Starting Hands for Texas Hold’em and How To Play Them


Starting Hands for Texas Hold’em and How To Play Them


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

Starting Hands for Texas Hold’em and How To Play Them


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. Whether you’re playing a cash game or competing at a poker tournament, this fast, action-packed casino table game can be played at land-based casinos and at Borgata Online. Hold’em, as some call it, is a game of skill and making money from it starts with having a solid understanding of the different hands and knowing how to play them.

When playing Texas Hold’em, your starting hands are super important but to really know how to play them well, you need to consider a few other things first. For instance, you need to know hand rankings so you can evaluate your hand’s strength and decide how to play them. Your position at the table matters too and you also need to pay attention to the table dynamics and adjust your strategy accordingly. 

Here’s our guide to understanding starting hands for Texas Hold’em and how to play them effectively. 

Understanding Poker Hand Notation

Before we can get started with the opening hand recommendations in Texas Hold’em games, 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, 7-7+ indicates a pair of sevens and any other pairs ranking above it such as 8-8, 9-9, 10-10, ace-ace. Pairs 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, 5-5 and 6-6 are excluded in this example. The same applies to connectors, the + symbol means that similar hands using higher cards are included eg. 10-7 would include 10-8, 10-9, jack-10, queen-jack, king-queen and ace-king.

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

Five 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. ace of hearts and five of hearts, whereas unsuited cards belong to different suits – king of spades and 10 of diamonds. On the other hand – no pun intended –  unconnected cards will have one, two, three or more gaps (10-7-2,) making it difficult to hit a straight hand, and connected cards vice versa (10-8-9.)

1.   Pairs: ace of spades and ace of hearts, king of spades and king of diamonds, seven of hearts and seven of spades

2.  Suited Connectors: king of diamonds and ace of diamonds, jack of clubs and queen of clubs, 10 of hearts and nine of hearts

3.   Offsuit Connectors: four of clubs and three of diamonds, nine of hearts and eight of clubs, 10 of spades and jack of clubs

4.   Suited Gappers: 10 of hearts and eight of hearts, five of spades and two of spades, king of diamonds and jack of diamonds

5.   Unconnected Cards: eight of diamonds and three of spades, 10 of hearts and six of clubs, queen of clubs and 10 of diamonds

Moreover, it’s also important to familiarize yourself with the different rankings of Texas Hold’em poker hands to know which are worth playing and how they change according to your position on the table at online casino games. For instance, cards such as seven of diamonds and two of hearts or nine of hearts and four of spades are very weak to even consider past the flop. Whereas, strong hands such as ace of clubs and ace of diamonds, 10 of hearts and 10 of diamonds and king of spades and king of hearts 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 Texas Hold’em poker, players need to make the best five-card hand possible using their two hole cards and five community cards on the table. Besides your position, you’ll need to consider other factors such as the number of players at 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 three 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’s quite rare, however, to ever go wrong with this hand preflop.

Kings – a pair of kings is almost as good as a pair of aces preflop. However, it’s not very often that you get dealt any of them. Although they’re premium preflop holdings, they don’t play too well against multiple opponents. Sometimes it’s 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 5-5 through 9-9. 

Low pairs – these are hands below 5-5, all the way down to 2-2.  It’s 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 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. However, the odds of getting a flush with two suited hands during the flop are as low as 0.8%. You’re 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 10-9, king-queen, jack-10 and queen-jack, which are also great to play from most positions on the table.

5-4s and 7-6s 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 10-8 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.

Starting hand guidelines should be used as a starting point, but your decisions should also consider other factors like table dynamics, opponents’ playing styles and your own skill level. It’s important to adapt your strategy based on the specific circumstances of each hand and make informed decisions throughout the game. Practice, experience and continuous learning will help you refine your starting hand selection over time.

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Start Your Hold’em Adventure with Borgata Online

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 practice Hold’em, the more you’ll begin opening a diverse range of starting hands – there are a whole lot of them.

Borgata Online offers the best poker and other entertaining live dealer casino games for you to enjoy. Get started on making better Hold’em opening hands when you register with Borgata Online today!