Your starting hand, otherwise known as your hole cards, is the foundation of your hand.
Here are some relevant facts to give you a general understanding of starting hands:
- There are 169 nonequivalent starting hands that can be dealt.
- There are 13 possible pocket pairs that can be dealt. (A pocket pair is when you are dealt 7-7 for an example)
- Pocket aces (A-A), is the best hand possible. It's dealt about once every 220 hands.
- 2-7 off suit is the worst possible hand.
- The strength of some hands depend on the number of players in the pot. A-K plays better against more opponents, whereas pocket pairs are more likely to win 1v1.
Best 10 Starting Hands:
- A-K suited
- A-Q suited
- A-J suited
- K-Q suited
Importance of the Kicker:
Choosing good starting hands will make post-flop much easier when it comes to decision making. For example, when we have A-Q, and the flop come 4-A-8, it's much more likely that if someone else does have an Ace that we will have the best kicker. (Our Queen would be the "kicker" in this case meaning if we reach showdown (end of the hand, where the pot is awarded to the best hand), and our opponent has A-4, we will most likely win the pot depending on the board. Yes, there are some cases where we will split the pot, but having the best kicker possible is a savior sometimes.
Hand Selection Relative To Table Position:
We talked about Table Position in my last post. In general, we can play a wider selection of hands the better our position is. In an early position we wouldn't want to play anything, but the strongest hands. This will avoid situations where we get raised by a late position player, and now we are in an awkward spot out of position. Also, the more experienced a player gets, the wider selection of hands we will be able to play. Position should be one of the first things we think about when making our first decision in a hand.
Playing Pocket Pairs:
For me, pocket pairs are some of the most difficult hands to play. I mean aces, kings, and queens are fairly easy. I personally like to raise and re-raise pre-flop with these hands and play very aggressive because we almost always have the best equity. Jacks and tens are still very strong, but are a little more difficult to play post-flop. You might encounter an over card, like a king on the flop, making your jacks/tens questionable. I like to play these hands aggressively pre-flop, but if I face a big re-raise I'll usually just call. 2-2 through 9-9 I will usually just try and see the flop as cheaply as possible, and hope to flop a set (3 of a kind). If I am playing heads-up(1v1) or 3-handed(1v1v1), I will usually be more aggressive with 8-8 and 9-9, but for the majority of the time I try to hit a set with these. When you do flop a set, this is very powerful and also very disguised. We should always try to extract as much value as possible, but especially in these situations where we have disguised hands. Slow playing sets is sometimes a good route, or possibly a check-raise.
Index: A = Ace, K = King, Q = Queen, J = Jack, T = Ten, Suited = Two cards of the same suit