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No Limit Holdem Starting Hands Poker Strategy

This is the best article for beginner players because it establishes which hands to play and which hands to fold in No Limit Holdem.

The cards your dealt are the most important thing when deciding to call a pot or raise pre-flop. However, there are a ton of other factors that affect how playable these hands are including the tightness of the table, number of players, table position and your table image. If you want to bluff, and play loosely like a true TAG, than you can play a slightly larger number of hands then outlined below. Nonetheless, the following provides a sound guide to new players in poker.

Premium Hands (AA, KK, QQ and AK)

AA, KK, QQ and AK are the top 4 hands that to be dealt in texas holdem (we can include JJ and 1010 to the mix for short-handed games). You should raise all of these hands 3-4BBs pre-flop to eliminate limpers from the pot. This helps you to narrow down the other players’ holding in post-flop play and it avoids being trapped by a ridiculous monster hand like a straight on a 4-5-6 flop which should never have happened. Eliminating hands marginal and junk hands like 4h-7h helps you know what you’re up against.

If someone has already raised infront of you then you should re-raise (3bet) these hands approximately 3x the initial raise. E.g. opening raise is $4 than you re-raise to $12.

Mid Pocket Pairs (88, 99, 1010 and JJ)

These are still strong hands and always worth raising on un-raised boards. Against an early raiser I’m flat calling these hands and hoping to hit a set or some part of the board on the flop. Overcards are dangerous so you should give these up post-flop without pot odds. However, against late position raisers, I’ll 3bet these hand because from late position they could be stealing for value.

The only caveat to this rule if the player who raised is extremely tight and only plays his top 4 hands (AK+, QQ+). Your best option is to flat-call these hoping to catch a set or chunk of the board.

AQ, AJ and Pocket Pairs (22 – 88)

Difficult hands to play but they can still beat most hands pre-flop and can win massive pots on the flop. Set-mining with pocket pairs is a favourite past time of mine so I’ll happily sit back and call 3-4xbb raises hoping to catch a set on the flop. From late position these are raising hands on un-raised boards.

AQ and AJ can be very dangerous if not played correctly. The danger comes from hitting top pair on the flop but with a weaker kicker (i.e. playing against AK or AA). These are foldable against tight early position raisers who only raise premium hands. Try to raise AQ and AJ from late position on un-raised boards, but make sure you fold to anyone’s re-raise or 3bet.

Marginal Hands (Suited Connectors, High Connectors, Suited Aces and Broadway Cards)

At first, I recommend folding the majority of these hands from early and middle position as a new player, but you should continually add them to your arsenal as your develop your game. These so-called marginal hands are excellent for limping into pots from late position, blind stealing and hitting monsters on the flop.

Junkie Hands (Everything Else)

Throw everything else away. Un-suited un-connected cards like 7h-2d are the worst in poker and you need to throw away junkie hands to stop yourself leaking chips or going bust. Only fish and other losing players play these hands.

You might also want to have a look at Tips for Beginner Poker Players