The majority of poker games in casinos are No-Limit Texas Hold’em. The game continues to soar in popularity despite the numerous pundits pointing out that the poker boom is dead.
If you want to consistently show positive results playing Texas Hold’em, how you handle your cards pre-flop will be vital. Many players start with understanding the primary position of the best starting hands but don’t study the best strategies for playing the hands.
Most players can dramatically increase their poker winning by developing a solid pre-flop betting strategy. Unfortunately, they don’t understand the value of winning small pots by getting the weaker hands out of the game early.
Let’s examine the 10 best starting hands in Texas Hold’em and how to play them. You can start using these tips immediately to be a better poker player.
Nothing Beats Bullets
When you peak at the corners of your hole cards and see the welcoming A/A smiling back at you, adrenaline instantly starts pumping. There’s no better starting hand in Texas Hold’em.
You’ll only get a pair of aces, approximately one out of every two hundred hands. That means you need to make them count.
You accomplish that by getting money into the pot early. There’s a line between inviting calls or re-raises and scaring everyone off the pool.
If someone with a poor hand wants to see a flop, make them pay for it. The same goes for post-flop play; make your opponent value your aces.
While it’s vital that you set the tone with your aces, you’re merely sitting with the top pair if you don’t see any improvement after the flop. Don’t fall into the trap of overvaluing your aces after the river.
Cowboys Should Get the Blood Pumping
A pair of kings is almost as powerful as having pocket aces. You want to get money in the pot and push out the hands, hoping for a draw.
Play your kings strong, and if the flop brings an ace, stay the course. I can’t tell you how many players overvalue having an ace to accompany their bottom pair.
You may not want to raise three times the pot post-flop when an Ace comes, but you shouldn’t automatically check either. Kings are almost always good, so try to keep the pot small, hoping you’ll get some help.
Ladies Will Win a Lot of Poker Hands
Queens are one of the best hands pre-flop but may lose a ton of appeal after the flop. Your best option with queens is to read the room.
If you’re seeing raises and re-raises, you’re likely up against players with A/K or better. However, if you can get to a flop, the power may swing back in your favor.
The last thing you want to see with such a strong hand is a player limping in with 9/6 suited and catching trips or a flush because you slow played your queens.
Pocket Jacks Are a Blessing and a Curse
Pocket jacks probably get folded more by solid players and overvalued by weak players than any of the top pairs. Jacks are tricky because they put you ahead of almost every hand, but there’s plenty that can go wrong.
The higher value cards are floating around. Even when nobody in the pot has an ace, king, or queen, the cards can pop up on the board and put a severe dent in your confidence.
It would be best if you still bet with jacks, but you may consider making a smaller bet than you would with aces or kings. Yet, making a similar-sized bet could help disguise your hand.
With pocket jacks, you’re hoping to hit a set at some point in the hand. Whether or not that will be good enough depends on how effectively you push out the trash hands early.
Big Slick Makes for a Fun Hand
Ace/King suited is one of the better starting hands in Texas Hold’em to play pre-flop. While the hand may not look as strong on paper as pocket jacks or queens, I’ll take my chances.
Having the big slick gives players more outs than a pair of jacks. When you bump into a player holding pocket queens, they have a clear advantage, but you’ll only need to pair one of your cards to beat them the majority of hands played.
Even if you can get one card away from your flush, the value is usually there for staying in the pot. Play conservatively with this hand post-flop and hope for improvement.
I’ve won a ton of hands with A/K suited, both with and without improvement from the board.
Ace/Queen Suited Gets Overplayed More Than Any Hand
Don’t confuse A/Q for A/Q suited. There’s a massive difference between the two hands. A/Q suited gets overvalued more than any of the top ten starting hands in Texas Hold’em.
The best way to play the hand is to determine where you stand early. If you’re among the first to act, bet aggressively and see who reacts.
From a late position, watch the action ahead of you. If players are raising and re-raising, it may best serve you to fold the hand.
However, if you’re at a table with weaker players who play loose, your A/Q suited may be in play. In every scenario I’m presenting, it’s critical that you read the room.
Two Tens Beats Most Hands
Pocket tens are among the best starting hands but are less likely to hold up than your “fishhooks.” I look at pocket tens as one of those hands that looks great pre-flop but terrible on the river.
There are understandably many caveats to that. But without any improvement, your tens aren’t going to hold up as often as you’d think.
You can’t make money playing Texas Hold’em by continually allowing weaker players with bad hands to limp in and see the flop. If you want to be a better poker player, start by being more aggressive.
Don’t Fold Your Ace/King
Most players know the value of A/K even when they’re not suited. That makes them one of the top ten starting hands in Hold’em.
I don’t play A/K much differently whether they’re suited or not. My goal is to get money in the pot and pair the board.
If you can get the first thing accomplished, it’s not always vital that you pair the board right away. Less-skilled players are going to hesitate to bet their Q/9 suited after you’ve shown strength early.
Still, you need to be willing to let the hand go if someone gets froggy after the flop.
Ace/Jack Suited Has a Ton of Potential
Ace/Jack suited is a top ten hand, but that doesn’t make it great. I’ve seen the best players in the world fall in love with their blackjack and get knocked out of events.
Getting a flush or straight will virtually assure that you win the pot. Even pairing your hole card on the flop may be enough to take the money and run.
Pair on Nines Beats King/Queen
Depending on who you ask, K/Q suited ranks as the tenth best starting hand in Texas Hold’em. But there will be an equal number of poker fans telling you those pocket nines are much better.
I fall into the latter category. I believe it’s always best to have a better hand as early as possible.
Since pocket nines already beat K/Q, they get my vote. Furthermore, if you pair the board, pocket nines will win more hands than K/Q.
I’m not trying to get involved in a high-priced pot with a pair of queens. But give me trip nines, and I’m your huckleberry.
There are many ways opponents can beat you with nines, so focus on raising from late position. Don’t overextend yourself for the sole purpose of seeing a flop. You’ll be better off long-term folding the nines and never looking back.
Our Final Thoughts
Savvy poker players can quickly spout off the 10 best starting hands in Texas Hold’em and how to play them in any situation. Start learning the strength of where you sit early in hands and how to leverage that to your advantage.
Being a better poker player starts by separating yourself from the weaker players. Knowing the best starting hands and having a general strategy for playing them is a step in the right direction.