Poker School

Starting hands in poker

Even if you get to see seven cards as each round concludes, you get to see only two cards in the beginning of each round which is known as "hole" cards. This hole card determines the strength of your starting hand and helps you to determine whether to enter the pot or fold.

In three out of four cases, strong starting hands win against weaker starting hands. In order to have a better showdown hand most of the time, you should have a better starting hand pretty often. Hence, it is necessary to have an exact idea on the value of your starting hand before you enter into the pot.

Basically, you have to combine the value of your starting hand with several other influential factors to determine the method in which you have to progress. In this article, you will be learning the difference between good and bad starting hands.


If your starting hand is already a pair, you are holding a hand which is one step up in the hand rankings. Such hole cards are known as pocket pairs.

As you already know, the quality of your hand depends upon the rank of the pair you are holding. Hence, the best starting hand in Texas Hold'em is considered to be a pair of Aces. Also known as pocket Aces, every Texas Hold'em players dream about having dealt with pocket aces as their hole cards.

A pocket pair in Texas Hold'em is capable of winning a hand without the requirement to improve on the flop, turn or the river. The probability of winning the pot without improving the hand varies based on the power of the pocket pairs you are holding. In case if you are holding a pair of aces, your opponent has to make a minimum of two pair in order to beat your hand.

Moreover, if the flop, turn or the river comes up with a third card, you have made a three of a kind or "set". Your hand strength will be utterly invisible to your opponents.

But, you have to be very careful while involving in the pot with weak pocket pairs. Small pocket pairs can get you into trouble if you don't improve your hand. Your opponent player can easily make a higher pair by matching one his high cards with a community card.

For example, if you are holding (4h-4s) you can lose to an opponent player holding (Qh-10s) if he/she hits a Queen or Ten on the flop, turn or river.

The strongest pocket pairs often designated as monster hands, while weaker pocket pairs are considered as best speculative hands and even as trash hands at times.


On an average, you can get dealt with a pocket pair only once in every 16 hands. This means that most of the time your starting hand is not going to be a pocket pair; hence you have to figure out another procedure to calculate its strength.

Here are some guidelines for you to determine the strength of your starting hand:


The advantage of being dealt with a high card is that you have better chances of winning if none of your opponents made a hand with the community cards and also if you hit a pair of your high card.

For example,

Player X: Ah - Kc

Player Y: Qs - Jd

In the above case Player X is in great advantage as he is holding the high card, Player X win the hand if :

  • None of the players hits a pair
  • Both of the players hits a pair

The chances Of Player Y to win is only by connecting with community cards in a more significant way by making a stronger hand.

It is always better to have two high cards than just one as you will have a good "kicker" to boost your hand.


Usually in pre-flop, having suited cards are considered to be more valuable than having connected cards. If both of your hole cards are of the same suit, the chances of you making a flush is noticeably higher. As well as, a flush which involves both of your hole cards is considered to be stronger than a flush made out of just one of your two hole cards.

For example, if you are holding (9c-8c) and the table shows Ac Jc 7h 3c you are possibly having the best hand. But, if you are holding (9c-8h) and the table shows Ac 10c 7c 2c, you might not be having the best hand since, any player with higher clubs than nine beats your hand.


In attempts to make straight, cards of similar ranks becomes a decisive factor. The closer in rank your hole cards are, higher the chance of you making a straight, e.g. Jc 10s. The bigger the gap between your hole cards, the less likely you are going to make a straight. For e.g. As 9h, It is no longer possible to make a straight involving both cards as the gap between the two cards is four.

Connectors of high ranks are exceptionally valuable. Excluding pocket pairs, the best starting hand is considered to be Ac Ks or Ad Kc etc. Even though these connectors can be used to play in any situation, these cards are also known for getting players into trouble. Because of the fact that, these card needs to improve in order to beat even the smallest pocket pair in an opponent's hand.

The weakest cards in Texas Hold'em low ranked unconnected cards of different suits, e.g. 7h 2c. These cards are considered to be the worst starting hand in Texas Hold'em as the two cards are low in rank which cannot be used together to form a straight or a flush.

In the upcoming lesson, we will take a look into the effect of your starting hand type on your game play. Simply put, we will be learning what you should do once you have assessed the strength of the hand you are holding.

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