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Starting Hands

               There are five categories of hold’em starting hands that we will discuss: Big pairs, small and medium pairs, two high cards, suited connectors, and big-little suited. Most other hands should be thrown away, unless you have the big blind and the pot has not been raised.

Category No.1: Big pairs. A pair of tens and higher is an excellent starting hand. With a high pair, you not only can make an even bigger hand, but also can completely miss the board-that is, your hand does not improve-and still have a reasonable opportunity to win the pot. Obviously, the chances of winning with  two aces are better than the chances of winning with two tens. In general, however, all high pairs have immediate value and should be played aggressively.

Category No.2: small and medium pairs. In hold’em, as in seven-card stud, there is a big difference in strength between big pairs and smaller pairs. A hand like

seldom wins the pot without improvement. Moreover, the odds against this hand improving to three of a kind on the flop are almost 8-to-1(although you still can flop a straight draw).
               Since small and medium pairs rarely win without improving, they have little immediate value and therefore can be classified  as drawing hands. And  to profitably play these hands, you need several opponents in the pot.

Category No.3: Two high cards. Two unsuited high cards is usually a playable hand but not a great hand. Even though ace-king almost always should be played, a hand like

often should be folded, especially if someone has raised. In addition, this hand must hit the flop to win in a multiway pot.
               If your hand is suited, you should be more inclined to play. But remember the warning given earlier: Don’t overrate the value of two suited cards.

Category No.4: Suited connectors. Hands like

are only fair at best. And if your hand contains a gap, you cannot  play it as often since your straight possibilities have decreased. This type of hand usually should be thrown away in early position, and you should not call a raise even from a late position unless many players are already in the pot.

Category No.5: Big-little suited. An ace or a king with a small card of the same suit is similar in value to the suited connectors and should be played as such. In addition, it’s wise to remember that ace-little suited is better than king-little suited.

Starting Hand Quiz 

1. What  hands are you primarily interested in playing?                                                   
              Big pair and high cards, especially suited high cards.

2. How do you play these hands?                                                   
              Aggressively. Almost always raise, and with the better hands, usually re raise.

3. Suppose two players are already in the pot. The first player has raised, the second has called, and you hold two kings. What should you do?                                                   
               Raise again. You have a strong hand and would prefer to shut out the remaining players.

4. In what situation do small pairs play best?                                                   
               In a many-handed pot.

5. When you play a small pair, what are you hoping to do?
               To make three of a kind on the flop.

6. When do suited connectors play best ?
               when many opponents are in the pot

7. You are in one of  the blind positions, someone has raised, and there are several callers. What kind of hands should you play?
               All of the good hands, Plus all pairs and many of the hands that can make straights and flushes.

8. Which  hand is better, ace-jack off suit or eight-seven suited?
               Normally, ace-jack off suit is the better hand. But when a lot of  players are in the pot, you would prefer to hold the eight-seven suited. In this situation, don’t overplay a hand like ace-jack.

9. If there is no raise, what hands do you call with out of the little blind?
               Even though you can get in for only a partial bet, you still need to be somewhat selective. Routinely playing hands like


eventually will prove costly. In other words, you still should discard your worst hands.

10. If  someone has raised, how does this affect the hands you should play?
               Generally, you need to be much more selective. Small pairs and medium suited connectors do not play well against a large pair, and when someone raises, he is quite likely to be holding a large pair. In addition, a raise makes it doubtful that a lot of  players will enter the pot. This means you will not get the implied odds-the amount of money you anticipate winning versus the amount you expect it to cost you-that many hands require to be profitable.

11. When should you play a hand like king-four suited?
               When you are in a late position, several players are already in, and the pot has not been raised.

12. When you have a close decision regarding whether to Online Play a hand, what should you consider?
               In hold’em as in seven-card stud and all other forms of poker, you must take into account how well those opponents already in the pot play. The better they play, the less inclined you should be to go up against them.