Texas Holdem Starting Hands: 10 Best and 10 Worst

This lesson details the best and worst holdem starting hands along with position strategy related to these starting hands and betting tips.
In this game, the first two cards dealt to each player are the starting hands.
With an individual player’s starting hand of two hole cards, it is essential that the odds on the dealt cards are understood, as it is on the rating/strength of these two cards that the decision to bet will be made.

Approximately 1 in every 17 hands will be a pocket pair or 2 cards of the same rank while 4 in every 17 hand will be suited cards, thus a possible flush. 12 hands in 17 will be unsuited hands that could contain ranking cards and possible high pairs. Example is Ace of Spades and King of Hearts.

Holdem starting hands have different strengths and are rated based on nine or ten players. Therefore, if you are one of the first players, any pocket pair is worth a bet but higher pairs should be played with restraint to leave your opponents guessing as to their value.
Late position at the table will influence the choices you make according to the value of your cards, the number of active hands and the size of the bets. If you were the seventh to tenth player and there were several active bets/raises, you should probably fold a small pair. High suited cards are probably worth a small bet early in the table and, if the stakes are not too high, they are worth holding on to if you are in late position.
There is more position strategy information later in this lesson.

Below is a summary of the 10 best starting hands with ratings/strengths described for each followed by position strategy and 10 worst starting hands.

10 Best Texas Holdem Starting Hands:
1) Pair of Aces: referred to as American Airlines or pocket rockets is at the top of the list.

2) Pair of Kings: not the top, but a solid beginning for a round of Texas Holdem.

3) Pair of Queens: third in line only to be outdone by Kings or Aces.

4) Ace and King: of the same suit with the added benefit of possibly forming a nut flush.

5) Pair of Jacks: unless the flop shows a Queen, King or an Ace, you have a possibility of taking the pot with this holdem starting hand.

6) Ace and Queen: this suited hand is in the same league as Ace and King with the added probability of a nut flush.

7) King and Queen: if suited—even better, unless the community board cards contain an Ace.

8) Ace and Jack: suited or unsuited, this is one of the holdem starting hands that are worth keeping for now.

9) King and Jack: suited, this hand is a Texas Holdem best, however unsuited could be trouble ahead.

10) Ace and Ten: the Ace is the key, however, caution alert as this starting hand can be toppled by any of the above best holdem hands.

The unsuited holdem starting hands are not a very good bet whatever your position and even an Ace-King combination is only ranked around 12th position for winning probabilities. The top ranked probabilities are the pocket pairs, Aces to Queens followed by suited cards Ace-King and Ace-Queen.
How you play your hand will depend on how others play their hands and how you feel. Be aware of the odds of your hand becoming the winner and bet accordingly.

Even the best odds and reasoning can be upset when the community cards are exposed, especially the river card. The real skill is in knowing at what juncture you continue betting or not. Additionally, the ability to recognize and run a bluff is also an important strategy.
Thus, there are two things to know about holdem starting hands, what the best hands are and when to play them. In other words, when to hold and when to fold.

10 Worst Holdem Starting Hands
This poker strategy lesson at Gambling Teachers continues with the worst starting hands plus accompanying details and advice to Fold and Walk Away!

1) 2-6 Unsuited
The low straight draw possibility is a stretch with this combo. You can only save the hand if the community cards feature 3, 4 and 5 but with a table of more than 3 players, the chances are highly unlikely. Therefore, folding quickly with these holdem starting hands is the wisest play.

2) 2-7 Unsuited
If you think 2-6 unsuited is a groaner, this hand is even more trouble because there is no chance at a straight draw or flush draw and furthermore, a pair of 8s beats your hand. If you are bold enough to reach and hope instead of folding, as you should, there is the distant possibility of a full house. Hear me loud and clear, FOLD!

3) 2-8 Unsuited
The only redemption here is that a pair of 8s beats a pair of 7s--not exactly reassuring. Additionally, the straight draw or flush is not in the mix. Is this hand not begging you to put it out of its misery and move on?

4) 2-9 Unsuited
While a pair of 9s may beat out the 8s as noted in the worst hand above, there is no chance here of a straight and the play of perhaps a pair of 9s would be trounced by a pair of Aces, Kings, Queens, Jacks or 10s.
The reason I detailed all the pairs that could beat nines is to emphasize just how important it is to toss these holdem starting hands.

5) 2–10 Unsuited
Yes, I know, history marks the fact that Doyle Brunson had won two WSOP bracelets with this starting hand, but are you willing to go up against the expertise of a poker legend or do the right thing and foldem?

6) 3-7 Unsuited
This worthless hand puts you in the position of hardly a glimmer of a straight draw or flush draw while grasping for what—a measly pair of 8s? A full house is not in the cards and after folding, there will be more opportunities to catch some cards.

7) 3-8 Unsuited
When it reaches the point of hardly even a low straight, it is time to give up the fight with these holdem starting hands.

8) 3-9 Unsuited
Now you are into the category of lower than almost any other hand. You should be outta there.

9) 4-9 Unsuited
Why are you wasting your time and money? Go for the Fold here and fight another day.

10) 5-9 Unsuited
Referred to as a Dolly Parton, you can bet that even she could not win this holdem poker hand.

For those bold enough to continue play with these holdem starting hands, you will need a great deal of favorable poker karma. Knowing the best and worst combinations will strengthen your overall game play creating a more successful run.
Long shots do come in at times, however the disciplined player walks away pleased with their playing decisions.

This part of the lesson about holdem position strategy begins with a definition.
Position: poker term for a player's position at the table in reference to betting. Example: early position means that player is the first to bet. Middle position and late position are the other terms describing the 3 player positions.

Position is an important element of Texas Holdem poker games. Where you are in relationship to the dealer can determine, in part, the success of a hand. The most important strategy in relation to position and winning hands is before the first betting round. This is the point when a player must decide whether to play or fold a hand.
Below are position strategy tips listed by holdem starting hands.

A) With an early position in a Texas Holdem poker game, these are the hands you should bet on:
Pocket or Pair of Aces
Pocket or Pair of Kings
Ace-King Suited
Ace-Queen Suited
King-Queen Suited
Pocket or Pair of Queens
Pocket or Pair of Jacks
Pocket or Pair of Tens

It would be wise to fold everything else. Additionally, raise on a pair of Aces, King and Ace-King Suited starting hands and only call on Ace-Queen and/or King-Queen Suited, Pair of Queens, Jacks and Tens.

B) With a middle betting position, your ideal play is calling on these holdem starting hands:
Pocket or Pair of Nines
Pocket or Pair of Eights
Ace-Jack Suited
Ace-Ten Suited
Queen-Jack Suited
Ace-Queen Suited

C) With a late betting position, you should call the following holdem starting hands:
Ace Suited with any other card
King-Ten Suite
Queen-Ten Suited
Jack-Ten Suited
Small Pairs

It takes a stronger hand to call a raise than it does to make one. If there is a raise before your turn, you should fold. It is unwise to bet again on a marginal hand.
It is equally important to know how to play a good hand and to recognize a good hand.
Good Luck at the Tables!

Following holdem starting hands, there is an additional article about Position in Holdem Poker
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On July 1, 2005, less than a week after Chan had won his 10th gold bracelet - setting a new record - Doyle Brunson tied the record at the 2005 WSOP.
Brunson is currently one bracelet behind Phil Hellmuth, who earned his 11th bracelet at the WSOP on June 11, 2007.

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