Your most important decision at Texas Hold'em is which two-card hands to play. The stronger you are at the game, the more hands you will be able to play for a profit. Reading your opponents and remembering what they are likely to be playing will also go a long way in your success.
However, regardless of whether you are playing limit or no-limit, certain hands are statistically more likely to beat your opponents' than others. Certainly you know that a pair of aces is the best starting hand, but when should you start folding pre-flop?Playable Starting Hands
There are 1326 distinct, two-card starting hands in Hold'em, but just 169 individual hands. Your odds of holding any pair is 1 in 17. Holding a specific pair, like aces, will happen one time in 221 hands. Being dealt Big Slick (Ace and King of the same suit) happens once every 332 hands on average.
When computer simulations are set up to play hands hot and cold against any other hands, only about 40 hands become profitable. Again, expert players who know their opponents and read pot odds correctly will be able to play a higher percentage. If you are new to Texas Hold'em poker, remember that when a player calls your bet they are likely to have much a better starting hand than the opponents in computer simulations. That means your actual chances of winning go down.The Top 40
If you stick to playing the top 40 hands, you will be playing only about 20 percent of the hands you are dealt. And, because many of those will be up against a raise or in poor table position, you are likely to only play 12 to 15 percent of your hands. Sound boring? Perhaps, but playing too many hands is a sure way to go broke. Start with small stakes poker and you'll do fine.Group One Hands - Aces Kings and Queens
When your starting cards are aces, kings and queens, you are likely to win more money than with any other hands. You should be playing these with a raise from any position at the table. No one can have a better starting hand than your aces, and you are likely to call a raise or re-raise with kings and queens too.Group Two Hands - AK-suited and Jacks
Ace king suited and a pair of jacks are likely to make you considerable money in Texas Hold'em. Both are raising hands. You might want to simply call a raise with each and see what the flop brings. Depending on the flop and the earlier betting you can probably get away from either hand by folding when you face considerable pressure. If your opponent re-raises on a weak flop of small cards you are likely to up against a higher pair.Group Three Hands - Ace Queen Suited, Tens, Ace King
This group rounds out the seven really strong hands in hold'em. Again, you should be raising with them pre-flop and leading at most flops. The pocket tens are particularity good against ace-x hands and smaller pairs when the board shows small cards. However, this is when you may run into a set. Live and learn.Group Four Hands - AJs, KQs, 99,ATs, AQ, KJs, 88, KTs and QJs
These starting hands are likely to be best if a flush comes in your suit, and when an ace comes and you hold an ace. Broadway straights (big cards) are also strong with these face-card hands. Play the pocket 8's and 9's for a raise (yours, preferably) pre-flop, but be prepared to cast them off on paint boards.Group Five Hands - A9s, AJ, QTs, KQ, 77, JTs
This group is taylor-made to get you in trouble. Raising pre-flop from late position is usually right. Calling a raise preflop is only right if you are last to act or several other players are in, then you can take a shot. Remember that when an ace flops you are non likely to have the best kicker!Group Six Hands
These seventeen hands are playable much of the time but must be played carefully: A8s, K9s, AT, A5s, A7s, KJ, 66, T9s, A4s, Q9s,J9s, AJ, A6s, 55, A3s, K8s, KT, 98s, T8s, K7s, A2s. These hands are often worth a call from late position, but not in early position, and not for a raise. A half-bet call from the small blind is warranted. Much of your income from these hands comes from flushes, which will not come around very often. Otherwise, you are looking for small pots and the times you hit your kicker too. Played correctly these are solid winners.Winning Percentages
The more opponents in a hand against you, the more likely you will be beat. If you start with pocket aces against one opponent you will win 85 percent of the time. However, against five opponents you will only win about 50 percent of the time, although the pots are likely to be much larger.
Beyond that, you don't need to worry too much about your winning percentages. Play the best hands, dump them when it appears obvious they are beat, and don't be afraid to fold pre-flop against heavy pressure with any group three or lower hands. Patience is a poker term you need to learn and follow Hold'em.