Best Poker Starting Hands
A thorough knowledge of the value of poker starting hands, and how to determine the best starting poker hands in a game, will help you in this first step that will decide all your further actions. Playing too many starting hands leads to lots of tough spots that could have been avoided. By playing too few starting hands on the other hand, you can be easily blinded away and won’t make any profit, and you won’t be paid off when you have the best poker hands.
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There are a ton of poker hands that simply can’t be played profitably in any position, so you’ll have to find the right balance when choosing what starting hands to play. One of the most important factors is your position. Starting hands can be divided into four groups according to position: hands to be played in early, middle, late position, and from the blinds.
This poker school advises you to play tight at first and open up your poker starting hand ranges from there, as you learn more about how to play starting hands in poker and become more skillful postflop.
How To Play Starting Hands In Poker
Raise in early position
99+, AQs+, AQo+
At a 10-max table, you might try to limp with hands like 88, 77, 66. At a 6-max table, you can add KQs to your early position opening range. You can prevent many tough situations as a beginner by not playing starting hands like AJ, KJ, KQ, QJ, small pocket pairs and suited connectors in early position. This range might seem a bit tight, but it’s better to be on the safe side before you get more confident with your postflop play.
Raise in middle position
77+, AJs+, KJs+, AJo+, KJo+
Limping generally shouldn’t be part of your game plan. When you decide to play, you should raise the majority of the time. If there are some tight players acting after you, you might also open with starting hands like JTs, T9s, 98s, 87s. These hands should always be connectors. With a gap between the two cards (e.g. 79) the hand is worth much less. It’s OK to fold these hands for now, but they have quite a lot of potential when played right.
Call in middle position when someone raised
TT-66, AQs-AJs, AQo-AJo
It’s hard to pinpoint the right range for this situation because it largely depends on how tight the raiser is and what type of opponents there are left to act after you. If the raiser is a very tight player, you’d better fold AJ, KQ and 77, and call with suited connectors. With these connecting starting hands you’ll have a chance to surprise your opponents. You might be able to play connectors in position if all goes well, plus they play well in multiway pots, as you’re not aiming to make pairs with them, as with hands like AK, AQ that usually hold up until showdown if you hit your top pair. Multiway pots make for better pot odds with a draw, as well as increase the likelihood that someone pays you off when things go right. This is a very important aspect of suited connectors to understand because you’ll have to fold them on the flop play quite often. When you call with hands like AJ, AQ, KQ in position, you’re aiming to catch bluffs winning smaller pots, while playing suited connectors, you’re trying to make a hand that will be payed off.
Reraise (3bet) in middle position when someone raised
JJ+, AKs, AKo
You should be pretty tight here, because the raiser before you opened in early position showing a lot of strength, and there are some more players left to act, so you’re trying to keep the number of players seeing the flop as low as possible, or if they’re curious enough, make them pay for it.
Raise in late position
22+, A2s+, K8s+, Q9s+, J9s+, T8s+, 97s+, 87s, 76s, A7o+, KTo+, QTo+, JTo
As I mentioned earlier, it’s this position where you’ll make most of your profit and make up for your losses posting the blinds. So there’s a very wide range of starting hands you can open with if no one raised before you, since you’ll have a good chance of playing in position all through the hand (guaranteed on the button). It cannot be overemphasized how important this is. If the blinds are tight and fold a lot to preflop raises, your late position opening range can be even wider than that. You can add hands like every Ax, 2- or even 3-gap suited connectors and a couple of Kxs hands. Even if the blinds tend to call, you can stick to the range above. But if they start reraising, you’ll have to tighten up a bit – obviously folding the weakest starting hands in the suggested range – but it’s a good starting point, especially on micro limit, where 3betting from the blinds is not very common. The more confident you’ll be, the more you’ll open up your late opening range.
Reraise (3bet) in late position when someone raised
TT+, AQs+, AQo+
I’ll get back to 3betting in general in the chapter on preflop play, because it’s hard to establish a concrete set of starting hands without taking into account a lot of other factors. For instance, you don’t 3bet the early open of a tight player with AQ, but you’ll definitely consider it when a loose poker player opens in middle position.
Call in late position when someone raised
99-77, AJs, KTs+, QTs+, J9s+, T9s, 98s, 87s, 76s, AJo, KJo+
Calling a raise increases the value of your starting hand when you call in position. If your opponent plays a sincere, predictable game, you don’t even have to make a hand postflop to win the pot. As I said about 3betting ranges, a lot depends on who opened and in what position. In some cases it’s better to just call with AQo, and some suited connectors are playable too in this situation. One thing you shouldn’t do is call raises with A-small hands (A3, A8 etc.). The reason is simple: if your opponent has an ace, he’s usually ahead, if he hasn’t, then he won’t put much money in the pot if the ace hits.
Reraise (3bet) from the blinds when someone raised
JJ+, AKs, AKo
It’s best to defend your blind with a very tight range at first, and almost strictly for value. At micro stakes, lots of your 3bets will be called and you’ll be left to play a large pot out of position with a mediocre starting hand. As your postflop play improves and you read your poker opponents better, you’ll be able to defend your blind a lot more often, but until then, only reraise for value!
Call from the blinds when someone raised
TT-88, AQs-AJs, KJs+, AQo-AJo, KJo+
Another case when you shouldn’t play too many starting hands, and even if you do, make sure you consider who raised and in what position. Against an early position raise by a tight poker player, very few hands are good enough to call with, whereas against a loose opponent, your calling range can be a bit wider.
Useless starting poker hands
K6s-K2s, Q7s-Q2s, J7s-J2s, T7s-T2s, 96s-92s, 85s-82s, 74s-72s, 63s-62s, 52s, 42s, 32s, K7o-K2o, Q9o-Q2o, J8o-J2o, T7o-T2o, 96o-92o, 85o-82o, 75o-72o, 62o+, 52o+, 42o+, 32o
There are some hands that are playable, but you won’t find them in either the useless category or among the playable ones. These starting poker hands can be played against certain players in some situations, so they’re not entirely useless. These missing hands are the ones that will widen your ranges at some point, but to keep things simple I didn’t include them in any of the categories yet.
Conclusions On Starting Hand And The Best Poker Hands
As you can see, there are no rigid starting ranges, as in poker all factors are interrelated, so these groups of starting hands are just approximations that you can and will have to depart from to play optimally. It takes time to get the feel of how it goes and to find the best poker hands. Always try to finetune your starting hand range to your opponent! Play more hands in position, and be cautious out of position. It’s OK to play very few hands when you’ll act first postflop.Free Poker Download Now Get FREE Bonus + Freeroll Tickets
- Always raise when you decide to play a hand preflop!
- Tight is right at micro stakes, don’t try to be a hero.
- A useless hand remains useless even if it’s suited. Fold it!
Now that you have learned more about poker starting hands and the importance of playing the right starting poker hands; sign up to play poker and get your first deposit bonus plus ticket to New Depositor Freerolls.
Good luck at the poker tables!
Team Chocolate Poker