Simple Strategy for Texas Hold ’Em Poker Starting Hands

Anita Guo
Anita Guo
Jan 22 · 5 min read

“It takes a moment to learn, but a lifetime to master”.

So how do you play Texas Hold’em?

Players are trying to make the best five-card hand according to the poker rankings. In hold’em, each player is dealt two cards facing down, called the “hole cards”. Then over the course of the game, five more cards are dealt in the middle of the table in three stages. These cards are called the “community cards” because every player uses them to make the best five-card hand out of the seven total cards (the two hole cards and the flop, turn and river cards) in any combination.

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Starting Hands Cheat Sheet:

Pre-Flop: (before the first 3 community cards are shown)

Pocket aces (pair of aces) :

Pre-flop: packet aces show up once every 221 hands, which is only a 0.45% chance of happening! This is possibly the best starting hands possible so make this count. Also, focus on getting money into the pot early in the game to maximize the value. But if the community cards don't improve your hand your pair aces can be beaten by other random 2 pairs and sets.

Set: making three of a kind by having a pocket pair that matches one of the cards on the board.

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Pocket kings (pair of kings):

Pre-flop: pocket kings are almost the same as pocket aces.

Post flop: after the first 3 cards (flop)on the board are shown, if your kings are the overpair on an unconnected board, you most likely have the best hand, so it’s best to focus on getting value from top pair hands and lower overpairs (any pair larger than any card on the board, but smaller than pocket king).

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overpair: is a pocket pair that is higher than any card on the board.

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underpair: is a pocket pair that is lower than any card on the board.

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KK: odds are 22/1 (96%) against someone having a better starting hand at a 9-handed table pre-flop

AK: odds are 22/1 (96%) against someone having a better starting hand at a 9-handed table pre-flop

Pocket Queens and Jacks:

Pre-flop: QQ and JJ are foldable pre-flop in some situations. If it’s a conservative table of players who only bet with legit high hands, then it might not be wise to get involved after a raise and a re-raise with pocket queens and jacks.

QQ: odds are 10.5/1 (91.3%) against someone having a better starting hand at a 9-handed table pre-flop

JJ: odds are 7/1 (87.5%) against someone having a better starting hand at a 9-handed table pre-flop

post flop: if pre-flop bets are aggressive, it’s very likely that you are playing against a bigger pocket pair of AK. Only continue if your opponents show signs of weakness or the board shown improves your hand.

Pocket pairs below Jacks:

pre-flop:

  • playable for set value if it’s folded to you or if you are facing one raise before the flop.
  • with lower pocket pairs, you can raise opponents in a light position, but you’d mostly be set-mining.

set-mining: when calling a raise preflop with a pocket pair to try and hit a set (three of a kind) on the flop (first 3 community cards) and win a large pot from your opponents.

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post-flop: if you don’t hit your set (three of kind), don’t bet. If you do hit it, try to get as much value as possible from the other players.

The lower your set, the better chance you find yourself in a set under set situation.

“Set over set” refers to the situation in poker when two players both have “sets”. A “set over set” will usually result in a very large pot, because a set is considered very strong hands.

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Final thoughts:

Learning how to play poker is just the beginning, the next steps are to learn strategies which include understanding the good starting hand selection, the probabilities, and odds and many other aspects of the game. Practice, practice, practice!

References:

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