Winning Poker Strategies: Starting Hands Cheat Sheet
No-Limit Texas Hold'em is a game which can make you lots of money if you play your cards right as the saying goes, but in order to play your cards right you have to make sure you understand what hole cards are worth playing and when. Even some of the top rated hands can land you in trouble when playing out of position or not taking notice what the players in front of you have done.
Trying to provide you with a guide on what to do with every single hand in every single situation would yield a book the length of which would be greater than gone with the wind. It is with this in mind we will try to give you an overview of the basic starting hands and when it is best to make use of them.
It is pretty hard to screw up pocket Aces before the flop, unless however you were to fold them. You would be hard-pressed to find any situation in which you would not play pocket Aces before the flop. This is not to say it is necessary to push all in, but you are certainly going to raise or call depending on your position.
It comes to pocket Aces after the flop is important to take note of the board. When it started out as the best possible hand with only two cards being dealt, if the flop cards do not improve your hand be careful not to be sucked in playing against someone who is flopped two pair or three of a kind.
Once again, as with pocket Kings pre-flop you will certainly want to at least live in depending on your position to be able to see the next three cards. Depending on what happens with the flop the only other possible cards, which could be beating you, are pocket Aces.
In a situation where Aces are up against Kings with no other face cards, potential flush or connectors showing, there is a good chance you might end up all in. Although it sucks, it is just part of the game and you need to shake it off. Make sure you take note that if you see an Ace on the flop and you did not catch another King it may be time to toss your cards in.
Pocket Queens and Jacks
Pocket queens and jacks are very often troubled cards, when you look at the charts see these amongst the top hands to play yet you need to proceed with extreme caution. You need to understand the playing style at your table and went all is said and done they are not cards you want to use in a betting contest pre-flop.
Whereas Aces and Kings should always be played, there many situations in which you will fold queens and jacks pre-flop and after the flop. If you see others betting, you need to take a good look at the cards which are out in the fact that there are two cards yet to come it would be very easy to be beaten by a hand such as Ace-King.
You need to remember it is not about playing each and every hand yet about making sure you have your money in the pot the best possible odds in your favor. It is better to fold and preserve your cash than to recklessly be sucked into a pot.
Other Pocket Pairs
Example: 9♠ 9♥, 8♣ 8♦
Playing all other pocket pairs is advisable in certain situations. If you are in early position and there is no action in front of you, it is advisable for you to bet and if you see a raise behind you, may just want to give them up.
Keep in mind with smaller pocket pairs you are looking to see the flop and hopefully catch at least another card to give you three of a kind. If you catch on the flop, you can take it from there but if you are not lucky enough to get your set, you should not bet. Keep this saying in the back of your mind when it comes to small pocket pairs: “No Set, No Bet” in the long run, it will save you lots of money.
Example: A♠ K♥, K♠ Q♦
There are other hands worth playing such as Ace-King, Ace-Queen, Ace-Jack and even King-Queen if you are at a loose table or are in position, meaning being close to the dealer. When playing in position and other players have folded or limped in ahead of you, it may be a good spot to make a two or three bet into the blinds. You may be able to pick up the blinds and call money or at very least scare off the fish so you can see the flop.
You need to be careful of the re-raise or check raise when playing these cards, as it is easy to be out-gunned by even a pair of twos. You always need to be aware of what is happening around you and what position you are playing from.
Should I play Suited Connectors?
Example: 8♠ 9♠, 9♦ J♦
No Limit Hold 'em cash games is a great place to be holding what is known as suited connectors, these are cards with concurrent numbers of the same suit. You will be looking to play these to catch cards on the flop to give you three of a kind, a straight or flush. Playing these cards is far from an assured thing, and is only recommended to play these when you are in later position and nobody in front of you has made a raise.
We know you have seen many players on television saying these are their favorite cards. What they fail to tell you is just how wonderful these cards are when playing in position without having to invest a whole lot of money. This means if you are fifth to act and those in front of you have called the blind is advisable to limp in and try to see the flop. If there is a raise behind you, you may want to reconsider and just toss in your cards. Yet getting the right pot odds to see the flop, and catching the cards you are looking for may end up netting you a great reward.
These cards are a perfect example of what might be good in late position, and cards that are definitely worth folding in early position. These are never a sure thing; you need to be sure you are getting the best pot odds if you are going to play these cards.
Suited Ace Kicker
Example: A♠ 4♠, A♥ 9♥
Playing a suited Ace kicker should be handled in much the same fashion as playing suited connectors. You need to be certain you are getting good pot odds and playing from position. Even if you are able to catch another Ace on the flop it is quite possible you are playing against someone who also has an Ace and very well may have a better kicker. It is also advisable to keep in mind that if you don't hit a set or at least another Ace did not put another dime in to the pot.
Playing Anything Else
Example: 6♠ 9♦, 2♣ 7♣, K♥ 10♦
Almost every other hand is going to lose you money. The only time you will move forward with these types of hands, is when you are playing from the big blind and nobody has made a raise before you have the chance to just check and see the flop. If you do make a hand on the flop make sure you have the nuts before you start betting to big, and be aware of those who can bet in front of you. If you have managed to get in a pot free there are others who have managed to see cards for a great price.
When you play cards that force you to make tough decisions, you have a greater opportunity to make mistakes. Mistakes are what cost poker players money. To avoid making mistakes avoid playing questionable hands. When playing no-limit Holdem cash games, keep in mind there is no time limit, the blinds are not going up so there is no inherent danger to your stack. You simply need to play the hands with the best chance of winning at your own pace. It is better to get to the bank late with money in your pocket than to show up early broke.
Three of the most frequent mistakes made by players are:
- Playing mediocre cards when not in position
- Trying to play hands that should not be played, ever.
- Not folding a mediocre hand when face with a raise
We have provided a list of the best starting hands, and by only playing the hands that are on the list in the positions stated, you are well on your way to building your bankroll.