5 Game-Changing Insights to Boost Your Live Poker Strategy: Unveiling Pre-Flop Betting Tells!
If you’re observant enough at low-stakes live tables, you might notice that some opponents exhibit pre-flop size tells. This size tells will be the focus of today’s article.
01. Live Poker Tip: Spotting an Opponent’s Pre-flop Bet Sizing (Tells Are Everywhere)
Adjustments for pre-flop and post-flop size tells might be the most crucial exploitative adjustments you make in low-stakes live poker. In this piece, I’ll mainly discuss the pre-flop size tells.
In a typical $1/$3 live game, there are usually at least three players adopting a varied pre-flop raising strategy based on their hand strength. This means they don’t use a fixed size when initiating a raise, and they might occasionally limp in.
If you spot a player using various pre-flop bet sizes, you can gain a significant edge by paying close attention to their sizing. After seeing a particular player show their cards several times, you can often pinpoint their pre-flop strategy. Once you achieve this, you can employ highly profitable exploitative adjustments against them.
For example, assume you’re at a $1/$3 table and notice a player (let’s call him James) using a varied pre-flop raise strategy. Sometimes he raises to $7, sometimes $9, occasionally $15, and at other times, he limps in.
From playing a few hands with James, you observe:
- He raised to $9 with pocket 88s from a middle position.
- He raised to $7 with suited A8 from a late position.
- He limped with pocket 44s from an early position.
- He raised to $15 with pocket KKs from a late position.
- He limped with suited 97 from a late position.
- He raised to $9 with suited AT from a late position.
While these instances are too few to draw strong conclusions, we begin to get a rough idea about James’s pre-flop strategy. It seems James is doing what many low-stakes players do: raising big with strong hands, smaller with mediocre hands, and limping with speculative ones.
As you play more hands with James, you can further refine your understanding of his strategy. Once you do, you can crush him by attacking his weaker ranges and avoiding his stronger ones.
Towards the end of this article, I will introduce specific pre-flop exploitative methods tested in live low-stakes games. But first…
02. Most Common Pre-flop Size Schemes in Low-stakes Live Games
From my experience, live low-stakes players with tells often have very similar pre-flop size schemes.
The specific sizes they use vary, and their ranges aren’t identical, but I’ve seen many players approach pre-flop sizing as follows:
- Weak Ax hands (usually suited, but sometimes off-suit depending on the position)
- Weak suited Kx
- Suited Qx and Jx
- Suited connectors and small pocket pairs
- Off-suit broadways (from early positions)
Small raise range (typically 2-3BB):
- Off-suit broadways (from middle to late positions)
- Medium to small pocket pairs
- Medium/large-suited connectors
- ATo and AJo
- Suited Ax (from late positions)
Large raise range (typically 4-5BB):
- Suited broadways
Extra-large raise range (5BB+):
- AKs and AKo
Of course, the exact ranges depend on the specific player. But if you notice a player in your live low-stakes game with a varied pre-flop raising strategy, it’s likely to look something like the list above.
03. Adjusting to Size Tells
Assuming one of your opponents has a pre-flop size scheme similar to the one above, let’s consider which types of adjustments can exploit their strategy.
- 3bet bluff more frequently against smaller raises.
- Broaden your value 3bet range against medium to small raises.
- Tighten your 3-bet range facing large raises.
- If their limping range appears weak, make wider raises; if strong, tighter raises.
Identifying size tells and making the right adjustments allows you to craft a dynamic pre-flop strategy, resulting in significant profits against opponents with these tells.
04. The Importance of Over-folding Pre-flop Based on Size Tells
When thinking about exploitative plays, we often envision taking some form of aggressive action, like 3bet bluffing against a weak range. However, playing tight against a strong range can have the most significant impact on your profits. Often, the money you make from size tells is the money you save. A size tell can often deter you from making a poor 3bet or call against a robust range.
In situations where you’re uncertain, sticking to default ranges won’t hurt you much. But it can also be helpful to run some straightforward equity calculations—plugging perceived ranges into a poker equity calculator to see if you can profit against specific hands—during downtime.
Remember, these adjustments should be made mainly against weaker players. Against better regular players, you should stick to a fundamentally balanced strategy.
Wise players often believe that pre-flop decisions are the most crucial for your win rate. This is because pre-flop decisions compound in significance compared to post-flop. Additionally, the entire game tree stems from pre-flop decisions. Hence, if you’re sharp pre-flop, you’re more likely to excel post-flop.
That’s why spotting pre-flop size tells and making targeted adjustments are so vital to conquering live poker. You’d be surprised how much money you’ve left on the table by not paying attention to size tells before.