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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
a Texas Holdem poker game, these are the hands you should bet on:
Pocket or Pair of Aces
Pocket or Pair of Kings
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
C) With a late betting position
you should call the following holdem starting hands:
Ace Suited with any other card
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!
holdem starting hands, there is an additional article about Position in
How to Play
Poker 1 Program
Poker Games 2 with 7 Game Types
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