On the surface, Texas holdem may appear to be a very simple game to play, which it is, but to be a successful holdem player many skills such as education, patience and experience are needed. The biggest thing to remember about holdem poker is that the best hand doesn’t always win the pot. Holdem is a deceptive game in which your hand strength, opponents hand strength, your position on the table, betting habits, and body/face expressions can dictate who is going to win the game. Every game of holdem has a player who has the strongest hand, the key is to know who it is, and if it isn’t you then you’d better figure out who does.
Keeping in mind that over the long term a majority of hands should be folded before the flop, here are 6 hands that you should consider entering a game with, in order of strength:
Big Pocket Pairs:
Any pocket pair is typically good enough to call the big blind, but there is a big difference between pocket Kings and pocket 2s. AA, KK, QQ, JJ are superior starting hands since from the get-go you already have one of the strongest hands.
Ace-King is considered by many to be stronger than JJ and QQ because connecting on one of your pocket cards instantly gives you a strong pair, plus AK allows the opportunity for a straight (albeit a slim chance). If your AK is suited is also gives you the possibility of a flush.
Medium Pocket Pairs:
77, 88, 99, 1010, are still very good pocket hands, but the board instantly dictates the strength (or lack thereof) of your hand. For example if you have pocket 9s, and on the flop there is A, K, 3 then you must realize that chances are someone already has a higher pair than you and the only way you have a chance at winning is if a 9 comes up on the turn or the river.
Small Pocket Pairs:
22, 33, 44, 55, 66 are alright to call the big blind with, but just like a medium pocket pair, this hand needs some help. Odds of drawing 3 of a kind on the flop are 8-to-1, not the greatest, but some players dont mind those odds if they are in a late position and no one have raised the big blind. If there are 4+ people who have called the big blind, and you just need to call and limp in, most will do it. If by chance you do hit the three of a kind then you know your chances of having the best hand are extremely good.
High cards (not high/low):
Pocket cards like A/10 or J/K are playable, but generally not considered to be a strong hand. Entering on this depends on how tight or loose your poker play is and if the blinds have been raised or re-raised. Its worth mentioning that in this category we are referring to two big cards, not big little, for that see two paragraphs below this one.
Occasionally you can enter with these depending on your position around the table and how the betting before you has ensued:
Suited connectors like 9h/10h are 6th on the strength list, with these cards youre hoping for either a straight or flush to win the hand. Occasionally you may hit a pair on the flop, but if there are any over cards on the board then you probably want to fold unless your chances of a flush or straight are good.
Playing high cards with a low kicker is a definite no-no, since with a hand like K/2 your only real chance of winning is matching your K, and even if you do, if anyone else holds a K, they also have a pair and chances are they have a higher kicker than your 2. But this section is for big/little suited, such as Ah/2h. A hand like this is a judgment call, but more often than not should be folded since your only real chance of winning is if you pull a flush (18-to-1 chances).