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Starting Hand Selection

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When you play poker Texas Hold'em, you need a good starting hand selection. This will help you avoid entering pots when you don't have a decent hand, which could make you lose a lot of money.

When we say "starting hand selection" we simply mean choosing the good poker hands over the bad, and fold bad hands.

Although it's true that in Texas Hold'em (also in poker in general) any hand can win, in reality some hands will win more than other hands. In the long run, you'll see better results if you stick to good hands.

Basic starting hand selection

Top tier starting hands - top 2% of starting hands

In general, the good poker Holde'm starting hands are those hands such as big pocket pairs and big connecting cards. For example:


The 's' stands for suited and this increases the value of the cards because you'll have more chances of making a flush, as opposed to the situation in which they are not suited.

When it comes to starting hands, this is the best hand and you would become rich if you got these kinds of hands all the time. In fact, you would win more money in the long run if you stick to these hands and folded the other hands. This would only be useful if you were playing in low limits since other players wouldn't realize that you play only premium hands.

Second tier starting hands

If you decided to play only with elite hands, you would have to fold several hands and as a result you would miss several chances to win money. Although these are the best hands when we talk about starting hands, the truth is that there are other great hands you can use to win a lot of money in the long run if you decide to play with them. For example:


Here you have another 6 starting hands you can play with, and this will increase the amount of pots that you'll play in. These are great hands, not as good as the first set we saw, but still hands that will allow you to make money out of them.

Top 10 Texas Hold'em starting hands

If you are new in the poker game, you should try to stick to the following set of 10 starting hands and you'll be on your way to making money out of the game:

ASpades AClover
KHeart KDiamond
QDiamond QSpades
AHeart KHeart (suited)
AClover QClover (suited)
JSpades JDiamond
KSpades QSpades (suited)
ADiamond JDiamond (suited)
ADiamond KClover
TClover THeart

When you acquire more experience, you can start adding marginal hands, such as suited connectors, to the set of starting hands you play with. On the other hand, if you are a beginner you should stick to the big cards in order to hit big flops and because they will make post-flop play much easier.

Starting hand selection and the influence of table position

You should always choose the hands you want to play taking into account your table position.

When you are in early position you should play stronger poker hands than you would in late position.

As a result, if you are in an early position seat, you should play just with the top two tiers of hands and ignore less strong hands like AQo, AJs, AT, KQs and so on. On the other hand, when you are in late position and there was little action before you, you can play marginal hands in a more comfortable way.

Why does table position matter in starting hand selection?

If you are in an early position, you'll have a disadvantage compared to the rest of the players in the hand who get to act after you. As a result, if you don't want to make things worst you shouldn't enter a pot other than holding a premium hand.

When you act first you have poor information about your opponents. When you hold a mediocre hand you'll probably be in a situation in which you'll have little idea about whether you have the best hand or not. These are the kind of situations in which you lose money in poker, avoid them and just play strong hands when you are in early position.

The significance of starting hand selection

Starting hand selection is really important since it allows you to avoid sticky situations post flop, particularly when you are a beginner.

Starting hand selection example

Suppose you are not using a good starting hand selection and you choose to call a raise holding K Spades THeart . The flop is KHeart 8Clover 2Diamond and you get top pair, which seems to be quite a strong hand. Your opponent bets into you and you decide to call, since you have top pair.

The turn is 4 Diamond , and the other player bets on you again. You are still satisfied with the strength of your hand and you call.

The river is a 7 Clover , and the other player bets into you once again. You decide to make the call holding your top pair and you believe you can still have the best hand, but your opponent shows KDiamond Q Heart .

He also holds a pair of Kings but he holds the higher kicker, so he wins the pot.

Starting hand selection example evaluation

This usually happens with poker beginners, and can be avoided in a simple way because all you have to do is being stricter with your starting hand selection. If you have top pair it means you have a good hand, but it can also be easily beat with a better kicker. The size of your kicker will determine who wins the pot and this is why it is so important to have two big cards and not just one.

In Texas Hold'em you receive two cards; you should check that both of them are good cards before you enter a pot. You'll lose more money than you'll win with an ace and a low kicker.

Avoid calling raises or entering pots when you have hands such as A4 or K7, since you'll have more trouble with them than good results. Check that you are the player with the bigger kicker whenever you play and take the money from the opponents who have weaker hands.

When you have a good position, it is reasonable that you bring down your starting hand requirements. When you are last to act, your position will give you an advantage over the other players and it means that you don't need such a good hand to play with since along the way you'll get the information you require from your opponents since they'll act first.

Having information about the other players hands depending on the way they play will make up for the fact that you are holding a weak hand. Yet, you should be ready to fold if necessary because the fact that you have a good position does not mean that you will win the hand. You just have an extra advantage. You should enter pots with weaker hands only when you acquire enough experience.

Starting hand selection evaluation

As you gain experience from playing poker frequently you should try and expand your starting hand requirements. However, if you are a beginner, you should stick to big cards in order to have the best chance to win money playing poker.

When you enter a pot with a poor hand, you'll get poor results.

Avoid entering pots when you have any hand just because it seems to be good or because it is suited because you'll probably get in trouble. Stick to big hands and you'll have more chances of winning.

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