Starting hands

Lifting hole cardsThere are 1 326 different starting hands in Texas hold’em, but if you leave out the different color constellations there are totally 169.

Which starting hands a player should play is something that has been discussed in many books about poker. By dividing different hands into categories could be helpful for the ranking. This gives an oversight and that method are going to be used here also.

The categories below are only based on the objective strength of the starting hands; therefore, it's not sure that a specific play should be applied on all starting hands in the same category. In the choice of starting hands, you must also consider how many players there are on the table, which structure you are playing in and your own playing style (other articles on this site focus on these subjects).

Abbreviations used: A (Ace), K (King), Q (Queen), J, (Jack), T (Ten), s (suited)

Category 1

A-A
K-K
Q-Q
J-J
A-Ks

General playing instructions: Play in almost all situations and normally raise, re-raise or 3-bet.

Category 2

A-Qs
K-Qs
A-Js
T-T
A-K
A-Ts

General playing instructions: Play in almost all situations and normally raise or re-raise.

Category 3

A-Q
9-9
K-Js
8-8
A-J
K-Ts
Q-Js
K-Q

General playing instructions: Play in most situations and normally raise and sometimes re-raise.

Category 4

A9s
QTs
77
JTs
A8s
A-T
K9s
A7s
KJ
6-6
T-9s

General playing instructions: Play in late positions and sometimes in midle positions depending on the circumstances.

The list will not necessarily correspond to which starting hands that win most in practical play. This depends on different factors. One is that it's very easy to overplay some cards, like A-K. Another kind of "problem hands" is J-J and T-T. These are big hands, but the value of them decreases when a queen, a king or an ace hits the table.

Number of combinations for different hand categories

The most common hands are offsuited hands. Each offsuited hand have twelve possible combinations.
For example A-Ko: A♥-K♦, A♥-K♣ ,A♥-K♠, A♦-K♥, A♦-K♣, A♦-K♠, A♣-K♦, A♣-K♣, A♣-K♠, A♠-K♦, A♠-K, A♠-K♣.

The next most common hands are the pairs. Each pocket pair have six possible combinations.
For example A-A: A♥-A♦, A♥-A♣, A♥-A♠, A♦-A♣, A♦-A♠, A♣-A♠.

The least common hands are the suited hands. Each suited hand have four possible combinations.
For example A-Ks: A♥-K♥, A♦-K♦ ,A♣-K♣, A♠-K♠.

Starting hands charts

All starting hands in Texas hold'em can be displayed shematically in a chart:

Starting hands chart empty
All hands, both with suited and offsuited versions are included. The real benefit of these charts appear when they display ranges, as we will se below.

Starting hands chart with range
Here the green color marks which cards to play. See starting hands ranges for more examples and information.

Written by Oscar Sand

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