Preflop Play

The biggest beginner mistake is to play too many hands. Every Ace, no matter if A2 or A5, all suited hands, no matter if 85 or 42, every pocketpair like 55, 22 and every hand with pictures such as QJ and KJ. The beginner wrongly thinks that he has to play them.
But all those cards cause many difficulties. Small aces like A6 are dominated by higher aces like AJ and A9 (dominated means that the kicker besides the ace is better) and often cost plenty of chips. Suited hands are very overrated! In less than 1 % of the time you flop a flush and 12 % of the time you hit a flush draw. That means that your suited hand is only playable one time out of ten. The rest of the time you have to fold.
Small pairs only hit the set (= three of a kind) one time out of eight. Without improvement, they have almost no chance to win. The so-called picture-hands look good but can easily be dominated. If QJ hits the jack on the flop, it loses against KJ and AJ. If you hit the king with KJ, then KQ and AK dominate you clearly. In No Limit Hold'em you often lose big in those cases.
A good player must learn to choose his starting hands selectively! Suited hands and cards with aces or pictures look seductive but they are dangerous! If you play only good starting hands and strictly fold your bad ones, you're called „tight“. And that's exactly the way to successful poker.

A very important factor is the position. Bad players don't care whether they're sitting on the button or under the gun (= first to act). This is a huge mistake which costs plenty of money. If you have to act first before the flop you don't know anything about your opponents. It could be that there are some players behind with premium hands and wish to raise big. If you want to play from the early position, you need a much stronger hand than in the late position.
If you're not familiar with the positions, please read this article first.

The action in front of you is also very important. If you're on the button and see five folds in front of you, you can play with many hands. But if you see a raise in the early and a re-raise in the middle position, then you need an extremely strong hand to play.

Let's take a look at the playable hands if nobody entered the pot and there's no action in front of you (if there's one caller, it doesn't matter and you can call it „no action“):

In the early position, you can raise with AA, KK, QQ, JJ, TT, AK and AQs (the small s behind AQ means suited. AQo would mean off suit and isn't a hand to play in this situation). A standard raise before the flop is three times the big blind. If the blinds are 30/60, you should raise to 180 (putting exactly 180 into the middle).
You can also call with the following hands: 99, 88, 77, 66, AJ, AT, KQ, KJ. All the weaker hands like 55, QJ, A8, etc. aren't playable in the early position and you should fold them.

If everybody folded (or one player called) and you're in the middle position you should raise with the above-mentioned hands (AA, TT, 66, AJ, KJ) and call with 55, 44, QJ and JT.

If you're in the late position and everybody folded, you can raise with all the above-mentioned hands and additionally call with the following: „suited connectors“(like 76s, 43s), KT, QT, 33 and 22.

You see that there are raising hands in the late position that were folded in the early position. This is the value of the „positions“.

If you're playing online and with a lot of weak players, you’ll rarely find yourself in the late position and everybody folding. Usually, you’ll see some callers in front of you and you have to change your strategy. AA, KK, QQ, JJ, TT, AK and AQ are raising hands if there were only limper (= caller) ahead of you. You should also call with 99, 88, 77, 66, 55, 44, 33, 22, AJ, AT, A9, and every suited ace (such as A4s). You can also call with some connectors (like 87, 65, no matter if suited or not) and hope to hit a straight or flush.

If you're in the middle or late position and see a raise in front of you, you need a very strong hand. The raiser signalizes strength but you need even more strength to play (Sklansky's Gap Concept). AA, KK and QQ should be raised. You can only call with JJ, TT, 99, 88, 77, AK and AQ. All other hands aren't playable and should be folded. Notice that this is a great danger to make big mistakes. If you play more hands than the above-mentioned ones, you are in deep trouble. If your opponent raises with AQ, you're calling with AT and hit your ace, you’re likely to lose plenty of chips.

There are also situations when you sit on the button and see a raise and a re-raise in front of you. You have to re-raise here with AA and KK, but only call with QQ. All other hands are too weak. One player shows strength and another shows even more strength. Just don't mess around with AK, JJ and other „strong“ hands.

This is a short overview of how to play in various situations. If you're following the instructions, I'm sure you lose less and win more. Especially, you can avoid big mistakes and tough decisions after the flop.
"Poker is a game of people... It's not the hand I hold, it's the people that I play with."
"Look around the table.  If you don't see a sucker, get up, because you're the sucker."
"Nobody is always a winner, and anybody who says he is, is either a liar or doesn't play poker."
"They anticipate losing when they sit down and I try my darndest not to disappoint one of them."