Newbie’s Guide to Texas Hold’em: Choosing Starting Hands


If you know something about poker, you know that you should be folding a lot of your starting hands, right? And what are the best hands, the one you should be playing with? There are a lot of lists available, and some desktop backgrounds to the online poker player.

In the book “Hold’em Poker for Advanced Players” (see below) , David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth divide the starting hands in groups, in a simple but effective way, and we will show our version below.

Before that, let’s remember some poker glossary:

Card codes:
T = 10
s = suited
o = off-suit
x = any small number

So, JTs = a Jack and a 10 of the same suit. AQo means an Ace and a Queen, with different suits. Axs = an Ace and a small card, like 5 for example, both of the same suit. Pairs are always off-suit, since we only use one deck in Texas Hold’em.
Connectors = consecutive cards, like 8 and 7, which makes it easier to do a straight. Suited connectors are even better, since they also increase the chances of a flush.

Now let’s see the groups. You already know, or will learn right now, that position is tremendously important in Texas Hold’em. The key to success in this game is to be patient, and choose well your starting hands. In early position*, you are so vulnerable that you should play only the best hands, like the ones in groups one to four. In late position, you could play cards from the last groups, but with caution, and probably only if no one raised before your turn. The small-blind (sb) could play any of these hands if it only takes half a bet to limp in. The big-blind (BB) could just check, and hope for a good flop (if no one raised).

Group 1: AA, KK, QQ, JJ, AKs

Group 2: TT, AQs, AJs, KQs, AKo

Group 3: 99, JTs, QJs, KJs, ATs, AQo

Group 4: T9s, KQo, 88, QTs, 98s, J9s, AJo, KTs

Group 5: 77, 87s, Q9s, T8s, KJo, QJo, JTo, 76s, 97s, Axs

Group 6: 66, ATo, 55, 86s, KTo, QTo, 54s, K9s, J8s, 75s

Group 7: 44, J9o, 64s, T9o, 53s, 33, 98o, 43s, 22, Kxs, T7s, Q8s

Group 8: 87o, A9o, Q9o, 76o, 42s, 32s, 96s, 85s, J8o, J7s, 65o, 54o, 74s, K9o, T8o

After reading this article, you should be able to identify, and avoid, newbie and beginner hand selection errors like these:

TOP FIVE hand selection errors:

- Playing hands with one Ace and one small card, off-suit, (like A5o) hoping for an Ace in the flop, for a pair. You would have a pair with a really bad kicker.

- Playing A2o, hoping for a straight or Ace pair. The only cards that could help you would be a 3, AND a 4, AND a 5, not an easy feat. You could pair your ace, but the kicker…

- Play small pocket pairs aggressively. If you have 44 in early position, you should probably fold. 44 lose to a lot of things. Remember: small pocket pairs want to hit a set (three of a kind) on the flop, or be folded.

- Call raises with bad cards. You are in late position with 43s, a group 6 hand, which could be playable in some situations. You want to see the flop, and someone raises from early position. Calling a raise with such a hand would be a big mistake.

- Bluffing with terrible hands and terrible position. You are dealt 72o in early position and decide to bluff, raising 3xBB (three times the big blind). Especially if you are in a low-stakes game, there will be callers, and you can be sure: they have a better hand.

Of course you should be aware of situations in which you could mix it up a little bit, entering pots with marginal hands. For example: in a tight table, with every player folding, you could raise for the button with moderate hands and get the blinds right away. This move, called “blind stealing” is best in tournaments, at the mid or end levels.

Foot notes:

* Early position: The first players to the left of the blinds, the first ones to act before the flop. Late position: the players at the right side of the blinds. The button, or dealer position, is the best place to be.
** Hand selection is one of the main strategies to develop. If you are beginning, we recommend two softwares called Texas Calculatem and Texas Calculatem Pro. You can check more information on the article The Truth about Poker Cheats, Poker Bots and other Softwares.

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