Hand selection is so important in $1-$2

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Choosing the right cards to play and using what you’ve learned in past articles will help you formulate a strategy to win at $1-$2 no-limit hold’em. With that in mind, let’s look at hand selection.

Having position, meaning you are the last to act, is a major factor in NLHE and you can be assured if you have a quality holding this will allow you to bet the flop more than 75 percent of the time, even if your hand didn’t improve. When your big cards hit, you’ll bet and if the board comes with undercards, you’ll still bet to represent a big overpair to pressure opponents into submission.

PLAYING ACES AND KINGS: I don’t think you’re ever wrong to raise with A-A or K-K, however, in early position you might want to limp when at an aggressive table, hoping someone will raise after you, so you can reraise. While in middle position, I might employ the same tactic, being first in, but I must be aware there are fewer players behind me yet to act and the possibility of no one raising is more likely.

Therefore, I prefer to make a small raise there and allow those yet to act to think I might not have a big hand, and thus induce a reraise. When you’re in late position, you should be raising the pot if everyone has limped.

SMALL TO MEDIUM CONNECTORS: You really don’t want to put a lot of money into a pot before a flop with these hands. The best thing about playing small to medium connectors is your ability to lay it down if you miss the flop. There’s no need to stay involved in a hand once the flop proves to be worthless.

Always avoid being overcharged to see flops, but realize there are hands you might normally dump in a limit game that are now playable in no-limit. Small pairs and a suited ace are examples of hands that can net you a big pot, but may cost more in the long run because you limp more often to see additional flops. Should you be raised a considerable amount, it’s inexpensive to fold at this point as you don’t want to be consistently overcharged to play.

FINAL CAUTIONS: Don’t assume having top pair with top kicker is golden in NLHE. Most players are making two pair or better. And playing hands such as 2-2 through 6-6 should be attempted in late position, with many callers in the pot and not from early position.

— Al Spath is the former Dean at Poker School Online and teaches poker live and online. His YouTube Channel (Al Spath) has 170-plus free instructional videos.  Al’s twitch broadcasts are live from two channels: (PositivePokerInsiders and AlSpath). Contact Al at alspath@alspath.com with questions coaching inquires.