good starting position, it works best with a strong hand. A late position (hijack or cut-off) is more advantageous, as it lets you see what other players do and how they behave. With such valuable information, you can play with a broader range of options.

Bet Sizing

You should always bet the same amount, regardless of your hand. Raising big on a strong hand and small on a weak one will give you away, and your opponents will be able to read you easily.

Ideally, if you want to enter the pot, just raise three or four times the big blind. A minimal raise will let players who have marginal hands get in cheaply.


Most poker pros will tell you to avoid limping. Players with weak hands who don’t want to fold usually opt for open limping preflop. However, this move can be acceptable on several occasions, mainly when the players before have already limped in.

Preflop Strategy Moves

Each player creates a unique preflop strategy depending on their current hand.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, it’s time to explain how to modify your approach and what moves to make.

Premium Hand

Premium preflop hands are the big pocket pairs (AA, KK, QQ, JJ, and AK). Regardless of the playing position, you should raise, even if the person before you folds. However, if you face a raise, you should go for a 3-bet against every position. That way, you’ll get in a lot of money while still having an excellent hand.

Suppose a player places a 3-bet before you; then you ought to re-raise (4-bet) against every position. The goal of having a premium hand is to create the biggest pot and maximize your winning potential. 

Strong Hand

Strong hands in Texas Hold’em are usually the following pairs:
  • AQ, AJ, AT
  • suited broadways
  • medium pairs (66, 77, 88, 99, and TT)

A hand like this means you can raise from almost every position — unless you’re UTG and have a weak hand like AT.

If your opponent raises, you can either re-raise (3-bet) or call, depending on your preference. If you’re up against a 3-bet, you can proceed with another re-raise, as these hands usually play well.

When facing a raise and a re-raise, you’ll have two options — fold or 4-bet. Cold calling will only reveal you have a weaker hand and give your opponents a chance to go against you post-flop.

Marginal Hand

With marginal hands (offsuit broadways, suited connectors/gappers, weaker Axs, K8s+, and weakest pairs 22, 33, 44, and 55), the hand is in the weaker range. However, you can still win if you make the right moves.

If you’re in an EP, you’ll mostly fold, while any other position will allow you to raise.

If your opponent raises, you can either call or re-raise. Calling is recommended if you’re OTB or in the BB against most positions. If you go for a 3-bet, ensure the raise comes from a middle/late position.

Weak Hand

All other hands we haven’t mentioned qualify as weak, and you’ll want to play only a handful of combinations (offsuit Ax, Kx, and Qx, and several suited gaps). In most cases, you’ll fold, whether your opponents fold or raise.

When you’re in position, you might call some suited connectors/gaps, but it would be risky, considering how weak your hand is.

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You’ll need the practice to implement the proper preflop strategy. However, the most important thing is not to be afraid to bet or raise before the flop. Even if you make a few wrong decisions, you’ll have a chance to learn how preflop works and increase your pot for the postflop play.


What is preflop in Texas Hold’em?

In poker, preflop means “before the flop”; that is, everything that happens before the first three community cards are dealt.

What are the best preflop hands in Texas Hold’em?

The top hands in Texas Hold’em preflop are the big pocket pairs (AA, KK, QQ) and big-suited connectors (AK, AQ, AJ, etc.).

What are the most common preflop mistakes?

Inexperienced players make several mistakes in preflop, such as limping, playing passively against raises, not using the button position to their advantage, and not having a clear plan. The preflop strategy requires experience and knowledge, so improvising won’t cut it.

What’s the best way to play pocket aces preflop?

If you get pocket aces, you should almost always raise or re-raise in preflop. If you’re new to the table or have little experience with Texas Hold’em, you should stick to this strategy.

Should I raise in preflop?

Raising preflop is a good move if you decide to play a hand. While it’s an aggressive strategy, it helps you dictate the gameplay and puts you in a great position early in the game.

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