The Best Starting Hands in Poker: Improve Your Poker Game

If you’re looking to up your poker game, one of the best places to start is with your starting hands. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the best starting hands in poker and how you can use them to improve your game. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, these tips will help you take your game to the next level.

Starting Hands in Poker

Should I play these hands or not? This is the question you ask yourself every time a hand is dealt. 

To be able to answer that question, you need to understand the possible starting hands in poker

A deck can contain 169 possible two-card combinations. Some starting hands in poker have better odds than others. Most poker players will know that a pair of aces is a good pair, and a pair of twos is a bad pair.

It’s not as easy as choosing the right hands to play. There are many factors at play. Such as the action for this hand as well as prior hands, your position, and the playing style your opponents. It’s not always easy to figure out the best poker starting hand percentages.

However, it is possible to learn how to understand what makes a hand playable, and when you should keep your chips for a better position.

Let’s take a look at everything you need to know in order to make great decisions before the flop, and to establish a winning poker strategy for cash games.

Starting Hands Based on Position

Three things should be obvious from the chart of poker starting hands:

  1. The stronger your hand (i.e. The closer you are to the top of this chart, the better.
  2. You should be more aggressive when you have limpers in your hand and a little less cautious when dealing with raisers.
  3. Late position can play more hands than any other position.

This is the third point that new poker players need to be aware of. This is the difference between being ‘in place’ and being ‘out of it’. This is a fundamental part of poker strategy.

This is because it gives you an advantage over other players. The dealer position can change with every deal so no one gets more.

Each position on poker table has a name. The image below shows how to search for them at a full ring table. (For 10 players, you can add a middle player). The abbreviations have the following meanings:

  • SB = Small Blind: One left of the dealer and must place a small wager before the cards are dealt to start the action.
  • BB = Big Blind: One left of the small blind and they must double the small blind bet before the flop.
  • UTG = Under the Gun: The player who acts first pre-flop. This position is the most vulnerable in poker because it’s impossible to observe other players.
  • MP = Middle Position: You can generally choose any position between 4th and 7th from the left of the dealer.
  • HJ = Hijack: The player who is two seats to the right of the dealer button. This position can be considered a move to ‘hijack the pot’.
  • CO = Cut off: The position just before the dealer.
  • BTN = Button: The dealer gets to act last during all rounds. The button is the most desirable position as they can monitor all the action and take their turn before it ends.

Position Chart – Hands

Now that you understand what position is and why it is important, you can use this chart to help you decide which hands you should play from.

In late position, many poker players open their hands and decide that any hand that does not have two bad offsuit cards is acceptable for raising an unopened pot. This can be a great way to build a stack, without necessarily needing a strong hand.

There are many factors that affect the percentage of a poker hand that is ‘correct’. However, you will find that most playable hands fall within one of these categories: pairs and aces, premium hands, connectors, and gappers.

Pocket Pairs

Although pairs always look great, there are big differences between ‘premium’ pairings like QQ, KKK, or AA, as well as medium pairs like 77 TT and small pairs like 22-66. Some hands are stronger than others.

  • If you have a strong hand, it’s important to raise the stakes preflop in order to protect your investment. By building a large pot before the flop, or even going all-in, you increase the chances of winning big. It’s crucial to take advantage of any advantage you may have. Calling a preflop wager can be used as a trap, but pocket aces are usually too strong of a hand to slowplay in this way. KK and QQ can also be easily undone by one ace on the flop if they are slowplayed for traps, so use caution with these hands as well.
  • Medium pairs are similar to small pairs in that they offer a lot of value when you flop a set. They can also win a pot without improving. However, they’re worth raising in unopened pots from mid-to-late position.
  • Although small pairs are capable of winning big pots, they often need some help from a third card to complete a set. A bluff is a move that raises an unopened pot from a late position with a small couple. If you get called, however, you have a slim chance of improving to a set, which is a very strong hand. Calling with a small pair can be more appealing than calling with a limper. The extra chips in your pot will give you better odds of hitting that third card and making a set. This is or’set-mining. This play is too costly to be worth if you are faced with multiple preflop raises.

Other Premium Hands

This category includes hands such as JJ, AKs and AQs. These are definitely attractive, but not as strong as premium pairs.

It is a good idea to raise from the late position, as you will often have a strong hand preflop and the potential for a stronger hand on the flip. Depending on your table, you might also consider raising or reraising from other positions.

JJ is strong preflop, but once an overcard drops it’s not a hand you can be confident in. Similar to JJ, AKs, AQs or AKo are often the strongest hands preflop.

However, if an overcard falls, you have only a high hand and can be defeated by any pair.

These attractive hands can be hard to let go of. However, if you don’t connect with the flop or face serious aggression, it is time to be realistic about your chances.


We’re talking about non-paired and un-premium ace such as A2 and A2-J.

A non-premium ace hand can be fumbled if it does not have a strong kicker. This is because other aces will likely have a stronger kicker, which can lead to your hand being dominated and ending as a loser.

Suited Aces are more appealing, because they have the potential to make the nut flush. However, you should consider these drawing hands, and aim to see the flip cheaply without committing too much cash.

Suited Connectors

These cards are cards that are closely related by rank, such 34, 78, or 9T and are of the same suit. These hands are strong because they have the potential to make a straight or flush. However, the most common situation is flopping a small piece such as a pair or gutshot draw.

It is rare to flop a large hand with suited connectors. You may also end up with a weak flush, straight, or even a pair that is difficult to fold.

On the flip side, if you do make your hand using suited connectors you will often have well-detailed hand that could win a lot of cash.

Due to the above reasons, suited connectors should only be played when it is cheap to do so. Preflop raises and 3-bets with drawing hands such as these are difficult to call unless your stacks are deep and if you feel you have an advantage over your opponent.

Also suited connectors also perform better in position than they do out of position . It is therefore advisable to open-raise them from later position, but not from early position. We don’t encourage preflop calling, but if the action is folded to your hand and you have a hand to play, you should raise.

If you don’t feel your hand is good enough for you to raise, just fold.

Connectors for offsuits work in a similar way, but are worse. If the cards are very high (e.g. 89o+, the pot is small and the opposition is weak. However, be careful.

Suited Gappers

Gappers connect almost in the same way as connectors, but there is a gap between the cards. “One-gappers” are hands like 79s or TQs. This is because the cards have a gap between them of one rank.

It can make for good, disguised hand when they hit. The larger the gap (e.g. A gap of 96s would be called a “two-gapper”, but it is important to remember that you are not going to connect with your flop in a meaningful manner too often.

However, gappers can still make some surprising and unexpected hands when they hit the flop. You want to find a situation in which the cards aren’t too low, the cost isn’t too high, and you have position. Just like connectors, it is important to have them suited.

Understanding Table Dynamics in Hold’em

As you become a better Hold’em player, you will need to know what to hold, fold, and when to raise. Every table is unique, so you should always consider the table dynamics when deciding how to play.

A table could be quite passive with many preflop limpers and multiway players. It could be filled with aggressive players who raise often and make 3-bets to discourage limpers. This can lead to large pots that are contested by fewer players.

It’s worth taking the time to understand the temperature at the table before you sit down at a poker table for the first time. Once you have a good understanding of the game’s overall feel, the table dynamic, you can adjust your play to take advantage of it.

We recommend that you play a little looser than the average at a very loose table, and a little looser than the average at a very tight table.

The first puts you in a position where you can maximize value with your hands. You should therefore focus on the top of your range and not spend too much on pots with hands such as gappers or low connectors. This allows you to pick up lots of small pots or blinds as you won’t face as much resistance at tight tables.

You can then add more suited connectors gappers and bluffs.

What are some good starting hands in poker? (What hands should I play in poker before the flop)

Preflop, the best hands to play poker with are always big pocket pairs (such a Ace-Ace, King King-King and Queen–Queen), followed closely by big suited connectors like Ace-King as well as medium pairs. Your hand strength is heavily determined by your position. Tables such as the one shown above divide hands into early, middle, and late positions.

Who is the first person to place a bet in Texas Hold’em Poker?

The first player to place a wager is the one to the left of the big blind. Betting continues in a clockwise fashion. The action begins with the player left of the button remaining in the game after the flop.

How many starting hands can you make in poker?

Texas Hold’em has a total of 169 unique poker hands. These include 13 pocket pairs, 78 suited and 78 unsuited hands. While all of these hand types can win, we recommend that beginning players adopt a tighter strategy – by playing only the strongest hands, you’ll increase your chances of winning pots.

What does “preflop” mean?

Preflop refers the phase that occurs after the big blind and small blind are posted, but before the flop is revealed. This initial phase, also known as the preflop betting phase, is where players place bets and have their pocket cards.

How much should I raise?

This will depend on the position of your opponents and the stack size at your table. You will need a stronger hand to raise from an early position. A minimum raise may not be considered serious by your opponents.

Since button raises are common, you might need to bet a larger amount to “steal the blinds”. Middle position is trickier, but as a baseline we’d recommend raising three times the big blind with hands like 22+/AT+/KJ+/89s-JQs/A2s-A5s – around 15.5% of hands. If you are playing against tight players to your left, you might find success raising hands like suited connectors or suited cards like K9.

What are the best starting hands in poker, pre-flop?

Three main concepts can help you determine which hands should be played preflop: Equity, implied odds, and position. Equity is the value of your hand in relation to other players’ hands.

Implied odds refers to the potential winnings for that hand versus how much you have to call. Position refers to where you stand relative to the button.

Preflop, you will find the best hands to play are big pocket pairs (Ace – Ace being the best), premium hands and big suited connectors.

Which hand is the best in poker?

A royal flush is the best hand in poker. It consists of the Ace, King and Queen, Jack, as well as 10 cards from a single suit. In Texas Hold’em, the odds of getting a royal flush are 1 in 30,940.

How much should I play Texas Hold’em poker?

There are many factors that can influence whether or not you play a hand. However, playing more than 15-20% at a full-ring table (9-10 people) over a significant period of time would be considered too loose. It is important to be flexible at a six-handed table. You should not open more than 20% of the pots.


It is difficult to decide when and how to play each possible poker hand preflop, but it starts with understanding the best starting hands in poker.

However, these guidelines on best starting hands in poker will help you get the best out of it. Realistically, many decisions will depend on the opponent and the situation.

Experience will help you recognize opportunities and avoid making mistakes.