No Limit Texas Hold'em Starting Hands

Starting Hands

When sitting at a no limit Texas Hold'em poker ring game or tournament, the first decision you must make is what cards to play and what cards to fold. After you are dealt your starting hand, two face down (hole) cards, a round of betting occurs. This is called pre-flop betting. You must decide if your cards are worthy of the bet made by your opponents. At different limits of ring games, and in different stages of poker tournaments, the strategies you will use with starting hands differ.

Low Limit Games and Early Rounds of Tournaments

In lower limit ring games, and at the beginning of a poker tournament (when the blinds are very small), you can play starting hands you would never have consider playing at bigger limits or in later rounds of a tournament - hands like 45 suited and 56, 67, 78, 89, 910 suited. You can limp in (call a very cheap bet to see the flop) with hands like this to see if your straight or flush flops for you. If a hefty bet is laid out in front of you, you can dump your cards and let the monster hands go at it.

You may be thinking, "but what if I limp in with 67 of clubs and 3 clubs flop, isn't it possible that someone is holding AK of clubs and I am dead in the water?". If one of your opponents has the AK of clubs he/she would MOST LIKELY raise pre-flop, giving you your chance to fold. Once in a while this will get you in trouble if someone has slow played a nice hand (AK clubs, KQ clubs, etc.) but this doesn't happen as often as you might think.

This works really well when you flop a nut straight and there are no flush or full house possibilities out after the river card has been dealt. This is where you can bet whatever you want and other players calling your bets are not expecting to see that you have played those cards. You might get them to call an all in bet with 2 pair or even 1 high pair.

High Limit Games and Later Stages of the Tournament

At the higher limits and later stages of tournaments you should play hands like this only in very late position or if you are in the big blind and no one has raised, letting you see the flop for free. Another instance of when you can play hands like this is if you are winning BIG. Say you are in a tournament and you in first place with 50,000 chips and the 2nd place stack has 24,000 chips. You have more than double the amount of chip than the player on your heels and can afford to gamble on cards of less value.

Good Starting Hands to Play

Typically good starting hands are: AA, KK, QQ, JJ, 1010, AK, AQ, AJ and even A10 if it is suited. No matter what limit you are playing or what stage of a tournament you are in, you should feel comfortable in playing these cards. I suggest, especially in high limits and late stages of tournaments to go all in with AA, KK, and QQ. You don't want the player in the big blind to see the flop for free and maybe flop 2 little pair, most likely beating your hand if you don't make your trip. You should always raise the pot at least double what the big blind is on AK and AQ (sometimes AJ), if someone re-raises you all in you must decide if you still want to play these cards. A lot of the time when confronted with this situation I will call the re-raise and hope for a good flop for myself. Another starting hand that I am personally fond of playing is 10J (suited or not, even better if it is suited). I like 10J because all of the straights it makes are the nuts: 78910J, 8910JQ, 910JQK and 10JOKA.

Bad Starting Hands to Play

I would like to stress NEVER play hands like J2 or K4 - hands that do not go together at all. Playing cards like this are playing on pure luck and it is a waste of chips and money. Playing A2, A3, A4, A5, A6, A7, A8,a nd A9 unsuited can get you in trouble as well and you should be cautious if you decide to go in on this kind of starting hand. (When at a table heads up or with 3 or 4 players, it is ok to play your ace since it may be the best out of the 2, 3 or 4 starting hands that are out).

Playing smart and taking into consideration different plays at different times will help your skill level enormously. Some players fold, fold and fold, waiting for AA or KK or AK. This is overly tight play and before you know it you've folded away a ton of money or chips from blinds because you have yet to see your perfect starting cards. Try to be loose when you can afford to be, and you will find yourself winning a lot more pots.

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