Starting hands in poker refer to the initial cards dealt to a player before the betting begins. Your starting hand’s strength can heavily influence your decision-making in the game. Below, I’ll break down some concepts related to starting hands in the popular poker variant, Texas Hold’em.
Strong Starting Hands in Poker
High pairs like Aces, Kings, Queens, and Jacks are usually strong starting hands.
AA (Pocket Aces)
- Strongest hand in NLH, 85% favourite against random hand
- Dominates KK roughly 80:20, 23% chance of losing to 76 suited
- Aggressive pre-flop play advised
QQ (Pocket Queens)
- 80% favourite against random hand, 57% against AK
- Vulnerable, requires aggressive pre-flop play
KK (Pocket Kings or ‘cowboys’)
- 82% favourite against random hand, 80% against lower pair
- 68% favourites against Ace holding like As6s
JJ (Pocket Jacks)
- 77% favourite against random hand, 56% against two overcards
- Known as ‘trouble’ holding, demands aggressive pre-flop play
High Cards of the Same Suit like A-K suited, A-Q suited, and A-J suited are considered strong because they have potential for flushes and high pairs.
AK suited (Big Slick)
- Strong starting hand in NLH
- 67% chance to win against random hand, 68% versus A6 suited
- Fares well all-in, justifies considerable pre-flop aggression
- Powerful in NLH, often played aggressively
- Good flush and straight potential, strong pre-flop hand
- Strategic play depends on position and table dynamics
- Strong in NLH, especially from late positions
- Offers various ways to win with high pair, flush, or straight potential
- Demands understanding of table situation and opponents
Connecting Cards of the same suit, like K-Q suited or J-10 suited, can lead to straight or flush possibilities.
- Strong drawing hand in NLH
- Has the potential to form high pairs, straights, and flushes
- Often played aggressively in favorable positions
- Popular suited connector in NLH
- Offers good potential for straights and flushes
- May require careful play post-flop depending on the situation
Medium Poker Hands
- Medium Pairs: Pairs from 10-10 to 6-6 are typically considered medium-strength hands. They can be valuable but require caution as the hand progresses.
- Mixed Suits with High Cards: A-K or A-Q of different suits can still be potent but lack the flush potential.
- Medium Suited Connectors: Hands like 9-8 suited or 10-9 suited have potential but are riskier.
Weak Hands in Poker
- Low Pairs: Pairs like 2-2 to 5-5 are typically considered weaker starting hands. They can still win, but it usually depends on the post-flop play.
- Low Suited Cards: Cards like 5-4 suited might seem appealing due to flush potential, but they often result in weak hands.
- Unconnected Low Cards: Hands like 7-2 offsuit are among the weakest in the game and are usually folded unless strategy dictates otherwise.
Starting Hands and Table Position
Your position at the table also affects how you should play your starting hand. Being in a late position (closer to the dealer) allows you to see how others act before you make your decision, which can be an advantage. Generally, you can play a wider range of hands in late positions and need to be more selective in early positions.
- Tight vs. Loose Play: Tight players are more selective with their starting hands, whereas loose players might play a wider range of starting hands.
- Aggressive vs. Passive Play: Aggressive players might bet or raise with medium or even weak hands, while passive players might only bet with strong hands.
Understanding starting hands and how they fit into the overall strategy of Texas Hold’em can be vital in both casual and competitive play. It involves evaluating the relative strength of your hand, considering the position, and understanding the playing style of your opponents. Many professionals often advise beginners to play tight and stick to strong starting hands to minimize risk as they learn the nuances of the game.