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Starting Hands


   The importance of starting hands is difficult to overrate. Playing too many hands is by far the most prevalent and costly poker mistake. For instance, if you start with a pair of eights and your opponent starts with a pair of tens there are four possibilities:

  1. you both improve -- he wins
  2. neither of you improve -- he wins
  3. he improves and you don't -- he wins
  4. you improve and he doesn't -- you win

   Of course this is an extreme over simplification, but you get the picture. Starting with second best is like running a race with weights tied around your ankles. So, which hands do you want to start with? This would be a difficult question to answer from scratch. Fortunately, there's no need for us to reinvent the wheel as this has all been figured out by mathematicians and programmers and refined and simplified by poker players and authors. Although there is some controversy as to the exact ranking of some hands and others are so close as to be irrelevant, there is a general consensus as to which hands are worth opening with. I have listed the starting hands by rank, categorized by game, along with other tips pertaining to your particular brand of poker.


  1. Texas holdem
  2. 7 card stud
  3. Omaha hi-low
  4. Omaha


   You must also keep in mind that the hand rankings listed are for full roundtable games. The actual value of a hand is highly dependent upon the number other hands it is competing against. For example, a pair of queens against ten random hands wins 22.28 percent of the time. The same pair of queens against only four opponents wins 53.74 percent of the time. The lower win rate against more players is compensated for by the fact that when you win against ten players, you usually capture a much larger pot.


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