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Poker Strategy – Percentage of Hands to Play

One of the most important aspects that those new to playing poker should pay attention to is the percentage of hands that should be played.

This specifically relates to the pre-flop game-play. The percentage of hands that you play in poker determines whether you play tight or loose. When you play the majority of hands that are dealt, you are playing loose, but when you play a small percentage of hands dealt, you are playing tight.

Intermediate Poker Strategy – What Percentage of Hands to Play?

Players new to poker should ideally play a tight game, as their experience with the post-flop game may not be sufficient for winning. This could result in them making mistakes that could be costly. Here are a few guidelines that can be applied when playing the game:

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At cash games (full-ring – 9 to 10 hands)

Play less than 20% of your hands when you are at a table against 9 to 10 players. If you prefer a tight style of playing, use only 10% of your hands before reaching the flop. This may give you the experience and control required to win the game at a low-stakes table. Ideally pre-flop, if your hand appears strong, you should raise. Avoid open limping to the pot if you are new to the game. Also, when you play at a full ring cash game, have a reason for calling a bet – if you do so.

Cash game (6 hands)

If you are in a cash game with 6 hands, your chances of winning are relatively higher than at a 10 handed table. So, you can opt to play a loose game occasionally. If you are to the left of the big blind, raise as few hands as possible – only those that appear strong. When you are at the button or cut-off positions, you can opt to raise more than when you are under the gun. This is because, at this position, you get the opportunity to make your move after you see the flop.

Multi-Table Tournaments

Ideally, at the early stages of the tournament, play a tight game, especially if the blinds are not equal to or higher than your stack. At this point in the game, you should play between 10% and 15% of the dealt hands. When the blinds rise such that they are comparably higher than your stack and can be profitable when stolen, you can start playing more hands. Use this strategy when you are in late position.

During the game, the value of each hand will change. When the stack is shallow, the value of the medium pairs, big pairs and high unpaired cards rise. On the other hand, the value of small pairs, suited connectors and suited aces (small) fall at this point. This is owing to the fact that the hands are those with implied odds, and have good value only when the ratio of the pot to stack is high.

Sit n Go Tournaments

At a sit n go tournament, play few starting hands as the value of the blind is rarely high enough to play for at this point in the game. When the blinds are high in comparison to the stack, you can opt for the all-in strategy. This way you can go all-in to get the big blinds. As independent chip modelling calculations are applied to these tournaments, the EV of a situation can change from being positive to negative.

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