Playing Tight, Pre-Flop

When it comes to poker, the truth is, most people play way too many hands. In fact, some poker experts suggest that you should play less than 15% of the hands you’re dealt…because you probably won’t have more than one big win per hour. For many online poker players, it would require too much patience to wait for that big hand—and be very tough to throw away anything except the “best hands.” But if you’ve got the patience and are willing to play tight, here are a few tips for playing the pre-flop, and deciding when to set money in or get out fast.

When in early position, only play hands AA, KK, AKs, AK, AQs, AQ, AJs, QQ, JJ, TT, 99 and 88. That’s it—nothing more. And if you’re raised, you may even want to throw some of the latter away. Only re-raise with the first few.

When in middle position, you can play all the above hands, plus AJ, ATs, KQs, 77, 66, 55. And that’s it! Again, if raised, you may want to throw some of these away. Re-raise only with the top cards.

In late position, or if in the small blind, play all of the above hands plus AT, KQ, KJs, QJs, 44, 33, 22. If raised, don’t be hesitant to throw any of these away. Only re-raise with the best cards above.

Of course, it never hurts to check anything in the big blind position and see what flops. But if someone has raised, use the above strategies to determine if it’s worth staying in.

Is this tight play? You bet! When playing with this strategy, the first thing you’ll discover is how hard it is to throw away cards such as KT or even A9…but the odds show that for every one time you threw away a hand that would have won, you also threw away a hand that would have lost much more.

Playing tight like this isn’t always the most dramatic or fast-paced, but more often than not, it is more profitable over the long run. So get out there and play tight! And as you learn more about the game and your opponents, you can loosen up and increase your profits even more.

P.S. For more detailed pre-flop charts as you advance in your gameplay, the author highly recommends Matthew Hilger’s book, Internet Texas Hold’em and David Sklanksy’s book, Hold’em Poker. Both are available free when you sign up with the Poker Stars promotion here at