Top 5 poker starting hands

Guide to Texas Hold’em Starting Hands

Why is this fundamental to poker strategy? Because being dealt a hand is where the game begins, yet there are thought processes that are important here too. You certainly don't want to play every hand the dealer gives you, and even good players will fold a lot of their hands. New to poker? You can learn the ranking basics about poker hands here.

Guide To Texas Hold’em Starting Hands

  • Starting Hands Groups
  • You have two cards.
  • Starting by playing ABC Poker
  • Position, position, position

Starting Hands: The Main groups

With our handy chart you can see what hands to raise , call , and fold with depending on your position. The range of hands will differ depending on how many players are at your table too. It?s well worth making yourself aware of the different poker rankings for each hand before you begin.

Remember, too that raise/call ranges will differ between tournaments and cash games, and also the dynamic of your table. Download a pdf copy of the poker rankings here:

When a player increases the value of the current bet.

When a player matches the value of the current bet.

When a player decides not to call or raise and instead throws their hand away, forfeiting any chances of winning the pot.

You Have Two Cards. Now What?

Where then do we begin? Let's assume we have just been dealt our two hole cards . Our first question is, "Should I play them?" (See also What % of starting hands should I play?)

The two cards dealt to each player, which are not revealed until the showdown.

Sure, every hand could be a winner, but every hand can be a loser too. Only a few hands have the strength to be viable to continue beyond the pre-flop action. Another important factor is your position. The later you get to act in each round, (i.e. the more people who are forced to make decisions before you), the more aggressive you can be in your pre-flop actions.

Why? Because you can see what many of your opponents are doing before you act. Each decision made by the players at the table before it is your time to act can provide very useful information that should not be overlooked. This doesn't mean you should play 7-2 off suit each time the action is folded around to you when you?re on the button but a slightly stronger hand can be enough to make a move and likely take in the blinds for free.

Starting Hands Win Percentage

The following chart will show you the percentage chance of winning a hand based on your starting cards. This chart assumes that the opponent's cards are not known.

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%

Solid ABC Poker: Your First Hold’em Lesson

Like all things in poker, this advice is relative. The better you get at pre-flop concepts and post-flop play, the more hands you can add to your armory. Because you are just starting out, it is advisable to stick to the basics.

That means we are going to raise with big hands when we are in early position (when we are the first or second to act), and increase the hands we play as we get closer to late position (nearer the dealer position). Being in late position (LP) is good as it affords us lots of information from the other players: have they folded or made weak limps? Can you exploit those weaknesses with a cheeky raise?

In this page we are going to consider full-ring games (those with 9 or 10 players at the table). If you are playing with fewer players simply subtract from the earliest positions to get your correct position. We will also focus on raising, rather than calling. Calling is a weak play that leaves you vulnerable and allows people to enter the pot cheaply after you have acted. A single raise may win you the pot outright.

Understand the Hand Descriptions

Before we look at the starting hand recommendations, let's review poker hand notation. There are some new symbols used to describe ranges of hands. The annotations "s" and "o" are pretty straightforward. The "s" refers to suited cards (of the same suit). The "o" refers to two cards that are off-suit. If both the "s" and "o" are missing, then it does not matter if the hand is suited or off-suit.

The "+" indicates that all of the hands that rank above that stated hand are included.

For example, "55+" includes a pair of fives, and any pair that ranks higher than that, all the way up to a pair of aces. The only pairs excluded would be 22, 33 and 44.

When it comes to connectors and one-gappers, the "+" indicates that similar hands using higher cards are also included. For example T9+ would include T9, JT, QJ, KQ, AK - all the connectors above T9.

These can also be a combinations of the symbols, but you should be able to figure those out.

Learning the Basics of Position

Many advanced players will argue that position is the single most important factor in playing Texas Hold?em, even more than the cards you hold. The image below displays the positions at a typical full ring table. For 10 players simply add an additional middle position player. Meanings of the abbreviations are as follows:

The player to the left of the dealer button. They place a small bet before cards are dealt, in order to start the betting action.

The player two seats to the left of the dealer button. They place a bet usually worth double the small blind before the flop.

The player who acts first in a round of betting. It is considered the weakest position in poker, as there?s no chance to observe other players first.

Generally, any position from 4 th through to 7 th after the dealer button.

The player sitting two seats right of the dealer button. Raising from this position can be seen as a move to ?hijack? the pot.

The position directly before the dealer button.

The dealer position and the player to act last in the betting rounds. The button is the most desirable position, as they get to monitor all the action before taking their turn.

Starting Hands Based on Position

The chart below will give you a basic guide on which hands can be played from which position. The default chart shows paired hands and suited hands. Click the button to switch to off-suit hands.

  • Pairs and suited Hands
  • Off-Suited Hands
A-A A-K K-Q Q-J J-T T-9 9-8 8-7 7-6 6-5 5-4 4-3 3-2
K-K A-Q K-J Q-T J-9 T-8 9-7 8-6 7-5 6-4 5-3 4-2
Q-Q A-J K-T Q-9 J-8 T-7 9-6 8-5 7-4 6-3 5-2
J-J A-T K-9 Q-8 J-7 T-6 9-5 8-4 7-3 6-2
T-T A-9 K-8 Q-7 J-6 T-5 9-4 8-3 7-2
9-9 A-8 K-7 Q-6 J-5 T-4 9-3 8-2
8-8 A-7 K-6 Q-5 J-4 T-3 9-2
7-7 A-6 K-5 Q-4 J-3 T-2
6-6 A-5 K-4 Q-3 J-2
5-5 A-4 K-3 Q-2 Any Position
4-4 A-3 K-2 Mid or Late Position
3-3 A-2 Late Position
2-2 Unplayable hand
A-A A-K K-Q Q-J J-T T-9 9-8 8-7 7-6 6-5 5-4 4-3 3-2
K-K A-Q K-J Q-T J-9 T-8 9-7 8-6 7-5 6-4 5-3 4-2
Q-Q A-J K-T Q-9 J-8 T-7 9-6 8-5 7-4 6-3 5-2
J-J A-T K-9 Q-8 J-7 T-6 9-5 8-4 7-3 6-2
T-T A-9 K-8 Q-7 J-6 T-5 9-4 8-3 7-2
9-9 A-8 K-7 Q-6 J-5 T-4 9-3 8-2
8-8 A-7 K-6 Q-5 J-4 T-3 9-2
7-7 A-6 K-5 Q-4 J-3 T-2
6-6 A-5 K-4 Q-3 J-2
5-5 A-4 K-3 Q-2 Any Position
4-4 A-3 K-2 Mid or Late Position
3-3 A-2 Late Position
2-2 Unplayable hand

Pocket Pairs

Pairs always look great, but often in one-on-ones you may be no more than a 50-50 shot to win the hand. Premium pairs should always be raised pre-flop, but 'set mining' with smaller pairs in Early Position (EP) can be good if the pots are small.

A pair of the same value hole cards, with a value of Jack or higher. The best possible pair is A-A.

When facing limpers in middle position, late position, or the blinds, you're usually going to want to over-limp, rather than raise. This is because one raise will usually not fold everyone out of the pot, and it's difficult to flop any kind of hand with a small pocket pair if you don't flop a set. Small pairs also usually tend to be second, third, or even fourth pair on the flop, so they will be in bad shape against most hands that have connected with the flop .

Those who pay the bare minimum to get into the pot, ?limping? in with small calls instead of making meaningful raises. Limping is seen as a sign of weakness, but can be done as a bluff.

The first three community cards dealt into the middle of the table.

When there is already a single raise, small pocket pairs will usually be good hands to fold against good players. Again, they just don't hit the flop often enough to play very well. Hitting the flop isn't everything in poker, but good poker hands are ones that connect with a lot of flops, or make up for not connecting by already being strong on their own. Small pocket pairs do neither.

However, if there is a single raise and a couple callers, you can often call with these hands, hoping to flop a set and win a big pot. With more players in you have better pot odds, and a better chance that someone will flop something they will put money in with against your set. But if you're ever facing a 3-bet with a small pocket pair, you're usually going to be better off just folding.

When To Raise: LP (unraised pot)

When To Call: EP to LP

When To Fold: To re-raise/4-bet

You should follow a lot of the same guidelines with mid pairs as you do with small pairs. The goal a lot of the time will be to hit a set, and you usually won't be able to play a big pot post flop if you don't hit one, but mid pairs have a lot more flexibility.

Mid pairs inherently have a lot more strength than small pocket pairs, because they effectively gain another way that they win the pot at showdown: unimproved. This alone means you can play mid pocket pairs from any position, and you'll want to be coming in for a raise with them if you're opening the pot.

When To Raise: MP to LP (unraised pot)

When To Call: EP

When To Fold: To re-raise/4-bet

Premium pairs get dealt rarely, but they should be used to raise unraised pots, or re-raise pre-flop (3-bet/4-bet etc) wherever you are at the table.

In most cases these hands will play themselves before the flop. In most games you'll want to raise with these hands regardless of what the poker rankings are pre-flop, and be willing to put your stack all in before the flop if you're able to (assuming 100 big blind or smaller effective stacks).

There are tighter games, and especially online you won't always want to get all in with QQ pre-flop, and in many live games, people won't be 3betting very wide, so you won't necessarily want to keep re-raising it. But most of the time, 4betting or 5betting all of these hands will be the best play. You can sometimes trap with AA pre-flop, by not 4betting when normally you would, but it's usually better not to do that with KK or worse. This is because AA is much less vulnerable after the flop as compared to KK or QQ.

When To Raise: EP to LP

When To Call: N/A

When To Fold: N/A

Hand Names

Everyone knows that Aces are Bullets and Kings are Cowboys, but there are more hands with strange names than you might think! You can read more about hand nicknames and poker rankings in our guide.

Jacks play well pre-flop but if you get out-drawn on the flop they can be tricky. Play them strongly in LP, and - depending on your table - re-raise in EP too. However, don't be afraid to let them go post flop against pressure with overcards on the board.

Big Slick (AK) is a good LP raise or re-raise but can be murder on a dry flop.

When To Raise: MP to LP

When To Call: EP

When To Fold: N/A

In a full-ring game, A2 plays almost the same as something like A9. If they are suited, even better, as they can provide semi-bluffing opportunities. Making a flush draw is usually enough to allow you to continue far into a pot - especially if you use your ace as a blocker - and making a flush often means a decent payoff. So you'll want to see flops with this hand for relatively cheap.

If you have something like AJs or ATs, these hands will often be dominated when facing 3bets, so without reads it will usually be best to fold them to a lot of aggression. It's also important to keep in mind that when playing these hands after the flop, the top pair that you make will not usually be the best one pair hand possible, so occasionally you will have to be willing to give up your top pair good kicker.

A lot of people, meanwhile, overplay Ax offsuit. They are terrible hands unless you 3-bet bluff them pre-flop. Always pay attention to your table dynamic before doing this, though. Often, Ax hands won't make strong ace pairs on the flop and you may well end up being outdrawn. We advise a fold in most spots, especially to tight players who are playing more premium hands.

When To Raise: MP-LP (unraised pot)

When To Call: N/A

When To Fold: EP-LP

Suited Connectors (98s, 76s, T9s)

The most common situation with suited connectors , aside from flopping absolutely nothing, will be flopping some sort of small piece like a pair or a gutshot. After that comes the chances of flopping some sort of stronger draw like an open-ended straight draw or a flush draw . Significantly behind that are the chances of flopping a big hand such as two-pair or better.

A pair of cards which are both the same suit and consecutive. This gives the player a good chance of hitting a straight or a flush.

A player has a straight draw if they need one more card to make a straight. For example, a player with 5-6-7-8 would be on a straight draw, needing a 4 or a 9.

When a player has four cards of the same suit and needs one more card of the same suit to complete a flush.

Another consideration is that you will occasionally have reverse implied odds with this hand, when you make the bottom end of a straight or a weak flush draw. It's hard to fold that kind of hand, but sometimes you'll have to do it if you want to be able to play these hands profitably. But for the most part, when you make your hand with a suited connector, you will be good to go, and often have a fairly disguised hand.

Because of the above considerations, suited connectors are fairly constrained by the immediate odds you are getting before the flop. For example, you are almost never going to be able to stand a 3-bet with this kind of hand unless the effective stacks are fairly deep, and you think you will have a decent edge on your opponent. Suited connectors also play much better in position than out of position, so while it makes sense to open-raise them from late position, you will likely want to muck them from early position. And even though they can be raised first into the pot, you'll usually want to flat-call or over-limp if there is action in front of you.

An extension of pot odds, it?s used to decide whether a bet is worth calling with a drawing hand.

When To Raise: LP

When To Call: MP

When To Fold: EP, against all re-raises

Some players love to play connected cards , hoping for that miracle straight. That's great if it's disguised on the flop, but this happens so rarely (comparatively) that you will be counting the cost long before it pays off. We advise a range of JToin late position if there has been one raise and no other callers. You can sometimes semi-bluff them strongly, especially if there is a draw on the board or you hit top pair. If you hit second pair, carry on for showdown value.

Two consecutive cards, like 5-6. They do not need to be of the same suit ? if they are, they?re called suited connectors.

Some pros advise a LP raise with unsuited connectors like 87obut they should be added to your range against weak tables, not used as premium holdings.

When To Raise: LP (soft table)

When To Call: LP

When To Fold: EP-MP

Suited one-gappers can be nice hands to play post-flop, and are generally good for a pre-flop raise for all positions in a soft game. Again, ALWAYS PAY ATTENTION TO TABLE DYNAMIC , and don't be afraid to let them go if you get re-raised. After the flop, bet them for value.

Two cards with a gap of one in between them, such as 7-9.

Some players advise raising suited three-gappers even (96s, for example) for added value.

When To Raise: EP-LP (on soft tables)

When To Call: LP (call a raise)

When To Fold: To a re-raise

Understanding Table Dynamics in Hold’em

What to hold, what to fold, and when to raise are all key things to learn as you improve as a Hold'em player. But every table is different. You might be a tight-ish player who discovers his table is also very tight. If this is the case, you can start expanding your hand ranges.

Conversely, if you are a tight -ish player on a very loose table, tighten up even further and watch out for getting six callers to your raise. You will not only have to change your starting hand selection but also the size of your raises.

A player who folds often and plays in a very cautious way.

In a typical tight tournament, where there may be a lot of folds in a hand, you can exploit your position at the table by opening up your range. While we recommend suited 1-gappers in some spots, some pros advocate adding suited 2-gappers or 3-gappers to your starting hand range which can add value on some flops.

To add to your starting hand range (tight table): 9-6 suited, 8-7 suited, 8-7 offsuit, K-Q offsuit, A-J offsuit, 10-7 suited etc.

Tournament Example: Call, raise or Fold?

This first chart below is going to represent the hands that you should be raising when you are folded to in a full handed game in consideration with where you are sitting at the table:

Texas Holdem Top 10% Starting Hands

In Texas Holdem, there are 169 unique combinations of preflop starting hands you can be dealt.

This number is arrived at by grouping holdings into pairs, suited cards and offsuit cards, and considering that preflop specific suits (e.g. hearts vs diamonds) dont yet have value.

(If taking into account suits, the number of hole card combinations would be 52 times 51 divided by 2 for card order, which equals 1,326 combos.)

Of the 169 unique holding, many will advise beginners to stick to roughly the strongest ten percent. This range would include the top 10 starting hands, plus around a dozen more combinations.

Equity calculation tools like PokerStove and Equilab define the top 10% as 77+, QTs+, and KQo+. Meaning pairs Sevens and higher, suited connectors Queen Ten and higher, and unsuited connectors KQ and higher. Ace Nine being the lowest suited ace to play, and Ace Jack the lowest offsuit. A total of 22 possible combinations.

List of the Strongest 10% of Poker Hands

Relating the Top 10% Range to Your Online Play

The top ten percent of starting hands serves as a basic chart for profitable hole cards; however, the most important use of this list may be to assign specific ranges to your opponents tendencies. Once you know what ten-percent looks like, you will be able to recognize what 3% looks like and 20%.

If the tightest player at the table raises under-the-gun, you can probably assign him 3.5% of starting hands. When the most aggressive maniac at your table opens when folded to him on the button, you can assume they re opening almost any two cards.

HUDs the Top 10% of Hands

Using hand-ranges is very important when looking at HUD (heads up display) stats. A HUD is an online tool that records your opponent s statistics according to their activity. The most basic HUDS will display three important statistics on-screen for you, alongside each player:

VPIP: This is how often your opponent is voluntarily putting chips in play (not including the blinds).
PFR: How often your opponent raises preflop.
3B: How often your opponent re-raises (3-bets) other players preflop raises.

Playing around with your HUD you can add a whole host more, from no. of hands you have on a player, to their fold to continuation bet percentage, or display those in a pop up window when you click on a player.

If you saw a basic HUD read: 10/8/4 you would understand that your opponent is playing 10% of their hands voluntarily, raising 8% of them preflop, and 3-betting preflop 4% of the time. At a glance this is a tight-aggressive player.

Looking closer at the player, if we break down their frequencies into a range, we can roughly assume this our opponent is playing:

10% of hands preflop. Roughly 77+, ATo+, A9s, almost all Broadway (A-K-Q-J-T) cards.
8% raising preflop would indicate 88+, and most suited Broadway cards.
4% re-raising / 3-betting which stands as 99+, and AKs, AKo and AQs.

While helpful, it is important to be wary of the assumptions made by these statistics. Although it may be unlikely that a player 3-betting just 4% of the time is ever bluffing, the 4% is only relevant to the frequency of that play and not directly the top % range of cards. Their 4% may include random tilt plays.

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The Best Poker Starting Hands 2021 (It Will Shock You)

However, the truth is that there are clear winners and losers in terms of the profitability of certain poker starting hands.

The best starting hands in poker are AA, KK, QQ, JJ, TT, 99, AK, AQ, AJ, KQ, KJ and more holdings like this. The reason why they are the best starting hands is because they are statistically most likely to win the pot at showdown. You can improve your winnings in poker dramatically by focusing on playing hands like this.

The Two Absolute Best Poker Starting Hands in 2021

From my personal experience as much as half of all my winnings come from these two hands alone. Which is completely insane.

Go ahead and check it for yourself right now and let me know your results in the comments!

In fact even the very worst hand in poker (72 offsuit) has nearly 13% equity versus AA before the flop.

And when you start adding a few more people into the mix with a few random suited connectors, you can see that your equity with pocket aces drops dramatically, all the way down to nearly 50%.

Yes, a virtual coinflip!

However, what many people fail to realize is that these two hands hands (AA and KK) still have a much higher chance of winning the pot than all the others.

So for all these reasons I think you will almost certainly find that these are the two best poker starting hands in the game. And by that I mean the most profitable!

These 3 Poker Hands are Also Hugely Profitable

The next three most profitable poker starting hands are as follows:

  • QQ, JJ and AK

And it only makes sense.

Pocket queens and pocket jacks, again despite what some might think, are actually extremely easy to play and among the very best poker starting hands that you can be dealt.

Just like with AA and KK, they are going to lose frequently though especially in large pots with multiple players. But your chances of making an overpair or coolering someone are still very high.

And ace-king is another excellent hand as well. While it is true that you will only flop an ace or a king 1 in 3 times, you need to remember that those times when you do hit, you often win a big pot.

This is especially the case when another ace hand is involved such as:

  • AQ, AJ or AT

These hands are in big trouble versus AK when the ace comes on the flop.

So once again it is important not to be fooled by short term results with these hands. Yes, sometimes you will lose the pot with QQ, JJ and AK several times in a row.

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These are the 5 Next Best Poker Starting Hands

The final 5 top poker starting hands are as follows:

  • TT, 99, 88, 77 and AQ

Here's the thing. Pocket pairs rule in No Limit Hold'em.

This is a simple fact. You can once again go load up your poker tracking program and double check this for yourself right now.

And the middle pocket pairs like TT, 99, 88 and 77 are some of the best.

Many times with these hands you will simply be forced to check and fold. There really is nothing that you can do with 88 for instance when the flop comes:

However, the power of hitting a set with these hands is so important in a game like No Limit Hold'em where the stacks in a cash game are often 100 big blinds deep.

Just imagine what happens when you have 88 versus a bad poker player with AK and the flop comes:

Ya, he is going to lose all of his money to you.

This is especially true if you are betting and fast-playing your hand correctly as I talk about at length in Crushing the Microstakes.

Suited Connectors are Bad Poker Hands (But You Should Still Play Them)

You may have noticed that everybody's favorite (suited connectors) are nowhere to be found on my list of the top 10 best poker starting hands.

By the way these are hands like:

  • 65s, 76s, 87s, 98s, T9s and JTs

Go ahead and fire up PokerTracker once again and check it for yourself. I am willing to bet that even if you are a winning poker player, you are still losing with all of your suited connectors.

The reason why is that these hands really only win a big pot when you connect with the board extremely hard such as making two pair, a straight or a flush.

What's worse is that many people will hit top pair with a hand like T9s and end up paying off one of the better hands that I already listed above such as QQ when the flop comes:

But in practice this is a recipe for disaster. The reason why is because these top 10 hands come around so rarely that even the drunk fish will be able to tell that you are just sitting around waiting for the nuts all day.

Therefore, he won't pay you off when you hit like he will against the other players who are much more active.

So what these hands like suited connectors (and also suited aces) do for you is add depth to your poker starting hand selection.

They essentially make you a much harder player to play against. And that is because it makes it that much harder for them to put you on a hand.

Should You Have a Lucky Poker Hand?

What about having a lucky poker hand or a favorite poker hand though? Some people will swear that they always win with some wacky holding like 85 suited.

Heck, I am guilty of this too!

I go by the screen name "BlackRain79" in online poker. So you can probably already guess what my favorite poker starting hand is.

However, once again the evidence just doesn't support the idea that having a lucky hand like this in poker is a good idea.

85 suited and 79 suited are both going to be losing hands for you in the long run. And I don't care if your name is Daniel Negreanu or Phil Ivey.

In fact Daniel Negreanu even talks about this in his new poker training course!

Final Thoughts

So here are the top 10 best poker starting hands.

Lastly, if you want to learn how to start consistently making $1000 per month in low stakes poker games, make sure you grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

Let me know your favorite poker hands in the comments below. Do you have a lucky poker hand?


Everyone I think picks a favorite based on some good experience in their early poker career. I won my first tournament after busting 3 players at the FT with A5, including some bigtime luck with an A5 of spades, which became my favorite hand. It's at least worth a 3 bet in position a lot of the time, but most players learn not to overplay the favorite hand the hard way. Usually not the first time though :D

Haha definitely agree with that. I can still remember the hand I won my first tournament with, 86 of spades :)

One poker coach I follow has shared tons of very eye opening stats from his Poker Tracker database.

He pointed put the # of bb that is typically won on average by each of the toppest of top hands.

AA earns 10bb, KK=5, QQ/JJ=4, AK/AQ=2, TT/99/88=1.5

Almost no other hands are profitable, longterm. Unless you 3bet them, against loose openers -- or even TAGs -- who will raise-call out of position vs you then play fit-or-fold ($cha-ching$!)

IMO those bb earn numbers are critical to keep in mind when considering loosely (impulsively? tilted?) snap calling a big river bet . OR when tempted to be greedy when sizing a river value bet with nutted hands but you are likely up against a tight villain range!

Those numbers look about right from my experience as well. It is pretty crazy how few hands are actually significant longterm winners.

Poker Hand Rankings The Best Texas Holdem Poker Hands

Below you will find a list of poker hands in order from highest to lowest to help you get started, as well as the top starting hands for Texas Hold'em. There's also a quick quiz that will help you remember the hands next time you play poker.

Table of Contents:

    • Poker Hands Quiz
    • Tie-breakers and Kickers

    Poker Hand Rankings

    1. Royal Flush (A K Q J T )

    The best hand possible, a royal flush consists of A, K, Q, J and 10, all of the same suit.

    2. Straight Flush (T 9 8 7 6 )

    Also very rare, a straight flush consists of any straight that is all the same suit.

    3. Four-of-a-Kind (J J J J K )

    Four of a kind, or 'quads', consists of four cards of equal value along with another card known as a side card.

    4. Full House (A A A 9 9 )

    A full house consists of three cards of one value and two cards of another.

    5. Flush (A J 8 4 3 )

    A flush is a hand which has all cards of the same suit.

    6. Straight (9 8 7 6 5 )

    A straight has 5 cards of consecutive value that are not all the same suit.

    7. Three-of-a-Kind (7 7 7 K Q )

    Also known as 'trips', three of a kind is 3 cards of the same value and 2 side cards of different values.

    8. Two-Pair (9 9 6 6 Q )

    ??Two pair consists of two cards of equal value, another two cards of equal value, and one extra card.

    9. One-Pair (A A K 9 4 )

    One pair consists of two cards of the same value, and three extra cards.

    10. High Card (A J 8 6 2 )

    High card is when you have five cards that do not interact with each other to make any of the above hands.

    If you want to win at poker, you obviously need to know what hand you've been dealt and what hand wins. Take the first step to winning at poker and download these rankings here:

    Hand Rankings Cheat Sheet Chart

    Ready for a poker hands quiz?

    Poker Hand Rankings Quiz

    Put your knowledge of poker hands to the test with the quiz below. Good luck!

    (The quiz will open in a new tab.)

    Note: Want some strategic tips to help you win at poker? Check out these 10 Quick Poker Tips!

    Tie-breakers and Kickers

    When multiple players have the same poker hands, the extra cards come in to play. These extra cards are called 'kickers'. The player with the higher kicker will take the pot when this happens.

    Texas Hold'em Example:

    • Player A has K 9
    • Player B has A K
    • The flop, turn and river are K -T -T - 4 -2

    This means the players' final five card poker hands are:

    • Player A: K K T T 9 for Two Pair, Kings and Tens with a Nine kicker
    • Player B: K K T T A for Two Pair, Kings and Tens with an Ace kicker

    Both players have a pair of kings, but the winner of the pot is Player B because he has Player A 'out-kicked'.

    In a high card or one pair hand tie-breaker, both players can sometimes have the same kicker. In this case the second kicker is used, and then the third, and so on. If both players best five card poker hands are identical, then they share the pot equally.

    Now, let's talk about starting hands in Texas Hold'em.

    Ranking The Top 20 No Limit Texas Hold em Starting Hands

    I wanted to include something a bit more exciting in this article, so here's the top 20 No Limit Hold'em starting hands in terms of raw all-in equity (or percentages).

    Although the order of the best poker hands to start with is sometimes contested, this list will give you a rough idea of which hands are stronger than others:

    #1. Pocket Aces (A A ).
    The very best starting hand in Texas Hold'em.
    Fun fact:
    the hand with the highest odds of beating aces in a one-on-one match-up is 6-5 suited (22.51% vs 77.49%).

    #2. Pocket Kings (K K ).
    The second best starting hand. Kings are known as "ace magnets" by more pessimistically-minded players.

    #3. Pocket Queens (Q Q ).
    The ladies are the third best starting hand. This premium pair will be an overpair to the flop quite often. Starting to notice a trend?

    #4. Pocket Jacks (J J ).
    Also known as fishhooks, jacks are one of the most complained-about hands in poker. If you hate jacks, read 3 Tips to Stop Spewing with Pocket Jacks.

    #5. Ace-King Suited (A K ).
    The best non-pair is also known as big slick. Players often complain about missing flops with ace-king, so we wrote How to Play Ace-King When You Miss the Flop.

    #6. Pocket Tens (T T ).
    Back to pairs! Pocket tens are another premium pair with which you should often be willing to commit a lot of money. Make sure to proceed cautiously when facing a lot of action.

    #7. Ace-King Offsuit (A K ).
    A powerful hand that has at least a 45-50% chance to win versus almost any holding (with the exceptions being aces and kings).

    #8. Ace-Queen Suited (A Q ).
    Another premium hand with a lot of postflop playability. This hand hits many strong top pairs, and it's especially valuable on queen-high flops because you'll have top pair top kicker.

    #9. Pocket Nines (9 9 ).
    A strong hand that is almost always worth playing preflop, whether it be by raising yourself, calling a raise, or 3-betting.

    #10. Ace-Jack Suited (A J ).
    Like ace-queen suited, ace-jack suited has a lot of postflop playability and hits a lot of strong top pairs on the flop. Not to mention it's flush and straight potential.

    #11. King-Queen Suited (K Q ).
    This hand has a lot of playability because of how well it interacts with flops. It can easily hit strong top pairs, plus straights and flushes.

    #12. Ace-Ten Suited (A T ).
    Like king-queen suited, this hand has a lot of playability with strong top pair, flush, and straight potential. However, the large gap between cards makes it slightly less preferable to king-queen suited.

    #13. Ace-Queen Offsuit (A Q ).
    Like its suited counterpart, ace-queen offsuit hits a lot of strong top pairs and is thus very valuable.

    #14. Pocket Eights (8 8 ).
    The lowest pair that cracks the top 20 best No Limit Hold'em starting hands. Pocket eights are strong, but will often face tough spots when an overcard or two comes on the flop.

    #15. King-Jack Suited (K J ).
    Yet another top starting hand that hits strong top pairs relatively often -- sound familiar?

    #16. King-Ten Suited (K T ).
    Like many of the other hands on this list, king-ten suited has the potential to hit strong pairs, straights and flushes.

    #17. Queen-Jack Suited (Q J ).
    Can you guess what makes this hand strong? That's right: it can hit strong pairs, flushes, and straights.

    #18. Ace-Jack Offsuit (A J ).
    Another powerful, high-card-driven hand. Be somewhat wary with ace-jack on ace-high flops, especially versus tight players who may have ace-king and ace-queen.

    #19. King-Queen Offsuit (K Q ).
    Like it's suited counterpart, king-queen offsuit is great at hitting strong pairs on the flop. Plus, that A-J-T flop is soooo dreamy.

    #20. Queen-Ten Suited (Q T ).
    This high-potential suited broadway hand rounds out the list.

    Note: You may have noticed a lack of small pocket pairs and suited connectors on this list. Such hands are often worth playing, but because of their more speculative nature, they do not crack the top 20 best starting hands in No Limit Texas Hold'em.

    Which Poker Starting Hands Should You Play?

    If you want to know which hands to play before the flop in No Limit Hold'em, and when to play them, download the free preflop guide below


    No Limit Texas Hold'em Free Starting Hands Charts

    The Upswing Poker preflop guide makes it easy to play like a pro before the flop. Enter your name and email below to get it for free now!

    This guide will show you exactly which hands to raise from each position before the flop. It also includes the answers to some preflop questions that many new poker players ask about.

    Poker Hand Rankings FAQ

    How many poker hands are there?

    There are 10 possible 5 card poker hands: royal flush, straight flush, four of a kind, full house, flush, straight, three of a kind, two pair, one pair, high card.

    There are 1,326 possible 2 card starting hands in Texas Hold'em. The best starting hand is pocket aces, while the worst is seven-two offsuit.

    Is three pair a poker hand?

    No, three pair is not a poker hand. Poker hands consist of 5 cards, not 6.

    For example, if you have 7-6 and the board runs out 7-6-A-A-2, you do not have three pair. You have two pair, aces and sevens with a six kicker.

    What's the best hand in poker?

    Poker's best hand is a royal flush, which consists of an Ace, King, Queen, Jack, and Ten of the same suit.

    Royal flushes are unbeatable and extremely rare.

    What are the odds of getting a royal flush?

    The odds of flopping a royal flush in Texas Hold'em in any given hand is 1 in 649,740 (before cards are dealt). That's less than a 0.000002% chance!

    If you have a suited hand with two high cards (like Q J ), you have a 1 in 19,600 chance of hitting a royal flush on the flop.

    What is a straight flush?

    A straight flush is five cards in a row of the same suit. For example, 9 8 7 6 5 is a straight flush.

    What are the odds of getting a straight flush?

    The odds of flopping a straight flush in any given hand is 1 in 72,193 (before cards are dealt). That comes out to 0.000013%.

    If you get dealt a specific type of hand, those odds get a fair bit better. But it's still quite a long shot!

    Suited connectors with no gaps like 54s and JTs have a 1 in 4,900 chance of hitting a straight flush on the flop. Those sound like long odds, but they'll seem a bit shorter when you read that suited connectors with gaps (like 84s) have just a 1 in 19,600 chance.

    What are the odds of getting four-of-a-kind?

    The odds of flopping four-of-a-kind in any given hand is 1 in 4,165 (before cards are dealt). That comes out to 0.02401%.

    If you get dealt a pocket pair, those odds get a fair bit better.

    Pocket pairs like A A have a 1 in 407 chance of hitting four-of-a-kind on the flop.

    What are the odds of getting a full house?

    The odds of flopping a full house in any given hand is 1 in 694.1 (before cards are dealt). That comes out to 0.1441%.

    What are the odds of getting a flush?

    The odds of flopping a flush in any given hand is 1 in 508.8 (before cards are dealt). That comes out to 0.1965%.

    If you get dealt two suited cards, those odds get a fair bit better.

    Suited cards like A K have a 1 in 118 chance of hitting a flush on the flop.

    What are the odds of getting a straight?

    The odds of flopping a straight in any given hand is 1 in 254.8 (before cards are dealt). That comes out to 0.3925%.

    If you get dealt two connected cards, those odds get a fair bit better.

    Connected cards like 9 8 have a 1 in 77.5 chance of hitting a straight on the flop.

    What are the odds of getting three-of-a-kind?

    The odds of flopping three-of-a-kind in any given hand is 1 in 47.3 (before cards are dealt). That comes out to 2.1128%.

    If you get dealt a pocket pair, those odds get a fair bit better.

    Pocket pairs like K K have a 1 in 7.5 chance of hitting three-of-a-kind on the flop.

    What are the odds of getting two-pair?

    The odds of flopping two pair in any given hand is 1 in 21 (before cards are dealt). That comes out to 4.7539%.

    What are the odds of getting one-pair?

    The odds of flopping a pair in any given hand is 1 in 2.37 (before cards are dealt). That comes out to 42.27%.

    With an unpaired hand like J9, you have a 32.43% chance of hitting a one-pair hand on the flop.

    What are the odds of getting no pair / high card?

    The odds of flopping a no pair / high card in any given hand is 1 in 1.995 (before cards are dealt). That comes out to 50.1177%.

    What beats what in poker?

    The poker hand rankings are as follows. One pair beats no pair. Two pair beats one pair. Three of a kind beats two pair. A straight beats three of a kind. A flush beats a straight. A full house beats a flush. Four of a kind beats a full house. A straight flush beats four of a kind. A royal flush beats a straight flush.

    What suit is the highest in poker?

    No suit is "higher" or better than any other suit in most poker games, including Texas Hold'em.

    That said, some other poker games do rank suits. The most common ranking of suits goes in the following order (from best to worst): spades , hearts , diamonds , clubs .

    What is a straight / flush / full house in poker?

    A straight is five cards in a row. For example, 9 8 7 6 5 is a straight.

    A flush is five cards of the same suit. For example, K J 8 6 4 is a flush.

    A full house is when you hold both three-of-a-kind and a pair. For example, A A A 7 7 is a full house.

    When it's a flush vs straight, who wins?

    A flush wins versus a straight.

    Flushes consist of 5 cards of the same suit, such as A J 9 7 4 . Straights consist of 5 cards in a row, such as 7 6 5 4 3 .

    Why does a flush beat a straight? Because you have a lower probability of hitting a flush than a straight.

    When it's 3 of a kind vs a straight, who wins?

    A straight wins versus 3 of a kind.

    3 of a kind only beats two pair, one pair, and high card hands.

    What if two people have two pair?

    When multiple players have two pair, the player with the better high pair wins the pot. For example, aces and twos would beat kings and queens.

    If multiple players have the same highest pair, the player with the better low pair wins the pot. For example, aces and sevens would beat aces and twos.

    If multiple players have the exact same two pair, the player with the better kicker wins the pot.

    Note: Want to learn more about the procedures of the game? Learn poker rules here.

    Final Thoughts

    Before you go, here's that poker hand rankings cheat sheet one more time:

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