How Not to Suck at Poker: Play Fewer Hands

Markus Golser
The fewer hands you play, the better you get at folding.

It sucks to suck at things. And Texas Hold'em can be a frustrating game for beginners.

You lose to your friends in your home games. You lose the first few bucks you deposit online. Worse, you may not even understand why.

Are you just unlucky? Are you making huge mistakes? Are you missing one simple concept that could change things?

The truth: You're really not that far behind 95% of the poker players in the world. And you don't need to be the foremost expert on the game to become a winning poker player.

In fact, a relatively small amount of basic poker principles can produce massive improvements in your results almost immediately.

And the true first step to becoming a good poker player: simply figuring out how to stop sucking at it.

This is the first in a 10-part series explaining exactly how to do that on the most basic level, starting with the most important tip of all: playing fewer hands.

How Not to Suck at Poker Tip 1: Play Fewer Hands.

In Texas Hold'em, there are 169 different possible starting hands you can be dealt (this is ignoring specific suits).

Out of all these possible hands, there are only five hands that are considered "premium."

  1. AA
  2. KK
  3. QQ
  4. AK (Suited)
  5. JJ

Regardless of your position at the table, a premium hand should always be played if there is no raise ahead of you. If there is a raise ahead of you - especially if there are callers or re-raises - sometimes it can even be a mistake to play anything below Aces or Kings.

Phil Ivey

When you think about Texas Hold'em starting hands in this light, you'll realize that you should be folding around 80% more hands than you should be playing at any given Hold'em table.

Naturally, the hands you play, and how you play them, will change depending on thousands of different variables at the table.

But at the very core of the game, there are very few hands that are considered playable.

If there has been no player to open the pot (meaning no one has raised, or even limped ahead of you) you can play almost any hand with any sort of potential value.

Once someone has raised ahead of you, your hand selection should be narrowed down to only the hands that can give you the nuts, and help keep you out of any situation which has you dominated.

For example: you should never play KQ into a raise, as AA, KK, QQ, AK, and AQ all have you dominated.

Unless you have a very good reason to do so, as a beginner poker player you should stick to playing only the top 10 to 15 hands, period.

The more you play, and the better you become at the game, the more hands you can add to your playlist.

Until then, keep it simple, and always head to the flop with the best of it.

Top 15 Hold'em Starting Hands

  1. AA
  2. KK
  3. QQ
  4. AK (suited)
  5. JJ
  6. 1010
  7. AQ (suited)
  8. AJ (suited)
  9. AK (off suit)
  10. KQ (suited)
  11. A10 (suited)
  12. KJ (suited)
  13. AQ (off suit)
  14. 99
  15. JQ (suited)

Stay tuned for the next installment: How Not to Suck at Poker: Play in Position.

More on how not to suck at poker:

  1. How Not to Suck at Poker: Play Fewer Hands
  2. How Not to Suck at Poker: Play in Position
  3. How Not to Suck at Poker: Count Your Outs
  4. How Not to Suck at Poker: Learn Basic Odds
  5. How Not to Suck at Poker: Pay Attention
  6. How Not to Suck at Poker: Have a Bankroll
  7. How Not to Suck at Poker: Stop Bluffing
  8. How Not to Suck at Poker: Keep Your Mouth Shut
  9. How Not to Suck at Poker: Keep Records
  10. How Not to Suck at Poker: Discuss the Game

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