Starting hand selection at the Micro Stakes

 

Play before the flop is the foundation to a good poker strategy. The way you select which hands to play pre-flop highly effects the way playing is done after the flop. If you are well aware of the good and the bad hands along with reasons why some are better than other, you'll avoid getting into tough situations when playing either on the flop, turn or the river. We'll put up some basic starting hand ranges in this article, but more importantly, we will try to teach you how to think properly. Nothing is set in stone in poker and same applies to starting hand selection it almost always will depend on several factors.

What aspects affect starting hand selection?

When you try to figure out whether a hand is good enough to play before the flop, there are a couple of things you'll have to consider. It might be hard to do this in the small time space that is given when playing online, but once you have played for a significant amount of time, it kinda becomes as common sense.

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  • Position the most important aspect, yes even more important than the actual strength of your hand. If you are in the early position playing full ring, you will be willing to play a really tight hand range. The reason for this is simple you have no clue about the hand strength of your opponents and there are still 8 or 9 players to act behind you. Vice versa, if you're on the button and all players have folded to you, pretty much any hand can be played as there are only 2 players left to act and you are in the absolute best position at the table.
  • Stack Sizes if you're playing cash games, you should never buy in for anything less than 100 big blinds. However, regardless of your stack size, there might be other players that have bought in with a smaller stack size. If a player behind you has a stack size of like 20 big blinds, you should definitely tighten up your hand range, as it is very likely that he/she will go all in and you will be forced to call with a crappy hand.
  • Opponents the skill level of your opponents also highly affect how wide or tight of a hand range you should be playing. If there is a very bad player at the table, you can play a wider range of hands as you'll easily be able to outplay him after the flop. However, if there is a very good and aggressive player acting after you, it's worth thinking about tightening up a little. These kinds of players are usually very good at hand reading and hard to play against after the flop. Your positional disadvantage doesn't help either. Remember that poker is not about being the absolute best, instead it's about finding weaker players than yourself and exploiting their weaknesses.

What's a good basic hand range to start with?

As already mentioned, even though starting hand selection is highly dependant on aspects listed above, there is a decent hand range that can be used as a foundation to your poker strategy. We've listed the hands that you should be open raising with in various positions, when playing shorthanded cash games.
  • UTG 88+ AJs+ KQs+
  • MP 77+ ATs+ KJs+
  • CO 55+ A9s+ KTs+
  • BTN 22+ A8s+ 45s+ A9+ K7s+ K9+ Q8s+ Q9+
These are the hand ranges that you should be open raising with, given that other players have folded to you. We'll get into what hands you should 3bet with as well as how to approach blind play in future articles. However, you should rarely call before the flop in shorthanded cash games and most of the time either a 3bet or a fold will be the best play. There's merit for calling, when holding small pair hands such as deuces or pocket fives, especially in position. You'll invest only a small amount, but will have a chance to hit a big hand and win your opponents stack. The so called implied odds are huge with these kinds of hands.