The best poker players are almost always those who understand the primacy of position and how to use it to their advantage. At its core, poker is a game of incomplete information – you simply don’t know what cards the other players are holding, and your strategy going forward will be based on calculated assumptions of what cards or combinations your opponents possess, and related to that, how you deal with the hand you’re dealt, so to speak.
A good pre-flop strategy helps you play in position, and a central point of the pre-flop action is the strength of your own hand as well as the nature of the game that you’re playing. Ask yourself how aggressive your opponents are currently. Sometimes, even with an ostensibly strong hole card pair, it may not always be profitable and recommended to continue.
There are lots of players who simply play from the hands of the blinds before they’re privy to the flop. It’s not a terrible strategy, but it’s not necessarily applicable to every hand. It’s essential to keep a mental track of how your opponents have bet in previous rounds and where you think they’re going in the present one. This is the crucial psychological dimension of poker, and if used effectively it can help you gain a far more complete picture of the current round than a simple recourse to blind betting habits and your own two hole cards.
If you believe that you are potentially in a strong position in the opening round, it tends to be a good idea to raise/re-raise in the pre-flop rather than simply call. In most instances, if you call you are signifying a mediocre opening, or one in which you’re simply unsure of where the game will head. Remember: this is the position of every player at the poker table as no one has complete enough information to make a foolproof play. If they do, then they are simply cheating and all bets are off. If you believe your opener isn’t worth the time and effort of seeing the flop, or indeed of going beyond that, you’re probably better off folding.
That being said, one of the key fundamentals of good poker play is to avoid playing so consistently that you become predictable. Then you’re just fodder for the rest of the table, most of whom will quickly cotton on to the idea that if and when you do raise or re-raise in the preflop stage that you’re fairly confident in your hand and they should take careful note of your betting habits and bodily gestures.
Finally, remember this: it’s okay, sometimes, to just stay in the current round long enough to see what direction the flop is taking you in. By all means, if you think there’s potential then you should absolutely move past the initial blinds stage and see what Lady Luck might have for you. This becomes harder, of course, as the blinds are raised and the cost of an initial betting round becomes more substantial.