Texas Holdem Starting Hands

1. Premium pairs.

High pocket pairs from Aces through to Queens are excellent starting hands in any form of poker, especially No Limit Texas Hold’em. They give you the best percentage chance of winning the hand. Pocket Aces will win about 80% of the time when you’re heads up. Even if the community cards on the flop don’t improve your hand, you will still have the best hand pretty often with the highest pair, especially when there were only a few callers pre-flop.

2. High pairs.

Pocket Jacks and Tens are also good starting hands to play, but are more likely to be beaten when the other players see the flop, as there are more over cards for your opponents to hit. If an over card like a Queen, King, or Ace comes on the flop, you can’t be confident that you have the best hand, especially when the other players are coming out betting strongly.

3. Middle pairs.

These are usually considered as being 6s through to 9s. They have very little strength (though they gain in strength when playing against few players). They generally need to hit the flop to become strong hands. That said, heads up, or on very favorable looking flops with no overcards, you are not always looking to flop a set to to continue in the hand.

If you have a pair of 7s, and a 7 appears on the flop, you will have hit a set and very likely have the best hand. If it is not expensive, try and see the flop cheaply. If you fail to hit a set on the flop, or other players are betting aggressively, and you only still have a single pair, you should throw away your hand, and wait to fight another battle. You see so many novice players get attached to their pocket pairs when they don’t improve. It is a huge leak in their game.

4. High Cards.

These hands are what you will get dealt most often when it comes to playable hands you can play. The objective is to hit strong top pair hands when you play them, but their strength will be dependant on the size of bets from other players around the table. Ace King, or ‘big slick’ is the strongest unpaired starting hand in poker. Other strong high card hands include Ace Queen, King Queen, and even King Jack in a lot of games. The chances are that if you hit a pair on the flop, you will have the best pair, with a good kicker. Suited high cards can be good hands, as the chances of hitting a flush or a strong draw on the flop increase.

5. Suited cards.

Many poker players, including less experienced online poker players being one of the major culprits, have a tendency to overplay suited cards and suited connectors/suited one gappers. Be very careful with them if the betting is strong, as the odds of hitting a flush on the flop are still not favourable against other starting hands.

Make a decision on your betting and calling in certain situations, taking into consideration the following factors:

1) Are the suited cards also connected? i.e. 7 and 8 of Hearts. When they are connected in this manner, it’s better because it also brings in the possibility of hitting a straight; and hence increases the odds of making a strong hand. The higher the value of the suited cards better i.e. Ace 10 suited also gives you the chance of hitting a strong high pair hand and of course it can make the royal flush. While a hand like K and 3 of Diamonds can look like a decent hand to play because you can make a King high flush, the reality is you will rarely hit the flush, and even when you make top pair, you can’t be sure if you actually have the best hand.

Also, when it comes to calling with suited cards, you want to be paying close attention to these factors:

1) How many players are in the hand or are left to act?

2) What type of player made the original raise?

3) How strongly are your opponents betting after the initial limp/raise?

If there are a lot of multi-way pots and you are playing in a loose passive game with lots of players who are limping in to see a cheap flop, it can be great to play suited cards and suited connectors, as you will get to see a flop relatively cheaply, and can hope to hit a big hand like a straight or flush.

Always remember whenever you are playing poker, there is always the next hand in the tournament or cash game, and saving chips you are likely to lose is just as valuable as winning. Stick to playing premium hands and starting hands that can crack big hands when the odds are favorable to do so.