One of the key moments in poker is the preflop game. This is the moment when you assess your starting hand and you decide whether or not to commit to it. You cannot control your starting hand but you are in charge of whether or not you play it. Here are 6 questions to ask yourself preflop to help you make that decision.

Ask yourself the right preflop question

1. What is the size of my stack?

The size of your stack will influence the way you play. We don’t play the same way with 15 BB and 100 BB, right? Not even with 15 and 35 BB. Depending on your stack-size, you may have to commit your entire stack to a pot postflop and play for your survival. Depending on the depth of your stack, you may or may not decide to play drawing hands and suited connectors. If you can’t afford to speculate you can’t play speculative hands.

2. How big are my opponents’ stacks?

The way you play a hand will also be influenced by the size of your opponents’ stacks. Why is that? More or less for the same reasons as the previous point. He will also play differently depending on the depth of his stack… and yours.

3. Am I patient enough? Or too patient?

You haven’t played a hand for 2 hours. You’re card dead. Your stack is starting to melt. You’ve had nothing worth getting involved with for orbit after orbit. The persistent raiser to your right and the constant 3bettor to your left are making those speculative hands seem less attractive. In short, all you have had for hours is reasons to fold preflop.

This kind of situation can happen. Don’t allow it to limit you. Don’t limit yourself by accepting it. You are destined for a slow death this way.

You can only fire the bullets you have, right? The dealer isn’t loading you up with any real bullets. It’s time to re-assess the weapons that you do have in your arsenal… Take advantage of your tight table image. Steal a few pots here and there to keep your stack in the comfort zone.

On the other hand, if you continuously play in raised pots with [pcn]8c3d[/pcn]and steal every time you’re in the late positions, your opponents will quickly adjust and you’ll face their return fire soon enough. Such recklessness is undoubtedly a fatal mistake. You have the right to do everything in poker, but nothing to excess.

4. What is my image at the table?

You’ve noticed that the player in seat 4 is very active preflop and raises a lot. He plays every hand on the button. Keep that in mind, it will be helpful to you.

That being said, your opponents are also watching you and have formed their own picture. Be aware of this and play with it. Get involved in the “I-know-that-you-know-that-I-know” game. That’s when poker becomes really fun!

By mastering this aspect of the game, you will clearly have an advantage over your opponents. Play with your image and you’ll be playing with the final table in your sights.

5. Is my hand dominated?

An opponent raised in early position. You have [pcn]AhJd[/pcn]. By the way, it is an interesting hand. Actually, it’s a good hand. However, it is not a defensive hand. It’s a complicated hand to play preflop after a raise; you could be dominated by a stronger ace. Either you re-raise or you fold wisely and wait for a better spot.

6. What’s my position?

As the saying goes, “position is everything” in poker. If you’re in late position, you’ll have access to a lot of information before you make your postflop decisions. You’ll be able to steal pots here and there and be able to identify your opponents’ strengths and weaknesses. No-one wants this pot? Great! I do. Position is power.

How about you?

What questions do you ask yourself before playing preflop? Let us know in the comments section of this article.

Picture: © World Poker Tour, under a Creative Commons licence