Before we get started on preflop play, let’s identify and correct a few common misconceptions:
1. Top Pair Top Kicker (TPTK) is a made hand in shorthanded no-limit (SH NL) and should always be shown down with all your money in the middle.
I used to see various forms of this comment everywhere, but it simply isn’t true. Single pair hands (in fact, any 2nd best hand) can be very dangerous in NL. I think this sentiment is left over from the old 50BB PartyPoker days (i.e. at 25NL the blinds were .25/.50 as opposed to how they are now with .10/.25 blinds).
2. There is a good time of day where there are more fish.
This one is debatable. In the 10-100NL games, almost everyone you play against is fishy no matter the time of day. If you’re playing at 10 in the morning on a Monday you might find more tight players but they’re still fish. By adjusting your play to the different styles you encounter in the small stakes games, you bring out the fishiness in everyone.
3. Tight-Aggressive (tag) sucks and Loose-Aggressive (lag) is the only way to make lots of money.
There is nothing wrong with playing a tag style in SH games. There are plenty of fish willing to donate to a good tag player. Playing a lag style can be even more profitable against tight, ABC players, but a lot of times you just need to camp for good hands and the opponents will pay you off no matter how tight you are.
4. Its ok to call a raise of up to 10% of your stack with a small pocket pair in the hopes of hitting a set.
In a 100NL game, a $10 preflop raise is quite a bit. The problem is that to call off $10 raises all the time in a 100NL game you’re going to need to win your opponent’s entire stack every time you hit the set to profit in the long run.
Thanks to set over set situations, opponents who fold, and boards that either screw your hand or scare the opponents, you won’t get paid in full every time. A big preflop raise of 10% of your stack can mean your opponent is really attached to his hand, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to get paid every time.
If you call a 4bb raise and someone behind you pops it up to 10bb, then go ahead and call again, especially if the original raiser calls it – but do NOT get stuck in between two raisers – only call a reraise like this if you close the action.