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Starting Poker Hands

Starting hands refer to the two private cards, known as hole cards. These cards can only be seen by the player holding them and they play a crucial role in determining the strength of your hand. Starting hands in poker are important in Texas Hold’em because they form the foundation for making strategic decisions throughout a hand.

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Importance of Starting Hands in Poker

The initial strength of a hand influences a player’s decision; if one chooses to bet, call, raise, or fold. Strong starting hands often justify aggressive actions, such as raising or re-raising in order to build the pot and narrow the field of opponents. Weak starting hands, on the other hand, may lead a player to fold early on to minimize potential losses.

However, you must know that while starting hands in Texas Hold’em provide a valuable starting point for further action, the outcome of a hand depends on both the starting hands and the subsequent community cards. Skilled players consider both the initial cards and community cards dealt on the board to make informed decisions and maximize their chances of winning.

If you are new to a poker game, we will guide you every step of the way on how to choose the best starting hands in Poker.

How to Select the Best Starting Hands?

The most crucial decision for starting poker hands in Hold’em is whether you should pay to see the flop. Deciding between hold'em and fold 'em is a major concern that players need to concentrate on here. In all, there are 169 two-card possible starting poker hand combinations in a game of Hold'em poker.

Choosing the best starting hands in Texas Hold'em involves considering various determining factors. Here are some key considerations to help you evaluate the strength of your starting hand:

1. Card Rank

The rank of your starting cards is crucial. Generally, high-ranking cards like Ace, King, Queen, and Jack are more valuable as they carry the potential for making stronger hands. Pairs of high ranking cards such as Ace-Ace and King-King particularly make for the best starting hands in Hold’em poker.

2. Suited Cards

Suited cards, where both cards are of the same suit make for a good combination as your starting hand. They have the potential to make flushes, one of the strongest hands in Poker.

3. Connected Cards

Connected cards are those where both cards are consecutive in rank. They have the potential to make straight hands. The higher the rank of these connected cards, the better are your chances to win. Starting hands, such as Jack-Queen suited or K-Q suited can make very powerful combinations.

4. Suited Connectors

Combine suited cards and connected cards, you get suited connectors. Suited connectors derive their strength from their potential to make strong hands like straights or flushes. Examples of suited cards are A♠K♠, Q♥J♥ and 10♦9♦ are examples of suited connectors.

The consecutive nature of these cards gives you the possibility to complete a straight if you get the desired community cards. This can lead to winning big pots if the hand develops in your favour.

5. Position

Your poker position at the table relative to the dealer button is a crucial factor in starting hand selection. Starting hands are more valuable when you are in a late position (closer to the button) as you have more information about your opponents' actions before it's your turn to act. In early position, it's generally advisable to be more conservative with your starting hand selection.

6. Player Tendencies

Consider the playing styles and tendencies of your opponents during starting hand selection. If you're playing against tight players who only enter pots with strong hands, you may want to be more cautious and choose stronger starting hands yourself. If you're up against loose players who play a wide range of hands, you might be more inclined to play a wider range of hands.

7. Table Dynamics

Observe the overall dynamics of the table. If the table is generally tight and conservative, you need to be more selective with your starting hands. If the table is loose and aggressive, you might need to adjust your strategy and be willing to play more hands.

8. Stack Sizes

Consider the stack sizes of both yours and your opponents. If you have a deep stack, you have more flexibility to play a wider range of starting hands. Conversely, if your stack is shallow, you may want to focus on playing stronger hands only to minimize the risk of reducing your stack size.

Poker Starting Hands Chart

Here, we shall discuss a variety of starting hands in Texas Hold’em poker. However, to begin with, let’s take a look at the starting hands chart to understand the potential strength and weaknesses of starting hands.

PremiumAA, KK, QQ, AKsJJ, 1010, AKo 22-99, A2-A9s, KQo, QJ, JT
StrongAQs, AJs, KQs, 101099, A10s, KJs, QJs 22-88, A2-A9o, K10s, Q10s
PlayableA10s, KQs, QJs, J10s88, A9s, K10s, Q10s, J10s22-77, A2-A8o, K10o, Q10o22-66, A2-A8s, K10s, Q10s
MarginalA9s, KJs, QJs, J9s77, A8s, K9s, Q9s22-55, A2-A7o, K9o, Q9o22-55, A2-A7s, K9s, Q9s
WeakA8s-A2s, K9s-K2s66-22, A7s-A2s, K8s-K2s55-22, A6-A2o, K8o, Q8o55-22, A6-A2s, K8s-K2s

As you can see, all starting hands in Poker have been defined as marginal, weak, playable, strong and premium as per their potentiality of making different five card combinations in Hold’em. The same have been grouped as per their playability in a hand.

Now that you have a basic idea of how starting hands are categorized, let’s discuss the nature of these hands in depth.

Pocket Pairs

Premium Pocket Pairs

Hands such as Pocket aces (AA) and Pocket Kings (KK) rank amongst the top pre-flop poker hands, and gamers must pay them with aggression early on with a fat raise. They are the best starting hands without a doubt that can sustain aggression up to 3 bets.

The best way to win with premium pocket pairs is to raise or re-raise to build the pot and narrow the field. Aim to isolate one or two opponents if possible. All the while, be aware of your position and adjust your bet sizing accordingly. If you face multiple callers, continue with strong bets to protect your hand. Post flop, assess the board and your opponents’ actions carefully. Unless there are clear dangers, continue with aggression to extract maximum value from weaker hands.

Middle Pocket Pairs

These are the pairs ranging from 66 to 99 with preflop holdings, but you cannot play them aggressively. These starting hands in Poker must be checked or folded in full ring poker games. The best case scenario is to pay to see the flop with the hope to make three of a kind and then play aggressively. If you miss the flop, fold immediately.

Low Pocket Pairs

22 through 55 are considered to be low pocket pairs and are tricky to play. You should fold in all positions in full ring poker games. When playing low pocket pairs like pocket 2s to pocket 5s, focus on set mining. If you then decide to proceed to call to see the flop, make sure you are in a late position with a deep stack and do not commit too many chips in case you miss.

Suited Hands


Cards such as KQs, JTs, and AKs are connector cards that players can play from any position and are considered as ideal starting poker hands. AKs is a top-level starting hand in Hold’em. The lowest connectors for suited hands are the 54s and 76s and it is best to fold them in an early position. On late positions, if no other player has raised, it doesn’t hurt to call.


Gappers are hole cards with one gap between them. Hands such as the T8s, KJ5s, and 75s are suited for gappers that have more potential due to flush and straight possibilities and as such, can help you win big pots. Be selective with the high ranking gappers and retain the weak ones only for late positions. It's best to play gappers in the late position and fold them in the early position. All the while, you must proceed with caution and mind the strength of your opponents’ hands.

Off Suit Hands


The best Hold’em starting hands are the premium combinations of AKo, KQo and AQo that demand aggression. When playing shorthand games, you can also add hands such as AJs to your range. Raise or re-raise preflop to narrow the field and gain control.

In position, you can make a fat raise while keeping it small when out of position. Be mindful of your opponents' tendencies and adjust your post-flop play accordingly. With AK, both the top pair and top kicker are strong, so you can bet and raise confidently.

With KO, be cautious if you face significant resistance. Evaluate the board texture and your opponents' actions carefully before you commit large amounts of chips. Adaptability and selective aggression are key to success with these hands.


KQo and AJo are amongst the premium hands which you may call in early position in full ring games. You can play these hands from mid to late position but mix it up with aggression and caution. Raise preflop to gain information and narrow the field. Focus on hitting strong pairs or connecting with favorable flops like a straight or flush draw.

A10o and K10o are sometimes playable. These hands have decent potential but are not as strong as premium hands. Play them from mid to late position and consider raising to gain information and narrow the field. Cards like A3o are at the bottom and should be held for later positions as they have limited value and can be easily dominated by stronger Aces. Consider making a small raise to see a cheap flop and look for opportunities to make two pair or a Straight on a favorable board.


As per the Poker starting hand chart, hands like the J6o and Q5o are the weakest ones and never considered for an early raise. But most of the Texas Hold’em cards fall into this category, so the appropriate selection of playable hands is imperative

These hands have limited value and are considered weak starting hands. Play them selectively from a late position or in unopened pots. It's better to fold them in an early or middle position. If you choose to play them, be cautious and look for opportunities to hit straights or two pairs on favorable boards. However, be prepared to fold if there is resistance or if the board doesn't favor your hand. Avoid committing a large portion of your stack without a strong hand and prioritize better starting hands over these marginal ones.

Concluding Thoughts

In conclusion, understanding how to play different starting hands in poker is crucial for success at the table. Premium hands like pocket Aces and Kings should be played aggressively, raising and re-raising to build the pot. Medium pocket pairs require a mix of aggression and caution, aiming to hit sets while folding when necessary.

Suited connectors and gappers can be played selectively by seeking favorable pot odds and opportunities to connect with the board. Offsuit hands like ATo and KTo should be approached cautiously, focusing on position and evaluating the board and opponents' actions. Ultimately, adaptability, awareness of table dynamics, and disciplined decision-making are key to maximizing your chances with any starting hand in Poker.

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