A Detailed Guide to Starting Hands in Texas Hold'em

Last updated on : 28 Jan, 2021

How are you faring at Texas Hold’em poker game? Have you managed to devise a strategy that helps you to make good money at Hold’em? Ask any of the Hold’em poker pros and most of them will have a solid strategy around the starting hands in Texas Hold’em. This is because your decision to continue to “hold’em” or “fold’em” at the pre-flop stage could determine the direction of your play. Plenty of mistakes at the pre-flop phase in selection of the right starting hands could be disastrous.

All you need to do is keep it simple by developing a proper understanding of the following with regards to starting hands:

Which are the good starting hands that you can play?

Which are the things that need to be considered in the selection of starting hands?

What are the best starting hands in Hold’em?

Let us dive deep to know more details.

Which Starting Hands to Play in Hold’em?

When it comes to Texas Hold’em, you need to focus on the two cards dealt initially. It is possible to have a total of 169 different two-cards starting hand combinations. It is possible to have the following categories of hands:

1.Pocket Pairs

These are hands like AA, KK, QQ, ….TT, 99, 88,…..33,22. Any of these hands won’t be of the same suit. You can further determine the order of priority for these hands as per below sub-categories:

Premium Pocket Pairs:

These comprise of hands from AA, KK,….till TT. If you get any of these combinations as your initial starting hand in Texas Hold’em, you can consider yourself to be lucky and go ahead to ‘raise’ irrespective of your position on the table. You can withstand aggression from other players (callers as well as 3-bets) and yourself go aggressive. With such hands, you are likely to remain profitable in the long term.

Middle Pocket Pairs:

These consist of hands from 99,88, …..till 55. Of course, these are not as strong as the premium pocket pairs. So, you need not play these as aggressively as them. If you are in an early position (sitting near to the blinds), then, you should not think twice before folding hands like 55 or 66, which are the weakest middle pocket pairs.

Low Pocket Pairs:

These pairs comprise of hands from 44,….till 22. It is a no-brainer that you cannot go ahead with them while you are in an early position. However, you can take advantage of these pairs from later positions on the poker table and aim to form ‘three of a kind’ at the flop stage, which could potentially be profitable for you!

2.Suited Hands

As the name suggested, these hands comprise of two cards from the same suit. Now, either these two cards can be connected (of consecutive ranks) or unconnected (of non-consecutive ranks with gaps in between).

Connectors (suited)

These are those hands that are of the same suit and are of consecutive ranks. For example, two-card hands like AKs, KQs, QJs, JTs, T9s, etc. Of course, the ones just mentioned are the strongest connectors and can be played by you from most positions on the poker table, with an aim to form flushes as well as straights and give yourself a good chance to win!

At the same time, the weaker suited connectors are the hands starting from 98s, 87s, ….till 32s should be avoided altogether from any early positions. But, you can try to do a ‘raise’ on these from late positions, especially for 98s, 87s,..through to 54s.

Please do note that ‘s’ we are using is to denote these connectors stand for ‘suited’.

Unconnected Hands (suited Gappers)

These are hands that are not as powerful as the connectors, and you should be pretty selective with them if you wish to win big. The strongest out of these are the one-gappers include hands like KJs, J8s, 75s, and so on. You can plan to ‘raise’ on these from the middle to late positions. However, for the other unconnected hands like the two-gappers such as KTs, J8s, 74s, etc. and three-gappers like K9s, J7s, 73s, etc. should be folded from early and middle positions. You can check out the table dynamics and the players left, before deciding if it is worth to play such hands from the last position.

3.Offsuit Hands

As the name indicates, these are those two-card hands in Texas Hold’em that are not from the same suit. Just like suited hands discussed above, you will have connected offsuit hands like AKo, KQo, and so on, as well as unconnected offsuit hands like AQo, KJo, and so on. Out of these, hands like AKo, AQo, etc. are considered as strong hands which can be played from most positions to win big pots. For the remaining offsuit hands, try to avoid playing them from early to middle positions, and take a calculated decision only from the later positions!

Kindly do note that the ‘o’ used here denotes offsuit.

Points to be Considered for Right Selection of Starting Hands

Having understood where the power lies in terms of two-cards, you need to understand that it is not so straightforward. Your decision to play certain starting hands or fold hands depends on various other table conditions/situations. Let us consider those points below for the right selection of starting hands in Hold’em.

Number of Players on the Table

A starting hand such as KJ might not be a winner on a table of nine or ten players (full ring poker). But, this same hand will be a very powerful one on a table of six or fewer players (shorthanded poker). Clearly, there are many such hands which would be vulnerable to start off on a full ring poker table, but, their value increases as the number of players reduces.


Your position on the poker table is one of the most critical factors that influences which starting hands you can play with. This position of yours is compared in relation to other players, the dealer button as well as the blinds in Hold’em. If you are seated to the immediate left of the big blind or after the player (who is seated to the immediate left of the big blind), you are said to be in an early position as you will have your turn quite early in a Hold’em betting round. If you are in a position such that only the blinds are left to play after you (or maybe even the player acting as the dealer is left), you are considered to be in a late position.

You will only be able to play the most premium hands (powerful hands) from the early position. As you move towards the middle and late position, you get to play more starting hands in Texas Hold’em. From the late position, you might be able to even play some weaker hands depending on who is left to play as most players would have already acted by the time your turn arrives.

Top Starting Hands in Texas Hold’em

Having understood most things about starting hands, let us now find out which are the best starting hands in Hold’em poker.

  • AA (Ace-Ace)

This pair of aces is the best starting hand in Texas poker. You can play this from any position – early, middle or late. Remember, while this is a highly powerful hand and a strong favourite over any other two cards, it can still be beaten against multiple opponents at later stages. But, you should confidently be doing a ‘raise’ during pre-flop. These are also known as pocket aces, pocket rockets, bullets, or American Airlines.

  •  KK (King-King)

It is the second best two-card starting hand in Hold’em poker. These are also known as pocket kings, King Kong, or cowboys. This combination can be beaten by AA, but you should almost always raise on this during pre-flop.

  • QQ (Q-Q)

This is stronger than most two cards, except for KK and AA. You must play pre-flop raise on this, but it will be difficult for you to play post-flop after few overcards come on the board.

  • AK (Ace-King)

This is another very premium starting hand if you are playing Texas Hold’em poker. Of course, the suited combination (AKs) is stronger than the unsuited one (AKo). This gives you an opportunity to hit the nut flush with ease. It is considered as the strongest unpaired starting hand and is also known as big slick or Anna Kournikova.

  • JJ (Jack-Jack)

This is another strong starting hand, and you are likely to win almost 20% of the time with this hand. However, you need to be careful if the flop shows up a Q, K, or A or if any player has raised from an early position (before you).

  •  Others

There are another few good starting hands in Hold’em poker – such as TT, AK, AQs, AJs, KQs, and so on. And like the above ones, you need to always aim for a raise pre-flop with such combinations. However, you have to be careful with such starting hands after flop. If someone re-raises, you can quickly decide to fold hands like KQs (suited King-Queen).

The Verdict

Hope the above details about starting hands in Hold’em poker gives you good clarity on the same. You can even refer to a few Hold’em starting hand charts till the time you are confident of which starting hands to play and which to avoid. Many strong starting hands can fetch you wins at the pre-flop level, while you need to be a little smarter as the game moves to the post flop levels. However, you are able to set the tone with strong starting hands and give yourself a good chance of winning a big pot.

So, what are you waiting for? Try implementing this knowledge and strategy about starting hands and play Texas Hold’em poker game by download the poker app now

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