Making money in No-Limit Texas Hold'em starts with the hands you choose to play and when you choose to play them. Even a "top 10 hand" can be the wrong hand to play depending on the situation you're in. Since a definitive guide on every hand and how and when to play it in every situation would take more words than a novel. This article will touch on the major points of basic pre-flop hands with broad strokes.
Texas Holdem Starting Hands
Watch the video below for some immediate help picking the right Texas Hold'em Starting Hands.
How to Play Texas Holdem Starting Hands
Although you can write volumes about detailed lines and theories on maximizing profit with this hand, other than folding there is rarely a scenario in which you can ever make a mistake with this hand (pre-flop that is).
Post Flop: Even though this is the best starting hand, if the board doesn't improve your hand you only have one pair. Keep this in mind to avoid stacking off to random two pairs and sets.
Pocket kings are almost identical to pocket aces pre-flop. Although players have folded KK pre-flop, it's rarely the correct thing to do. If someone else is dealt AA when you have KK, chances are you're going to get it all in. Don't worry about this, just write it off as a cooler and move on.
Post Flop: The same ideas about post-flop play with AA are applicable to KK. On top of the "one pair" concept, you also need to be on the lookout for an ace on the flop.
Although an ace flopping is not automatically a death sentence, it's never a good sign.
Pocket Queens and Jacks
Queens and jacks are right in the middle - below the big pairs and above the marginal pairs. These hands can be some of the trickiest to play. That being said, these two hands should still be in your list of top 10 most profitable hands.
Unlike AA and KK, these hands are very foldable pre-flop in certain situations. If you're playing at a tight table, where people are only raising with legitimate hands, many players would say that calling after one player raises and another re-raises pre-flop can be a mistake.
Post Flop: If there is heavy action pre-flop, you have to assume you're either beat, or at best up against AK. You only want to continue with these hands if the board improves your hand, or your opponents back off, showing signs of weakness.
Pocket Pairs Below Jacks
Example:9♠ 9♥, 8♣ 8♦
Playing the tight-aggressive style preached in the article How to Crush Live $1/$2 No-Limit Hold'em, all of these hands are playable with no raise or a single raise (especially with multiple callers) for set value. You're set mining with these hands. If you don't hit your set, you don't make a bet. Got that? No set, no bet. The only goal with these hands is to flop a set and double up through the pre-flop raiser holding pocket aces.
One Thing to Keep in Mind: The lower your pair, the greater the chance that you will find yourself in a set-over-set situation.
Anytime you flop the under set in a set-over-set situation, you will be lucky if you don't lose your entire stack. For this reason, many players will refuse to play pocket pairs below fives.
Example:A♠ K♥, K♠ Q♦
Hands such as A-K, A-Q, A-J and even K-Q can be profitable hands to play. At a loose table, these hands are great for raising when you have position (and no one has raised ahead of you).
The way to make money with these hands is to trap a loose opponent with the same top pair, weak kicker. The most important thing to keep in mind with hands such as K-Q or A-J is you almost never want to call a raise with these hands. These hands are the most commonly dominated hands when faced with a raise, and as such will lose you significant money if you get into the habit of calling raises with them.
Post-Flop: Much like AA and KK, you need to remember that one pair is a hand easily beaten. If your opponent is a very tight player there is little chance he will be putting in large bets against you if he can't beat top pair.
You need to change how you play depending on the players you're against.
Suited Connectors (and Suited One-Gappers)
Example:8♠ 9♠, 9♦ J♦
Suited connectors can be some of the most valuable hands in No Limit Hold 'em cash games. That being said, they aren't sure things and will miss everything far more often than they will hit it big. You want to fold small suited connectors (if not all suited connectors) from early position.
In middle to late position you want to play these hands with due diligence. You don't want to be calling large raises to play these hands heads up. Your goal with these hands is to play the largest pots possible for the least amount of investment possible. You need great odds to make money on these. Without the odds, they should be folded from any position.
- Suggested Reading: Playing Suited Connectors in Six-Max
Example:A♠ 4♠, A♥ 9♥
Similar to suited connectors, these hands are played only to take down very large pots for a very small investment. You are not playing these hands to hit an ace and get into a betting war. As explained in this article, you don't want to play against an ace, even if you have a small ace yourself. If you don't hit a draw on the flop (or better yet the nuts), you should be done with these hands. It's almost never profitable to be paying for backdoor draws.
More Texas Holdem Starting Hands
Example:6♠ 9♦, 2♣ 7♣, K♥ 10♦
Simply put, every other hand you can be dealt is going to lose you money. As a beginner or even intermediate player, hands that may look great - such as an off-suit Q-J or J-10 - are simply going to lose you money in the long run. The worse the hands you play, the harder the decisions you're going to have to make post-flop.
The goal as a beginner poker player is to make as few mistakes as possible. And the best way to limit the number of mistakes you make is to reduce the number of difficult decisions you have to make.
The three most common mistakes a beginner makes are:
Stick to only playing the hands in this list. Throw away the weaker of these hands when out of position, and only play against a raise if you have a very strong hand or the odds with a strong drawing hand. Follow those guidelines, and you'll be on a fast track to making profit.
Texas Holdem Starting Hands Infographic
This Cheat Sheet covers every kind of starting hand and gives you easy-to-follow instructions on how to play them before and after the flop. The infographic also includes helpful stats about how likely it is for someone else to have a bigger pocket pair than you before the flop. And how likely it is for you to see an overcard on the board when you hold different pocket pairs. Click the image below for a larger version.
Related Texas Hold'em Beginner Articles:
- How to Crush Live $1/$2 No-Limit Hold'em
- 10-Minute Texas Hold'em Crash Course
- How to Determine the Winning Poker Hand
- How to Play Poker: A Complete Beginner's Guide
- How to Play Poker Online: A Complete Beginner's Guide
- See More Online Poker Sites
Texas Holdem FAQs
What are the top Texas Holdem Official Rules?1. BUY-IN - In a cash game, there is a minimum buy-in to enter, but you can reload or buy more chips at any point outside a hand. In a tournament you buy-in once, with the possibility of re-entering. Your starting stack is typically 100 big blinds or more.
2. DEALER BUTTON - This represents the 'rotating' dealer which moves after each hand. To choose the first dealer, each player picks a face-down card from the deck and the one with the highest value card is the dealer.
3. BLINDS - There are two 'blind' players after the button (clockwise) - Small and Big Blind. The big blind is the call price of the round and small blind is half of that. These are forced bets that the players in question need to put out to build a pot, irrelevant of their hand.
4. DEALING - You need to deal clockwise around the table, starting from the small blind. Each player gets one card at a time for a total of two hole cards. After a round of betting here, you deal 3 cards for the flop followed by another betting round. Then one more card for the turn, more betting, then one more river card and final betting. Before dealing each round, the dealer must 'burn' the card at the top of the deck
5. ACTIONS - Every time cards are dealt or turned on the board, there is an action. Choose to check (do nothing), bet (add chips to the pot), call (match someone's bet), raise (add even more chips than the bettor), or fold (discard their hand and exit the round). A bet must be at least worth two big blinds. Or if you raise, it must be at least double the previous bet. Each round is only over when all players have acted - either placed their chips, folded or checked around.
6. BETTING / RAISING RULES - You need to declare your intent to raise or the amount before making an action. Or bring their chip raise amount into play at the same time. You can't place chips gradually - This is known as a string bet and would be considered a call.
7. SHOWDOWN - Unless everyone folds to one player, the best hand at showdown (showing cards after last betting round post-river) wins the pot. The player who bet on the river should reveal their hand first. The other/s can show or muck/fold their hand and give up the pot.
8. THE BEST HAND - Poker hand rankings are as follows, with the best ranging from top to bottom:
Three of a Kind
How many Texas Holdem betting rounds are there?There are FOUR Texas Holdem betting rounds:
- after the turn
- after the river (showdown)
How should the Texas Holdem layout be?Note that the Texas Holdem layout includes three flop boxes, one turn box and one river card box on the felt table. You may also have a play section marked on the table where your bets are made, away from your stack
How many players for Texas Holdem?A Texas Holdem cash game is played on a single table with 2 to 10 players. The goal in a cash game is to win as many chips as you can. A multi-table tournament will have a number of players divided into multiple tables with 9-10 players on each table. As players run out of chips and are eliminated, the number of tables reduces until the final table (9-10 players). Play continues until heads up (2 players) and then the final prize winner.
How do blinds work in Texas Holdem?There are two 'blind' players after the button (clockwise) - Small and Big Blind. The big blind is the call price of the round and small blind is half of that. These are forced bets that the players in question need to put out to build a pot, irrelevant of their hand. This is to induce more action from these players because they have the worst position. Otherwise they'd never play!
How many cards do you get in Texas Holdem?Texas Hold'em combines your two hole cards with the five community cards. The player with the best 5-card hand (out of 7) including BOTH hole cards wins the pot for that round.
What's the most common winning hand in Texas Holdem?The hand rankings are placed in that order for a reason. The more valuable cards are the ones that are harder to get. So by default, since High cards and single pairs fall at the bottom, these are the most common hands to hit. Therefore, Ace or King high cards, or pairs - most likely a pair of face cards since they're played more.
What's the worst starting hand in Texas Holdem?72 off-suit is mathematically the worst starting hand you can have in Texas Holdem. In fact, many home or cash games on TV have a bonus for winning with this hand to induce action.
Do you shuffle after EVERY Texas Holdem hand?It's called the Shuffle and Cut - and it's done after every hand. When a round is over and the pot is won and distributed, the deck must be shuffled. Live card rooms will alternate decks between hands. The deck must also be cut with minimum four cards with the bottoms of the decks hidden from players. Only then can dealer deal the next hand.