Getting off to a good start in low-limit hold’em means playing good cards in good position. With such low bring-in bets, it’s tempting to do what many (too many) players do in low-limit games – play any two suited cards.
But in the long run, big cards are what bring home the bacon in hold’em. Everybody knows that A-A, K-K, Q-Q, J-J and A-K are the best starting hands, but how about some other high-card hands?
Beware: Many hands that contain two face cards are not playable.
A lot of otherwise playable hands go way down in value if a tight or solid player raises from an early position. For example, if Tight Ted sitting in first position with a layer of dust on his chips suddenly raises, hands like A-Q, A-J and most pocket pairs are not playable.
This is where your position in relation to the big blind and button becomes important. You must use good judgment in calling raises, even with strong starting hands.
What about other types of hands? You can play pocket pairs such as 10-10, 9-9 and 8-8 if you’re in a middle position and nobody has entered or raised the pot.
The later your position the better. In fact, in a game with a lot of tight players, you might even raise with these hands if you’re in middle or late position and you’re the first player in the pot. Why? Because no one sitting in front of you has shown any strength.
How about hands such as J-10, 9-8 or 7-6? In low-limit hold’em, middle and low connecting cards can be very profitable hands in multi-way pots. Here’s the catch – you can play big pairs from any position at the table, but I recommend playing middle or low connectors only from the last two or three positions.
Take this advice to heart because connectors (suited or unsuited) play best in multi-way pots. You only know whether the pot will be multi-way after finding out how many players intend to play their hands. You can’t get that information if you have to act early in the hand.
Big cards up front, middle pairs in the middle, and connectors in the back – that’s the lowdown on bringing home the bacon in low-limit hold’em.
Shane Smith is the author of How to Win at Low-Limit Poker (with co-author Tom McEvoy) and three other poker books written specifically for low-limit players.
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