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A pair of aces is one of the best starting hands in Texas Hold'em, but do you know what the top worst starting hands might be? If you know which hands are "almost-always-fold 'em hands," meaning that you're going to likely fold when you have this hand, you can better evaluate what you're holding at the start of the game. Knowing how to spot these fold 'em hands are an important part of improving your poker game and holding your own among more experienced poker players. While your particular hand is never guaranteed to win or lose a round when you draw a 2 and 7 or a Queen and 3, you'll want to know your odds, and these tips might help you avoid letting bad poker hands ruin your game.
Most of the following bad poker hands usually lose at about the same rate.
Holding 2 and 7 off suit is considered the worst hand in Texas Hold'em. They are the lowest two cards you can have that cannot make a straight (there are five cards between 2 and 7). Even if they are suited, they will make you a very low flush, and if either makes pairs, it is still a low hand. While there's always a chance that you could get pairs, these are low pairs, so use cautiously.
The 2 and 8 cards are the same basic problem as 2 and 7, only you've got an 8 instead of a 7. An 8 is still pretty bad for a high card. Suited or not, this is typically a fold 'em hand. There's always a chance that you could get pairs, but again, these are low pairs.
The 3 and 8 or the 3 and 7 are better than having a 2 and 8 and a 2 and 7, but just barely. With the 3 and 8, you still cannot make a straight, and the 3 and 7 straight has a low probability of occurring. Yes, as we know already, there's always a chance that you could get pairs, but don't forget, these are low pairs, so use cautiously.
If you draw a 2 and 6, toss it. Even if you got a miracle flop of 3, 4, and 5, giving you a straight, if someone has a 6 and 7, you will lose to the higher straight. And, if you get a flush, someone will probably have a higher flush. Against only four players, this hand will lose about 90 percent of the time. As with the previous hands we discussed, sure there's a chance of the two pairs, but it's a low card; proceed with caution.
If you a draw a 2, 3, or 4 paired with a 9, the only thing you have going for you is the 9. If the 9 pairs, you will have a middle pair that could still be beaten by anyone holding pocket 10s, jacks, queens, kings, or aces. No straights can fill the gap between these cards either.
Drawing a 2 and 10 hand has a legendary quality because poker pro-Doyle Brunson captured two World Series of Poker Bracelets with it. On the face of it, it is not a good hand. Brunson is one of the all-time best players of the game. So unless you are a Texas road gambler who has logged thousands of hours at the table, you probably should not try and win with the Doyle Brunson hand.
The 9 and 5 hand is another hand people play because it is fun and it is known as the "Dolly Parton," named for her popular song and movie in the 1980s. If you are playing to win, it is not a good idea to play hands just because they have a funny name. Over the long term, this hand is a statistical loser. This one is not your way to make a living in poker.
A troublesome trio of starting hands: If you pull a 4 and 7, 4 and 8, 5 and 8, 3 and 6, toss them. All of these hands will rarely win, especially when unsuited. Unless you're in a position of having to place a blind bet, which lets you see the first three cards dealt to give you a better idea of your odds, folding is a good idea.
One of the most common mistakes beginners make is that when they see any face cards in their hand, they play it. Jack and 2, queen and 3, king and 4 whatever the case. Most of these hands are losers. They are considered junk cards. Randomly, they may win a few pots, but more often than not, this hand will lose you huge cash when you find the other player has a higher hand.
Another common beginner mistake is playing any ace. It may win occasionally, and heads-up it is a fine hand, but at a table of four or more, this hand should not be played if there is a raise in front of you. Chances are you are going to be outkicked if you are playing an ace and a low card.
Erik Arneson is a highly respected board game expert, sharing his 20 years of knowledge on gaming strategies. He's the author of the book, "17 Games You Can Play Right Now," has been a featured speaker at the American International Toy Fair, and is the former Vice President of the Strategy Gaming Society.
Illustration: The Spruce / Ellen Lindner
At the begging of each round of Texas Hold 'Em poker, you are dealt two cards. These are your hole cards or starting hand. Those hole cards can eventually be used with the cards revealed in the flop, turn and river to assemble a (hopefully) winning hand.
After you are dealt your starting cards, there is a round of betting. At this point, players look at their hold cards and choose to check, bet or fold. Anyone who doesn't fold after viewing his hole cards then sees the three flop cards. Another round of betting occurs before the turn card is dealt. A round of betting also precedes the river card. There is then one more round of betting, and the best five-card hand wins. That hand may or may not contain the hole cards.
Some starting two-card hands are more likely to work well with the other cards in the deck than others. Of all the possible starting hands you can be dealt in Texas Hold 'Em, the following five hands are the least welcome. If you're dealt one of these hands, there are almost no circumstances in which you should play them. If you see these particular card combinations in your starting hand, your best option is to fold 'em.
A 2-7 offsuit hand is the worst hand to start with in Texas Hold 'Em poker because there are so few good options available to you: you have no straight draw, no flush draw, and even if you wind up with a pair of 7s or a pair of 2s, you're unlikely to have the best hand. Of course, you'll see some crazy flops every now and then, but just because you see a rare 7-7-2 flop once in a blue moon doesn't make this a good hand to play.
Everything that can be said about the 2-7 offsuit starting hand also applies to the 2-8 offsuit hand. It is only slightly better than a 2-7 offsuit because the 8 is better than the 7. For the same reasons, you have no good options going forward with this hand. It is best to drop out before the betting begins.
The 3-8 offsuit hand is another horrible starting hand for Texas Hold 'Em poker. Not much help can come from the flop or the turn here. Best wait for a better hand than to stick with this highly unlikely winner.
The 2-9 offsuit hand is only slightly better than the other hands in the bottom five worst-hands list and even then it is because the 9 high a high card. All the same criticisms of the previous hands apply to this one as well.
Of the 169 possible starting hands in Texas Hold 'Em poker, this one ranks 165th. That's not something to crow about. Face it, you're having a bad day when you see any of these five hands. Poker is a fun game but playing this hand is just asking for a headache.
It s critical to have a solid understanding of poker hand rankings, what hands are worth playing, and how those hands change based on your position at the table. Strong hands like A A and K K should always be played from any position, while hands like 8 3 are very weak and should almost never proceed past the preflop betting round.
Factors like position, number of players in the hand, and playing style of your opponents should all be considered when deciding to put money in the pot preflop.
Preflop mistakes will sabotage your game, so let s go through some of the essential elements of selecting your Texas Hold em Starting Hands:
Let s first become familiar with the common poker starting hand notations
All Texas Hold em starting hands can be separated into two categories: suited and offsuit . Suited hands contain two cards of the same suit, like J 9 , A K , K Q and 9 3 . All other starting hands are in the offsuit category, like A 8 , 7 5 and K 9 .
When you re reading an article from the Upswing Poker blog, or looking at our free preflop charts, suited hands will be denoted with an s , while offsuit hands are denoted with an o .
So for example, JTs is the notation for jack-ten suited, and includes J T , J T , J T and J T . JTo denotes any jack-ten combo with two different suits, like J T .
Many of the recommended staring hands from the Upswing Preflop charts include suited combinations of hands, but not their offsuit counterparts. JTs is a hand you ll be playing most of the time, while JTo is played much less often.
Note: Want to upgrade your poker skills? Get free preflop charts and start playing like a pro before the flop. Download now!
The other important notation you ll often see is + , which can mean different things depending on what hand it s attached to.
The notation 22+ means you should be playing 22 and all other higher-ranking pocket pairs. 77+ means play all pocket pairs including 77 and better, so this range excludes the pocket pairs 22 through 66.
The + at the end of a hand like A7s+ means play all suited aces that are at least A7s or better. So, in this case that would mean A7s, A8s, A9s, ATs, AJs, AQs and AKs. The notation A7o+ means play all offsuit aces A7o or better.
Another example: K2s+ means all suited kings (K2s, K3s, K4s, etc.).
Quite possibly the most important concept in poker, position refers to where you re sitting in relation to other players, the dealer button and the blinds in a given hand.
All Texas Hold em poker hands begin with two players posting the small blind and big blind , which are mandatory bets that rotate around the table after each hand. The dealer button is always immediately counterclockwise to the small blind.
These are the positions at a nine-handed table:
The player immediately clockwise of the big blind is always first to act in the preflop betting round, and this position is known as Under the Gun , or UTG .
The UTG, UTG+1 and UTG+2 positions are known collectively as early position , or EP . Because they are the first players to act preflop, their starting hand ranges need to be tighter, as there are several players left to act after them. The LoJack and HiJack are sometimes referred to as middle position , and the cutoff and button are known as late position .
The preflop betting round starts with UTG and ends with the big blind closing the action. In all subsequent betting rounds, the small blind (or the next player remaining clockwise of the small blind, if the player in the small blind has folded), starts the betting round, and the button closes the action.
Because the player on the button is last to act in all postflop betting rounds (the flop, turn and river), you ll always employ a looser starting hand range when sitting on the button. This happens because you ll have the most information among all players in the hand, as all other players have to act before you.
The player that s last to act in any betting round is known as in-position , or IP , while all other players are out-of-position , or OOP . When you hear that a player has position on another player, it means the player that has position is acting last.
Let s start putting together the concepts of Texas Hold em starting hands and position by taking a look at the Upswing Poker free preflop charts. These charts place all possible staring hands in a color-coded matrix that make it easy to visualize these concepts.
We ll start with a look at the Under the Gun (UTG) starting hand ranges in a nine-handed game:
The red squares represent the hands you should play from UTG.
This hand matrix represents all of the possible starting hands in Texas Hold em. The pocket pairs (22 through AA) bisect the matrix diagonally, and all suited hands are to the right of this line, while their offsuit counterparts are to the left.
The hands in red represent the starting hand range you should play from UTG. This is the tightest of all of the starting ranges, and using our notations from above, this range can be represented as 77+, T9s+, QTs+, KTs+, AQo+, and ATs+.
When playing from UTG, you ll often get callers and face 3-bets (raises), so this hand range needs to only include the strongest starting hands, as these hands play well postflop.
Let s compare this tight range to the LoJack opening range. These are the hands that you ll Raise First In (RFI), so these are the hands that you re raising with from the LoJack when all players in the earlier positions have folded:
Because we re in a later position relative to UTG, we re now including all suited aces (A2s+), pocket pairs 55 and better (55+), suited connectors from 76s and up (76s+), one-gappers from J9s and up (J9s+), and two-gappers Q9s and better (Q9s+).
We ve also added another suited three-gapper with K9s, as well as another offsuit broadway hand with AJo ( broadway hands are any hands where both cards are an ace, king, queen, jack, or ten). With fewer players left to act after us, we can start to include more hands to our starting range.
Finally, let s take a look at our range when playing from the button:
This is a much wider range than the LoJack and UTG ranges, which now includes most suited kings (K4s+), many offsuit aces (A4o+), almost all of the suited connectors (43s+) and one-gappers (53s+), and all pocket pairs (22+).
We re also raising first in with a wide selection of suited two-gappers (96s+) and three-gappers (J7s+), most of our suited queens (Q6s+), and have also introduced quite a few offsuit hands like T9o+, J9o+, Q9o+, and K9o.
We raise first in with so many more hands from the button, as we re now only playing against the blinds. There s a great chance that both blinds fold and we win the pot without even having to see the flop, and this is what makes even the weakest hands in this range profitable when playing from the button.
Premium Pocket Pairs Hands like TT+ are premium preflop holdings and should be raised first in from any position. These are hands that are profitable over the long run, and can withstand aggression from 3-bets, as well as callers.
Middle Pocket Pairs The pocket pairs from 55 through 99 are good preflop holdings but shouldn t be played as aggressively as the premium pairs. The weakest hands in this range (55 and 66) should be folded from early position in a full ring game.
Low Pocket Pairs 22 through 44 are hands that should not be played as a raise first in from the early positions, but become profitable when played from the later positions. You ll often be looking to hit a set (three-of-a-kind) on the flop with the low pocket pairs.
Premium Hands like AKo and AQo are premium offsuit hands and should be played as a raise first in from all positions, even in a full ring game. In a 6-max or shorthanded game, you can add hands like KQs and maybe AJs to the premium list and open with such hands in any position.
Sometimes Playable AJo and KQo are borderline premium hands that should actually be folded from the earliest positions in a full ring game. Other offsuit hands that are sometimes playable include JTo+, A4o through ATo, QTo+, and KTo+. Hands like A2o and A3o are at the very bottom of this range and should only sometimes be played from late position.
Trashy Hands like Q5o, J6o, 52o and 84o are among the weakest starting hands in Texas Hold em and should never be played as a raise first in. The majority of Texas Hold em starting hands are in this category, so it s important to get into the habit of only selecting appropriate hands to play from each position. Sometimes you ll go through long stretches of unplayable hands; don t get bored and start opening with trashy hands!
Connectors These hands include any two cards that are connected and of the same suit. The best of this category are hands like AKs, KQs, QJs, JTs and T9s. AKs is a premium hand and should always be played from any position. KQs is also a very good hand, while QJs, JTs and T9s are hands that play very well from most positions and have the potential to draw to flushes and straights and win big pots.
The lower suited connectors, like 76s and 54s, are playable as a raise first in from the late positions, but should be folded from early position.
Gappers Suited one-gappers are hands like KJs, T8s, 75s, etc. These hands can connect with the board and win big pots, but they re not as profitable as connectors.
The bigger the gap, the more selective you should be with these hands. Two-gappers include hands like KTs, J8s and 74s, three-gappers are hands like K9s, J7s, 73s, etc. The top gapper hands (like KJs) play well as raises from the middle to late positions. The lower two and three gappers (like T7s, 85s, 42s) might be playable from late position, but should never be played from any other position.
Note: Want to upgrade your poker skills? Get free preflop charts and start playing like a pro before the flop. Download now!
Are you ready to learn about the 10 worst starting hands are in Texas Hold Em poker? When you are getting started in Texas Hold'em poker, you already know about the 10 best starting poker hands and what beats what in poker, but what about the 10 worst starting hands? Just like there are hands that make you want to bet the farm, there are definitely other hands in Texas Holdem that should make you a little nervous when it comes to moving ahead, so if you happen to catch any of these hands, proceed with caution.
2-7 Getting a 2-7 is widely considered the worst starting hand that you can get dealt because there are four cards between them. One of the cards will certainly be superfluous should you decide to go for a straight, and even if they suited, this will make for a very low flush. Even pairing them up doesn't make anything very special.
2-8 This gives you the same problem as above, and whether you are using a seven or an eight, this is definitely still a very low high card in Texas hold'em.
3-8, 3-7 When it comes to the ten worst starting hands, these are the two that come tied for third place. They are just a little bit better than a 2-7 or a 2-8, but you'll find that they have all the same problems. You can't make a straight, and the high card is too low to be worth much at all unless the luck is the same across the table, which is not something you can bet on.
2-6 While of course if this two cards are suited you are going to be in better shape, you'll find that it's still not great. You can of course make a straight by getting a 3, a 4, and a 5, but that's fairly low odds. In addition, this is the lowest flush that you can get, and there is a good chance that someone has better.
2-9, 3-9, 4-9 When you get this kind of draw, you are still ahead of the last few draws, but not by much. The best you can really hope for is getting that nine paired up, and you cannot make a straight from this combination.
2-10 Don't be fooled by one of the famous poker players Doyle Brunson winning two World Series of Poker Bracelets with it. This is something that takes a real professional to work with, and chances are, for the most part, this is going to be a rotten hand for anyone else.
5-9 Not the worst of the 10 worst starting hands, but not one to get really happy about, either.
4-7, 4-8, 5-8, 3-6 These cards fall into the toss-em category, and unless you are in the big blind and can see the flop for free, let it go.
Face card- low card, unsuited. You'll get a few points from this combination, but not enough to make a difference.
Ace card low card, unsuited Once in a while, you may win with this hand, but it is in the 10 worst starting hands for a reason. If you are playing with four more, don't play it. You're going to get kicked pretty hard if you do!
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