The Notes of Phil Gordon's Little Green Book Ⅱ


Chapter 2: Before the Flop

Before the Flop

Use the starting hand tables under the following specific circumstances:

  • The first person to voluntarily put money into the pot and to come in for a raise for about three times the big blind.
  • Don’t know much about opponents.
  • All players at the table have an average-size stack
  • The blinds are relatively small in realtion to the size of the stacks.

Study, then look

Never look at cards before it is your turn, because your judgement will be influenced by the hands.

When first in the pot, raise

I rarely limp (just call the big blind) when I am the first player to voluntarily put chips into the pot before flop. Almost always raise if you decide to play your hands as the first person in. Here are five reasons:

  • To limit the competition: A raise will result in fewer player seeing the flop. The fewer player in, the easier to analyze player’s hands and thus the better chance of winning with hands.

Info: Pocket aces against a random hand wins 85.5% of the time, while wins 55.8% of the time against four hands.

  • To take control of the betting: I am informing the other players that I have a high expectation of winning the pot by raising before the flop. Any postflop bets will back up my initial portrayal of strength and become the table captain for this hand.

  • To better define my opponenets’ hands: Let’s say if I limp in before the flop, then the players behind me and the big blind just checks, they could literally have any two cards:

    • Check with a strong hand like K-Q
    • small hand like 7-2
    • pocket pairs

  But if I raise before flop and get others called, we can at least, with some confidence, eliminate the worst third or half of opponenets’ potential hands.

  • To make it more difficult for my opponents to determine the strength of my hand: If I raise with 6-5 suited and with A-A, it will effectively conceal the strength of my hand.

  • To win the blinds: Opening raise will give a chance to win or steal the blinds without having to see the flop.

Attention: Stealing the blinds is critical to the success in poker.


Though always limping is not a good habit, you should keep changing your gear playing cards. There are several situations where limping might be preferable to raising beffore the flop:

  • Have a very strong hand and suspect the player behind you may raise if you limp:
    • Opponents with short stacks looking for a chance to all in.
    • Maniacs who are raising every time.
    • The players in the blinds are weak after the flop

Info: Limp in from middle or late position against a player in the blind who consistently overbets the pot after the flop. Give up a small amount of preflop expectation for some excellent implied odds after the flop.(!!!Pot Odds and Implied Odds)

  • Limping will help to deceive opponents: By occasionally limping in with a good hand, you may be able to train opponents to allow you to limp in with marginal hands. The player burned by this strategy will be less likely to re-raise the next time you limp in.

Raise the right amount

The table of the raise amount regarding the position and the reasons:

Position Raise Amount
Early 2.5x-3.0x
Middle 3.0x-3.5x
Late 3.5x-4.0x
Small blind 3.0x
  • Commit fewer chips when out of the position.
  • Smaller raise with a powerhouse hand from early position encourages opponents to play against you.
  • Bigger raises from late position put pressure on the remaining players to fold and make it harder for the blinds to re-raise.
  • When playing in position, there is always more money in the pot.

Attention: Dont vary the size of raise amount with the strength of your hand, because opponents could define your hand by the size of your bet from different multipliers of the raise.

Important: Raising before the flop is to limit the opponents limping in the pot. If you find a raise of three times the big blind is ineffective and opponents are still calling your preflop raise, you could tighten up the starting hand requirements and raise the multiplier.

Calling limpers

While it is not a good habit to limp into a pot as the first player, it is common to call limpers in position.

  • A player limps in from middle or late position rarely have a premium cards, so suited connectors(8-7, 7-6, etc.) and suited gappers(8-6, 7-5, etc.) will be not dominated. Besides, the strength of opponents’ hands is not strong enough to turn into the big pot, we will benefit more from a small hand. (!!! Big Hand Big Pot, Small Hand Small Pot)

  • It is more wasy to get value from exploiting the superior position. You can stands up against three or four opponents with suited aces, suited connectors, or small/medium pocket pairs.

In position, smooth-call a raiser

When a component raises and everyone folds to me in late position, it is profitable to call with a wide range of hands. This strategy is especially effective to the opponents who misses the flop and check to you, or bet when they hit the pot. If they are more likely to miss the flop, you could make a bet and take the pot.

Playing from the small blind

If there are no antes in play and the only money in the pot is the small blind and the big blind, I useually stick to a conservative plan: 60~65% of the hands:

  • Any ace
  • Any pocket pair
  • All suited kings, most unsuited kings
  • Queens down to about Q-6
  • Jacks down to about J-5
  • Most low suited connectors
  • Most low suited one-gap connectors(6-4, 7-5)
  • Some trashier hands

Info: With J-5 and Q-6, the five card gap is the largest gap that allows a two-way straight draw: J-5 meets the flop 9-8-7, Q-6 meets the flop T-9-8

Raising from the big blind

On the rare occasions when everyone folds to the small blind who just completes the bet, you should consider raising with any two cards.

Raise the limpers

When an early position player limps in, the next player calls, then it is time to summon up the courage to raise and punish the players with weak hands. It doesn’t take a good hand to win the pot, but situational awareness, tight image and the courage to fire the bullet.

It is a good idea to raise the size of the pot. If someone happens to call the raise, then you will have a good idea what kind of hand they are on.

The chip-sandwich play

Chip-sandwich play: When an early-position opponent, preferably a loose opponent, raises and gets called by one or more players, you could raise when you are in the blind position with a big hand, because:

  • The pot is large now.
  • Callers have a little chance of having a hand that merit a call or a big re-raise (beacause if they did, they would have raised)
  • If the raise get the initial raiser to fold, the sandwiched callers would be likely to fold as well.
  • If you make this play from the button and one of the blinds happens to wake up with a great hand, you will get re-raised and lose a lot of money.
  • While if you are in the blinds, especially when you are down to about fifteen big blinds, raising all-in will negate all positional disadvantage.

Steal from the cutoff


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