Best & Worst Starting Hold’em Poker Hands

Here I will give you what I and others consider to be the best and worst starting hands to play in Texas Hold’em, be it at your favourite online casino or poker room. Lets start with the top ten hole cards to play pre-flop (the two cards you are dealt face down). You will generally be in very good shape per-flop with any of these hands .

Ten Best Starting Hold’em Poker Hands


These are poker hands that I’m going to raise before the flop comes to try and get rid of any players that may be holding garbage.

1. Ace – Ace: Also known as pocket rockets, and the bullets, this is the best starting hand you can get in Texas Hold’em Poker. Always raise 6x – 8x the blinds when holding this hand . Some like to slow play the aces, but if you are not careful you will not know where you stand after the flop. So raise and raise big and you should win more pots with this hand than you will lose.

2. King – King: Two kings, or the “cowboys” can only be beat pre-flop by the bullets, so again bet big. The 2nd-best hold’em hand is still incredibly strong and will win you a good majority pots with it.

3. Queen – Queen: Known as the “ladies” they are powerful and play them as such. Just be careful of those Aces and Kings if one comes on the board.

4. Ace – King: Be careful when playing “Big Slick” ! This drawing hand* needs some help with the board so I’m wary if I’ve been called after making a sizable raise pre-flop. Suited it is slightly stronger than unsuited due to the nut (the highest flush possible) flush possibility.

5. Jack – Jack: Jack-Jack or better known as the “hooks” will win a fair amount of the time, about 20%. Just watch out if you see a queen, king, or an ace on the flop!

6. Ace – Queen: Ace-queen, along with 10-2 is known as “the other Brunson Hand”. The reason for that is Doyle Brunson states in his Super System book that he will NOT play the hand. It’s still the second best drawing hand however and will win when played suited about 20% of the time.

7. King – Queen: I like this hand very much myself, especially suited, and always try to play it if no one has raised too big or pushed (going allin) before me. A very strong drawing hand, I’m only afraid of playing this hand if an ace comes on the board.

8. Ace – Jack: This is my least favourite of the top ten hands and I always raise the blinds and am very leary if called with ace-jack. The hand just looks better than what it actually is. Suited is slightly better, but be careful with this hand and don’t be afraid to fold it if someone raises over the top of you.

9. King – Jack: In the later positions, king-jack is a fine hand to play. Just remember that it can be beat by any of the hands listed above and should be folded to any big raises.

10. Ace – 10: I don’t consider Ace-10 a very strong hand, but it’s still a good hand to play if you’ve not been raised. If I’m short stacked I may even push with this hand if no one has raised before me and I’m in late position. You’ve got the ace, and can make a straight if the miracle J-Q-K falls on the board. I’m wary of playing the hand though when I’m not short stacked because of the kicker*. Play it too strong, and if all you end up with is a pair of aces, you may very well be out-kicked.

Ten Worst Starting Hold’em Poker Hands


These are the hands that I’m always going to fold before the flop unless I’m in the blinds and noone has raised before me.

1. 7-2: Known as the “beer hand” because you’ll have time to go get a beer after you fold it. They are the lowest two cards you can have that cannot make a straight. Even if they are suited, they will make you a very low flush, and if either pairs, it’s an awfully low hand. Some players will play it for fun just because it is the worst hand and online it is widely known as “the hammer.” I think I would rather go get a beer than play this hand, unless I’m the big blind and get to see the flop for free.

2. 8-2:This is the same basic problem as above, only you’ve got an 8 instead of a 7.

3. 8-3:The 3 makes this hand able to beat the two above it, but with the 3-8 you still can’t make a straight.

4. 6-2: If the board gives you the flop of 3-4-5, you will have a straight, but someone with a 6-7 will have a higher straight. If you get a flush, someone will probably have a higher flush.

5. 9-2 & 9-3 & 9-4: You can’t make the straight and if the 9 pairs big deal. Do you really want to play a pair of nines against all the over cards, 10s, jacks, queens, kings, or aces?

6. 10-2: Known as the “Doyle Brunson” because he captured two World Series of Poker Bracelets with it. But it’s still a terrible hand to play; not everyone can play like the living lengend himself.

7. 9-5: You’ll find some that will play this hand just because it’s known as “Dolly Parton”. The name stuck because of the movie and her song “Working Nine to Five” . That don’t make the hand any better to play though.

8. 7-4 & 8-4 & 8-5 & 6-3: If you see two low cards in the hole, unless you’re in the big blind and you can see the flop for free, just fold. You will just be getting yourself in trouble more times than not by playing low cards like these.

9. Face card + low card, unsuited: These hands are just junk, no way around it. You may win a few pots, but more often than not you will find the other player has the higher kicker giving them the winning hand.

10. Ace + low card, unsuited:This is a very common beginner mistake, playing any ace and I’ve even known some experinced online players that foolishly continue to play “Ace-Rags”. The hand may win occasionally, and heads-up it’s a fine hand, but at a table of 4 or more it should not be played if there’s a raise in front of you. You’re going to find yourself outkicked a lot with Ace-Rags, and rightfully so if you contine to play it, so beware!

*A kicker is a card used in poker to decide ties. If two players have a pair of Aces, who wins will be decided by who has the highest unpaired card, the kicker, if one player has a pair of aces and a king, and the other has a pair of aces and a ten, the player with the king wins.

* A poker player is drawing if he has a hand that is incomplete and needs further cards to become valuable. The hand itself is called a draw or drawing hand.