In No-Limit Texas Hold ’em Poker, it’s essential to have an excellent starting hand. This is crucial as it prevents you from entering pots with average or above-average cards. This could lead you to lose your stack on the way.
Starting hand selection is nothing but selecting good cards to start with over bad ones and thus folding weaker hands as soon as you get them.
Any hand can indeed win in Texas hold ’em Poker, but the matter of fact is some hands have a better probability of winning than others. Sticking with strong starting hand selection is profitable in the longer run.
The Top Hand Selection
Good starting hands in Hold ’em Poker are typically big pocket pairs and big connectors. Some of the top starting hands are: AA, KK, QQ, AK (Suited)
Note: The suited factor increases the value of cards as it creates a possibility of Flush
These are the top-tier hands when it comes to starting hands, and if we were to be dealt just these hands, we’d rarely lose. If we folded every other hand and just played these hands, there’s a fair probability that we’ll be profitable in the long run. This would only work at lower levels where players are probably not aware that we only play premium hands.
Tier-2 Starting Hands
If we play these hands, we’d be folding the majority of the hands and miss out on chances to win. Even though these are the best of hands, there are other hands out there that can still win us in the long run if we play them right.
Such Hands include AK (offsuite), AQ(Suited), AJ (Suited), KQ (Suited), JJ, TT.
This adds another six hands to start with, increasing the number of pots we will be playing.
Top 10 Starting hands
If we stick to the above range, we should be on the right track to be profitable in Poker. Any new player should try their best and stick to these top 10 hands
- AK (Suited)
- AQ (Suited)
- KQ (Suited)
- AJ (Suited)
- AK (Offsite)
When your game improves
You can open up your range now and play more marginal hands like suited connectors like 9-T, JQ, or even A2. However, if you’re new, you’re better off sticking with the top 10 hands and make the post-flop play much more manageable.
Position & Hand Selection
Your position on the table plays a significant role in determining your range of cards you play.
Tip: Play stronger hands in early positions compared to late positions.
This means if you’re in an early position, stick playing with the top two tiers of hands and avoid playing hands like AQ (offsuite), AJ (suited), AT, KQ (Suited), and so on. If you’re late to act and there has been some action before you, you can afford to more comfortably plat these sorts of hands.
Why is the position important?
If you’re early to act, you’re at a disadvantage to the rest of the players acting after you. Therefore, to avoid losing pots, we play tighter at an early position.
Acting first means you have no information about what hands other players have. If you’re playing with an average hand, you’ll likely fall in a spot where you’ll have no idea if you have the best hand or not. These situations take a player’s significant chunk of the stack. To avoid falling into these traps by playing stronger hands in early positions.
Hand Selection & Sticky Situations
Starting hand selection is vital because it helps save us from sticky situations post-flop, especially if we are new to the game.
Strong starting hands are the key to playing an aggressive and safe game post-flop.
Let’s say we’re not following a strong hand selection, and we decide to raise with KT (offsuite). The flop comes K82 (rainbow), giving us a top pair, which looks like a pretty strong hand. Our opponent bets the pot, and we call it because we have a top pair. Then the board hits a 4, and our opponent bets again. We still have the leading pair, and we call as we’re always happy with the strength of our hand.
River comes 7, and our opponent bets one final time. We make the call thinking we have a stronger hand than our opponent, but then he turns over KQ (offsuite). He has a king too, but with a better kicker, so he takes down everything.
The Bottom line
As you play more hands and games, gain experience of the game, it’s a good idea to start widening your starting hand range, and experiment on spots. However, if you’re new, stick to the big cards that give you an easy post-flop game.