Texas Holdem Poker

Best Starting Hands

In Texas Holdem Poker, there are 169 different two card starting hands. This number assumes, for the sake of argument, that A♣K♣ is the same as A♠K♠, A♥K♥ and A♦K♦.

These 169 combinations fit into one of the following five categories:

  • Pairs, eg 2♣2♥
  • Connecting cards, eg 10, J
  • Cards with gaps, eg 2,8
  • Connecting cards of the same suit eg 7♥, 8♥
  • And cards of the same suit with gaps eg 2♥, 8♥

The smaller the gap, the more likely a straight (in general)

You can obtain tables of odds that tell you the probability that each of the 169 combinations will end up winning the game. However, in this article I will just detail the ten best and the ten worst starting hands.

The Ten Best Hands

If you want to be a great Texas Holdem Poker player, you need to know which hands you should play and which hands you should fold. The following is a list of the ten best starting hands and it is a good place to start your education.

Please be aware that there is some disagreement amongst players as to which hands are the best, so think of this as a guide and not cast in stone. Also be aware of the fact that a good starting hand can quickly turn bad if unfavourable community cards are dealt.

1. A pair of aces

A pair of aces, also known as "pocket rockets" or "American Airlines" is the best starting hand.

2. A pair of kings

Second on the list is a pair of kings, also known as "cowboys" or "King Kong."

3. A pair of queens

This is the third best initial hand.

4. Ace-King (suited)

Note that the order of numbers 4, 5 and 6 in this list is debatable. However, Ace - King (suited) will obviously always be better than Ace - Queen.

5. A pair of jacks

6. Ace-Queen (suited)

7. King-Queen (suited)

8. Ace-Jack (suited)

9. A pair of tens

The only combination in the top ten that does not contain a picture card or an ace.

10. Ace-King (offsuit)

This is the only starting hand in the top 10 without a face card: a pair of tens (aka "dimes").

The Five Worst Hands

You would be unlikely to want to play the following hands, unless you've placed the big blind bet and noone has raised the pot before the flop. Otherwise, fold them quickly.

1. 2-7 (offsuit)

This is the worst hand because there are very few positive options. There is no chance of a straight and no chance of a flush. Even if you get a pair, it is unlikely to be a high pair and thus a winning hand. Obviously there is a remote chance that a bizarre flop, eg two sevens and two two's, could give you a full house. However, this remote probability does not make this a hand that you should play.

The hands below are only slightly better, 2-4 because the cards have a higher rank, the last one (5) because there is a theoretical probability of a straight.

2. 2-8 (offsuit)

3. 3-8 (offsuit)

4. 2-9 (offsuit)

5. 2-6 (offsuit)


Tip: in online poker, tick the box that allows you to automatically muck a losing hand.