Correct preflop play from early position (the first three players to act in a 10-player game) must be extremely tight. This doesn't come naturally to beginners, who often underestimate the importance of position, but it's extremely important to learning to play well. You simply cannot afford to take on the risk involved in playing marginal hands until you have more information from the rest of the table. Note that this is for two reasons:

  • You want to play these hands only when you can good pot odds by getting in as cheaply as possible, usually for a single bet. This is especially important in aggressive games, where there's likely to be one or more raises behind you.
  • You don't want to play these hands when they're likely to be dominated by an opponent.

From late position you have the advantage of having seen most of your opponents act, so you can afford to take some risks, but in early position you simply can't take these chances.

That said, often low-limit games are sufficiently loose and predictable that you can take a few more chances from up front than you would in tougher games. For example, in SSHE Ed Miller advocates playing any suited ace or any pocket pair from any position in a game with 6-8 people seeing the flop. This isn't at all uncommon at low limits, and the risk you face of a raise behind you is mitigated by the fact that enough people will probably play to give you good pot odds anyway. What you don't want is a raise behind you that chases everyone else out of the pot leaving you playing these marginal hands heads-up against a powerhouse -- but in low-limit games that won't likely happen, because several opponents will gleefully cold-call two or even more bets!

Beginning poker players should be very choosey and careful about what hands they play "upfront". Stick to premium pocket pairs, AA-TT, and AK either suited or off-suit - and come in raising when you do enter. Once you're more comfortable with the game, you can loosen up but not too much. Even the very best players don't play easily dominated hands in early position. The problem with playing speculative hands in early position is that you want to see the flop cheaply, and you may find yourself often being raised when you come in early - and that defeats your speculation in the hand.

PokerWiki's guide to limit hold 'em preflop play
Pairs: AA | KK | QQ | JJ | TT | 99 | Medium | Small
Suited connectors AKs | KQs | QJs | JTs | Medium | Small
Other suited hands AQs | AJs | ATs | Axs | Kxs | Qxs | Semiconnectors | Junk
Offsuit hands AKo | AQo | KQo | AJo | QJo | JTo | Connectors | Junk
By position Early | Middle | Late | SB | BB
Preflop | Flop | Turn | River

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