Texas Holdem Starting Hands Guide

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Poker Starting Hands - The Best Starting Hands in Texas Holdem

The optimal poker starting hands in limit Texas hold em are largely dependent on position and the competition at the table. I had great difficulty writing on this topic since my actual Texas Holdem starting hands vary greatly based on the competition at the table. However, if you're a new player you'll need to start somewhere and this page is a good guide. Please remember, a guide is just that, only a guide. If you end up playing like a robot you're guaranteed to never make any money.

In general your starting hand selection should be looser in a tight game and tighter in a loose game. By playing loose (meaning playing a few more hands preflop and bluffing more frequently) in a tight game you can steal a few more hands. In a loose game, since everyone is playing more hands you can simply wait for stronger hands and by nature of starting stronger punish your opponents.

Besides competition, the other key factor in your starting hand selection in Texas Holdem is position. Position is when you have to act at the beginning of each round. Early position will be defined as the first 2 people to act in the hand after the 2 blinds (seats 3 and 4), middle position as 5-7, and late position as 8-9. Obviously the small and big blind are included in the early position section once the flop has been released. The type of poker game that you are in will vary greatly as some will be tight and aggressive, others loose and passive.

Naturally this has a huge effect on the optimal poker starting hand selection. To keep this article decently concise I'll assume an average medium tight game. 2-3 bad players, 4-7 decent players and 1-2 tough players. The rest of this discussion will focus on the position and what hands you can reasonably start with. Also note that generally speaking the winning style of poker which you should employ is that of a tight aggressive player and thus the starting hand selection discussed here reflects this type of play.

Early Position Starting Hands in Texas Holdem

In early position you have to be very selective about the hands you play. This is because there are many players to act after you and thus there are a large multitude of hand possibilities. Additionally, you have to act first at the beginning of each hand putting you at a further disadvantage.

Consider how much information your opponent gains because your decision to bet or check must be made before his. Factor all of this together and we arrive at my general starting hands in early position and in the order I like them.

Aces. (raise or limp in to trap).
Kings. (raise or limp in to trap).
Queens. (raise or limp in to trap but usually raise to narrow down field).
Ace/King (mix it up) (see detailed analysis of Ace/King).
Jacks (Raise in higher limit games to narrow down field).

More Pocket Pair Strategy

You'll notice that I'm not a big fan of Ace Queen and I actually don't play this hand in early position in full games until I've got a good read on the players. I also don't really like Jacks or Tens as over cards frequently fall on the flop making these hands marginal. Occasionally I'll limp in with these hands in early position hoping to catch a flop that will conceal the hand (ie. Flop a set or if the flop is low I will likely have the best hand). As you can see, my poker starting hand selection in early position is extremely limited.

Hands to Start with in Middle Position

In Middle position you can and should play a few more hands. If you are first to enter a pot then there have already been 3-5 people who have folded in front of you (1/3rd to � of the field). Thus the possibility of a strong hand is lower and consequently your weaker hands increase in value.

 If someone or multiple players have already entered into a pot you need to factor that into your starting hand selection. For example, if a Holdem player is playing the early position poker starting hands that I play and nothing else, would you really want to play a pair of 8's coming into the pot? Of course not. You will likely be going up against someone with a better starting hand and you'll have to get lucky to beat them. That's a losing proposition.

However, if a looser player comes into the pot in early position with weaker hands than above and you hold a hand such as A/Q well then you may want to consider a raise attempting to isolate the game between you and the player who likely has a weaker poker starting hand. In general, in middle position I'm playing all the above hands plus a few more. I'm also probably coming in with a raise to try and end any action right there preflop. If I have one of the really strong Texas Holdem starting hands I might limp in hoping to get some action and mix up my game.

Middle Position Starting Hands Include

Ace/Jack suited
Ace/Jack (rarely)
Queen/Jack (2 or more people already in the pot)
Jack/Ten (2 or more people already in the pot)
9/10 suited (5 or more people already in the pot)
King/Jack (to mix it up)

Poker Starting Hands - Late Position

In late position I'm pretty much raising with anything that I would've already played if I'm first in. The chances are that nobody has a hand and I'm better off taking the blinds right there. By raising with most hands that I would play here it allows me to occasionally steal blinds and if I get action it might be the time when I have a big hand. Late position starting hands include the hands above and the following:

Ace/rag (if first in raising to steal the blinds if the game is tight.)
Small pairs (limp in if 5-6 way action hoping to flop a set or raising to steal the blinds if first in)
Other suited connectors that might be 1 apart (ie. Ten/eight down to 6,7 suited if there is 6 way or more action).

Hands to start with in Texas Holdem - In Closing

Again, I can't stress the importance of the fact this is a guide. You'll have to mix it up a little bit in order to be successful. If you run into the higher limit guides the Holdem starting hands listed here are common knowledge. Thus if you don't betray your opponents trust on occasion to create action and win pots you will be a "by the book player". These players don't win any money since everyone always knows what they hold. You have to know Your Competition and go from there.

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