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Best Poker Starting Hands Guide

Kate Smith | August 10, 2021 | Updated on: March 18th, 2024

Best Poker Starting HandsLet’s talk about Poker starting hands. They are one of the most crucial factors in Texas Holdem, Omaha, No-Limit, and every other poker game.

This article aims to show you what to do with certain starting hands and what to consider before holding or folding. After this quick read, beginners and intermediate players alike should have a solid foundation.

However, it may also be useful to also familiarize yourself with how Texas Hold ’em hand rankings work if you haven’t already. Once you’re sorted, you can choose your favourite online poker site on our list to get started. Scroll on to begin!

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What is the Best Poker Hand to Start With?

The best poker hand to start with preflop is pocket aces. Anyhow, it depends.

As you move from the flop to the river, the best hand in Texas Hold ’em changes numerous times. A good example here would be with pocket kings. This hand looks very solid until a single ace is dropped on the flop.

More so, a weak starting hand such as a 7-2 can usually beat the best starting hand (A-A) around 12% of the time. And this is what makes Texas Holdem so fascinating.

Some hands offer significantly better odds in Poker, and starting hands are usually dominated by pocket pairs, such as pocket aces, queens and kings.

Pocket Aces

Pocket aces are the best-starting hand, especially pre-flop if you play games such as Texas Hold’em. This hand has the advantage of dominating other good starting hands like K-K, Q-Q and J-J, so they have the potential to win a massive pot.

Despite being the best-starting hand, if the board does not improve your hand post-flop, you only get one pair. Make sure you keep this in mind to avoid stacking off to random sets or pairs of cards.

Best poker hand to start with

Pocket Kings

The pocket kings are Hold’em’s second-best starting hand, and they seem to work in almost any situation. Preflop, this hand can be treated as pocket aces.

Although some players have folded K-K preflop, this is not always the right move unless someone accidentally shows their pocket aces. K-K has the same post-flop strategy as A-A. Along with the “one pair,” you should also be on the lookout for an ace on the flop.

Pocket Queens

Similarly, pocket queens are very strong starting to beat most hands before the flop. Players with pocket queens like to bet aggressively preflop to find out if their opponents have premium hands like aces, kings, or ace-kings.

Pocket queens dominate a number of hands, including J-J, A-Q, A-J, and A-T. However, Queens are put in some difficult positions on the flop when faced with either Kings or Aces. The pre-flop action is usually heavy, so you have to assume you are either beaten or, at best, facing A-K.

It is only advisable to continue with these hands if the board improves your hand or if you see that your opponent has backed off, showing signs of weakness.

A-K (Suited)

This is a hand that draws like no other. Poker players with experience know that Ace-King suits are great for hitting straights and flushes. Having an ace-king hand can also be useful for hitting flops because if any other player also has an ace or a king in their hands, you will likely make some great money.

In contrast, if you completely miss the flop, your ace-king is reduced to a very poor ace-high. Prepare yourself for that one. Ideally, this would be a great time to clarify that suits do not matter in Hold ’em, so there will be no “best” version of ace-king-suited hands or similar double-suited hands.

A-Q (Suited)

Another strongest drawing hand is Ace-Queen suited, but it can lose its steam on the flop if it does not spike at least a pair. Interestingly enough, ace-queen suits can still hit nut-flushes because they still possess the highest card (the ace) of their respective suit. The pocket ace and pocket queens will still be an issue when you’re playing ace-queen.

Pocket Jacks

Poker players consider Pocket Jacks to be one of their harder hands. Even though the hand has a high winning percentage against two random cards, pocket aces, pocket kings, and pocket queens destroy it. A 50-50 shot against an ace-king is also possible. These are the reasons why you should play pocket jacks very carefully. A hand like this is still good for opening pots, and it’s far ahead of drawing hands like K-J, Q-J, J-T, 9-9, etc.

A-J (Suited)

Another starting hand that does well against random cards is Ace-Jack suited. However, the strongest starting hands in the game can absolutely destroy it. This is similar to how pocket jacks are at the bottom of bigger pairs, except that the hand is the bottom of drawing hands like ace-king and ace-queen. Beginning poker players often lose pots when flopping an ace only to see an opponent out-kick them with ace-kings or ace-queens in the turn or river. Play this hand very carefully.

A-K (Offsuit)

Compared to its suited sibling, the Ace-king offsuit has fewer chances to hit a flush. In spite of this, it is still a strong drawing hand that beats non-pairs and others except pocket aces and pocket kings. One of its strongest features is its ability to crush strong Ace-x hands.

Pocket Tens

From among lower-tiered starting hands, pocket tens are the strongest. Even though it’s still a good hand against rags, it’s defeated by the A-A, K-K, Q-Q, and J-J listed above. Against Ace-King, the odds also seem to be in your favour. There is still a great deal of strength in big pairs, and this may be a great bet to make pre-flop and after-the-flop, provided the board is relatively safe.

Pocket  Nines

Pocket nines are inferior to big pairs like A-A, K-K, Q-Q, J-J, and even 10-10. As many cards can beat you in this game, you should play carefully. The hand is good if you’re late in the game and you’ve been folded. Furthermore, it’s incredibly useful when you’re facing weaker cards in heads-up scenarios.

Poker Starting Hands Win Percentage

A K Q J T 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2
A 85% 68% 67% 66% 66% 64% 63% 63% 62% 62% 61% 60% 59%
K 66% 83% 64% 64% 63% 61% 60% 59% 58% 58% 57% 56% 55%
Q 65% 62% 80% 61% 61% 59% 58% 56% 55% 55% 54% 53% 52%
J 65% 62% 59% 78% 59% 57% 56% 54% 53% 52% 51% 50% 50%
T 64% 61% 59% 57% 75% 56% 54% 53% 51% 49% 49% 48% 47%
9 62% 59% 57% 55% 53% 72% 53% 51% 50% 48% 46% 46% 45%
8 61% 58% 55% 53% 52% 50% 69% 50% 49% 47% 45% 43% 43%
7 60% 57% 54% 52% 50% 48% 47% 67% 48% 46% 45% 43% 41%
6 59% 56% 53% 50% 48% 47% 46% 45% 64% 46% 44% 42% 40%
5 60% 55% 52% 49% 47% 45% 44% 43% 43% 61% 44% 43% 41%
4 59% 54% 51% 48% 46% 43% 42% 41% 41% 41% 58% 42% 40%
3 58% 54% 50% 48% 45% 43% 40% 39% 39% 39% 38% 55% 39%
2 57% 53% 49% 47% 44% 42% 40% 37% 37% 37% 36% 35% 51%

Starting Hands Chart Poker

Starting hand charts can be helpful when you first begin learning Poker. These can help you until you understand the game enough to recognize appropriate opportunities. Nonetheless, once you are an expert enough to make informed betting decisions, you can deviate since adjusting could bring you more profits.

Since each game is different and there are so many factors involved, there is no such thing as the optimal starting hand chart.

Interested in Poker? Play at our highly recommended best online casinos, or visit our other guides to learn some more!

FAQs about Poker Starting Hands

Are pocket aces better than ace-king?

Absolutely! Pocket Aces are better than Ace-King. In fact, A-A is the strongest starting hand in Poker, with an 85% win percentage.

Which hands to play pre-flop?

The best hands to play preflop are premium pairs of Pocket Aces to Pocket Tens, as well as big connectors A-K, K-Q, A-Q and A-J.

Is AK or KK better?

A-K is only good in case another Ace drops post-flop. If suited, the hand can score you a Royal Flush. Otherwise, K-K is better since it’s already a made hand and has a chance to score you a Four of a Kind, Full House, Three of a Kind, Two Pairs, or Pair.

Is Pocket 2s better than AK?

No. A-K is better than Pocket 2s in that if there are two pairs or quads on the board, it wins. If the cards are all suited, you also get to win with a Royal Flush, the best possible hand in Poker.

How do you calculate the probability of winning a poker hand?

You can calculate the probability of winning a poker hand by counting the number of five-card hands in the deck and how they can be dealt. Alternatively, you can skip this tedious and super-long process by checking out our winning hand percentages chart above.

What are the odds of winning with pocket aces?

The odds of winning with Pocket Aces is roughly 85%.

How do you know if you have a good hand in Texas Holdem?

By checking how poker hands are ranked. In this case, A-A is the best-starting hand because no other pair can beat it, and it also has a chance of making the highest-ranked poker hands, such as Four of a Kind, Full House, and Three of a Kind.

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