Starting Hands for Texas Hold’em and How To Play

Close up of hands in between piles of poker chips on casino games table

Texas Hold’em is undoubtedly the world’s most popular poker variant. This fast, action-packed casino game can be played at land-based casinos and online at Borgata. Hold’em, as some call it, is a game of skill and making money out of it starts with having a solid understanding of the different hands and knowing how to play them.

Understanding Poker Hand Notation

Before we can get started with the opening hand recommendations in Hold’em, let’s first start by looking at the hand notation in online poker games.

In poker variants, including Hold’em, there are symbols used to describe the diverse hands available. There’s no need to worry as these are pretty simple and straightforward. Below are the different annotations you will find:

·         S – suited cards

·         O – two cards from different suits (unsuited)

·         + – means all hands ranking above the stated hand are included

For instance, 77+ indicates a pair of sevens and any other pairs ranking above it such as 88, 99, TT, AA. Pairs such as 22, 33, 44, 55 and 66s would be excluded. The same applies to connectors, the + symbol means that similar hands using higher cards are included eg. T7 (Ten-Seven) would include T8, T9, JT (Jack-Ten), QJ (Queen-Jack) KQ (King-Queen) and AK (Ace-King).

If symbols that denote suited and unsuited cards are not available, then it’s not important if the cards are suited or not.  

5 Best Texas Hold’em Starting Hands

Close up of hand holding two aces with poker chips in background

Texas Hold’em poker has 169 different two-card opening hand combinations. The notion is that if your starting hand is not a pair, then you will be dealt either connected or unconnected cards or a hand that’s either suited or offsuit. Suited hands have cards of the same suit e.g. A♥5 ♥, whereas unsuited cards belong to different suits K♠10♦. On the other hand – no pun intended –  unconnected cards will have one, two, three or more gaps (T72) making it difficult to hit a straight hand, and connected cards vice versa (T89).

1.   Pairs: A♣ A♥, K♠ K♦, 7♥ 7♠

2.  Suited Connectors: K♦A♦, J ♣ Q♣, 10 ♥9 ♥

3.   Offsuit Connectors: 4♣ 3♦, 9♥ 8, 10♠ J♣

4.   Suited Gappers: 10 ♥8 ♥, 5 ♠2♠, K♦J♦

5.   Unconnected Cards: 8♦3♠, 10 ♥6 ♣, Q♣ 10♦

Moreover, it is also important to familiarize yourself with the different rankings of Texas Hold’em hands to know which are worth playing, and how they change according to your position on the table at an online casino. For instance, cards such as 7♦ 2♥ or 9♥ 4♠ are very weak to even consider past the flop. Whereas, strong hands such as A♣, A♦, 10♥  10♦  and K♠ K♥  should always be played from any position. A three of a kind always wins to a two pair, and a flush always beats a straight.

How to Play

Green poker table with hands folded in between piles of poker chips

In Hold’em poker, players need to make the best 5-card hand possible using their two hole cards and five community cards on the table. Besides your position, you will need to consider other factors such as the number of players on the table as well as their playing style when deciding on placing your wager preflop.

Below is a quick summary of the basic Texas Hold’em rules:

  • When the game begins, all players on the table are dealt two hole cards (also known as pocket cards) face-down. This means no other players can see your cards.
  • Thereafter comes the Flop betting round, which consists of 3 community cards dealt face-up for players to use.
  • The dealer will then deal the fourth card, known as the Turn.
  • The Turn is followed by the River, which is the fifth and last community card.
  • Players get to bet, check or fold as the betting rounds take place.

Pocket Pairs

Concept of poker game with playing cards and poker chips on table.

Aces – a pair of Aces is by far the best starting hand in Hold’em. However, if nothing improves from the community cards you only have a pair. It is quite rare, however, to ever go wrong with this hand preflop.

Kings – a pair of Kings are almost as good as a pair of Aces preflop. However, it is not very often that you get dealt any of them. Although they are premium preflop holdings, they don’t play too well against multiple opponents. Sometimes it is better to raise preflop to avoid having sets of pairs.

Queens and Jacks – these are middle pocket pairs, and with either of them, you should be confident that you have a good starting hand. They are very foldable preflop, but they can also be the trickiest hands to play. Other pocket pairs falling under this range include 55 through 99.Low pairs – these are hands below 55, all the way down to 22.  It is not a wise move to raise first on low pairs, but they tend to be profitable at a later position and likely to result in a three of a kind or even great, a four of a kind which pays even more.

Suited Cards

Starting with two suited cards is good to score a flush or even better, a straight flush in this online casino game. However, the odds of getting a flush with two suited hands during the flop are as low as 0.8%. You are more likely to get a flush after the river and at only around 6.5% of the time, and a straight flush with a much lesser probability.

Connectors – Suited connectors include a combination of Aces and Kings, which is a premium hand suitable to play from any position, as well as good hands like T9, KQ, JT and QJs which are also great to play from most positions on the table.

54s and 76s are lower suited cards that should be folded from an early position and playable as a raise first from late positions.  

Gappers – suited one-gappers have the potential to win big pots if they connect with the board. For instance, if you have a T8 then a 9 and other corresponding cards appear in the community cards, you win. Big gappers are far more unlikely to win but are playable from a late position.

Conclusion

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Using the guidelines laid out in this article, together with a Texas Hold’em starting hands chart is a great way to enhance your playing skills. The more you Hold’em the more you will start opening a diverse range of starting hands – there are a whole lot of them, as already mentioned. Borgata offers the best poker and other entertaining online casino games for you to enjoy. Get started on making better Hold’em opening hands on BorgataOnline today!