Note: This article deals with starting hands in Texas Hold 'em Poker.
One of the basic mistakes that new poker players make is playing too many hands. This mistake does not get caught out when a group of beginners are playing together, but it can lead to heavy losses in online games.
While it can be tempting to see the flop and see how your hand plays out, good players can use their cards to control the game even before the flop is seen. Understanding the strength of your hand pre-flop can help you make the right plays according to the situation, maximising your returns in the long run.
So whether it's cash games or tournaments, these hands are a must-know:
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- Pocket Pairs from Aces through to 10s
- Ace-King to Ace-Jack (suited and unsuited)
- KQ, KJ, QJ, J10 (suited)
These are some of the best hands you can be holding pre-flop. With pocket pairs and hands with Aces, we recommend playing aggressively regardless of your position. When it's on your turn you should raise, and if someone raised before then you should re-raise.
The other hands are still strong and can be played from any position, but require a little more thinking in case your opponent might also have a good hand.
Whenever you get these hole cards though, try and make the most of them and win a big pot!
- Pocket pairs from 9s to 6s
- Ace-10 (suited & unsuited) , Ace-9, Ace-8 (suited)
- KQ, QJ, J10 (unsuited)
- K10, K9, Q10, Q9 (suited)
While these are all good hands, they become much stronger when in a late position from where you can call or raise. This because playing later lets you gain information from other players and determine the strength of the table.
In early positions, you will only want to play the better half of these hands and avoid cards like K9 suited. On a player where everyone tends to call pre-flop rather than raise, these can be good hands. Otherwise, on an experienced table where players raise a lot pre-flop, you'll want to be more selective about how you play.
- Pocket pairs from 5s to 2s
- Ace-7 to Ace-2 (suited & unsuited)
While it's always nice to have pocket-pairs or hold an Ace, it can be dangerous to get carried away with such hands.
Small pocket pairs can be great if you hit your set, but otherwise become largely redundant because the chance of other players having a larger pair post-flop become quite high.
The case can be similar with an Ace and low kicker. You might hit the Ace-pair, but if your opponent is betting aggressively then it is likely they have the same pair a higher kicker.
It's best to play such hands in a late position almost exclusively, because if you call and betting escalates, then it's unlikely your hole cards will be good enough. It's better to fold pocket 2s when your first to call if the table is aggressive, otherwise you'll just lose your money on an aggressive table.