Texas hold 'em starting hands

A pair of aces is the best pre-flop hand to be dealt in Texas Hold'em Poker

Texas hold 'em starting hands consists of two Hole cards in the poker game of Texas hold 'em, which belong solely to the player and remain hidden from the other players. Five community cards are also dealt into play. Betting begins before any of the community cards are exposed, and continues throughout the hand. The player's "playing hand", which will be compared against that of each competing player, is the best 5-card poker hand available from his two hole cards and the five community cards. Unless otherwise specified, here the term hand applies to the player's two hole cards, or starting hand.

Essentials

There are (52 × 51)/2 = 1,326 distinct possible combinations of two hole cards from a standard 52-card deck in hold 'em, but since suits have no relative value in poker, many of these hands are identical in value before the flop. For example, A♥ J♥ and A♠ J♠ are identical, because each is a hand consisting of an ace and a jack of the same suit. There are 169 nonequivalent starting hands in hold 'em (13 pocket pairs, 13 × 12 / 2 = 78 suited hands and 78 unsuited hands; 13 + 78 + 78 = 169). These 169 hands are not equally likely (see Poker probability (Texas hold 'em)). There are 25 starting hands with a probability of winning at a ten-handed table of greater than 1/7.[1] Hold 'em hands are sometimes classified as having one of three "shapes":

• Pairs, (or "pocket pairs"), which consist of two cards of the same rank (e.g. 9♠ 9♣). One hand in 17 will be a pair, each occurring with individual probability 1/221 (P(pair) = 3/51 = 1/17).
• Suited hands, which contain two cards of the same suit (e.g. A♣ 6♣). Four hands out of 17 will be suited, and each suited configuration occurs with probability 2/663 (P(suited) = 12/51 = 4/17).
• Offsuit hands, which contain two cards of a different suit and rank (e.g. K♠ J♥). Twelve out of 17 hands will be nonpair, offsuit hands, each of which occurs with probability 2/221 (P(offsuit non-pair) = 3*(13-1)/51 = 12/17).

It is typical to abbreviate suited hands in hold 'em by affixing an "s" to the hand, as well as to abbreviate non-suited hands with an "o" (for offsuit). That is,

QQ represents any pair of queens,
AK (or, sometimes, AKo) represents any ace and king of different suits, and
JTs represents any jack and ten of the same suit.

Texas hold 'em hand groups

David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth[2] assigned each hand to a group, and proposed all hands in the group could normally be played similarly. Stronger starting hands are identified by a lower number. Hands without a number are the weakest starting hands. As a general rule, books on Texas hold'em present hand strengths on the assumption of a nine or ten person table.

Pre-Flop Basic Strategy
A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2
A 1 1 2 2 3 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 A
K 2 1 2 3 4 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 K
Q 3 4 1 3 4 5 7             Q
J 4 5 5 1 3 4 6 8           J
10 6 6 6 5 2 4 5 7           10
9 8 8 8 7 7 3 4 5 8         9
8       8 8 7 4 5 6 8       8
7             8 5 5 6 8     7
6               8 5 6 7     6
5                 8 6 6 7   5
4                   8 7 7 8 4
3                       7 8 3
2                         7 2
A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2
Note: If the cards are suited, trace down to your higher pocket card and read from left to right across to the lower of the two cards. If the cards are unsuited, trace across to your higher pocket card and read from the top down to the lower of the two cards. If the cards are paired, reading vertically or horizontally yields the same result.

Chen formula

The "Chen Formula" is a way to compute the Sklansky Malmuth table for those people who have trouble memorizing.

Limit Hand Rankings

Phil Hellmuth's: "How to Play Poker Like the Pros"

Tier Hands Category
1 AA, KK, QQ, AKs, AK Top 12 Hands
2 JJ, TT, 99 (cont.)
3 88, 77, AQs, AQ (cont.)
4 AJs, ATs, A9s, A8s Majority Play Hands
5 A7s, A6s, A5s, A4s, A3s, A2s, KQs, KQ (cont.)
6 QJs, JTs, T9s, 98s, 87s, 76s, 65s Suited Connectors

[3]

Tier Hands
1 AA, KK, QQ, JJ, AKs
2 AK, AQs, AJs, KQs, TT
3 ATs, KJs, AQ, 99, QJs, KTs
4 88, QTs, A9s, AJ, JTs, KQ, A8s, AT
5 K9s, A7s, KJ, A5s, Q9s, T9s
6 77, J9s, A6s, QJ, A4s, KT
7 QT, A3s, K8s, JT, A2s, Q8s
8 T8s, K7s, 98s, 66, J8s
9 A9, K6s, K5s, A8

Statistics based on real play

Statistics based on real play with their associated actual value in real bets.[4]

Tier Hands EV
1 AA, KK, QQ, JJ, AKs 2.32 - 0.78
2 AQs, TT, AK, AJs, KQs, 99 0.59 - 0.38
3 ATs, AQ, KJs, 88, KTs, QJs 0.32 - 0.20
4 A9s, AJ, QTs, KQ, 77, JTs 0.19 - 0.15
5 A8s, K9s, AT, A5s, A7s 0.10 - 0.08
6 KJ, 66, T9s, A4s, Q9s 0.08 - 0.05
7 J9s, QJ, A6s, 55, A3s, K8s, KT 0.04 - 0.01
8 98s, T8s, K7s, A2s 0.00
9 87s, QT, Q8s, 44, A9, J8s, 76s, JT (-) 0.02 - 0.03

Nicknames for starting hands

In poker communities, it is common for hole cards to be given nicknames. While most combinations have a nickname, stronger handed nicknames are generally more recognized, the most notable probably being the "Big Slick" - Ace and King of the same suit. Hands can be named according to the strength of the hand (eg, paired aces are sometimes known as rockets representing their strength); a historic event (eg, A's and 8's - dead man's hand, representing the hand held by Wild Bill Hickok when he was fatally shot in the back by Jack McCall in 1876); many other reasons like animal names, alliteration and rhyming are also used in nicknames.

See list of poker hand nicknames for many examples.

Notes

1. ^ No-Limit Texas Hold'em by Angel Largay
2. ^ David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth (1999). Hold 'em Poker for Advanced Players. Two Plus Two Publications. ISBN 1-880685-22-1
3. ^ http://web.archive.org/web/20070807120303/http://www.cs.cmu.edu/People/mummert/poker/
4. ^ http://www.pokerroom.com/poker/poker-school/ev-stats/total-stats-by-card/