Pre-flop Helper

When playing a game of Texas Hold’em, a player can get to play a lot of cards for free. You only have to pay to play cards you don’t like when it’s you’re turn to make a blind bet. In all other cases if you don’t like your cards you can fold with no penalty, therefore you only have to pay to play cards you like.
It has been said that in Hold’em “any two cards can win”, your starting hand will determine how you should proceed. What is it that makes some cards better in a starting hand than others? Simply put, some cards are more likely to develop into winning hands than others.

Here are the best starting hands to have in Texas Hold’em:

High pairs, any face cards are good but a pair of Aces is the best starting hand possible. Having any of these cards is not a guarantee of winning but by starting out with such a pair you are usually in a much better winning position than the rest of the players at the table.

Aces with a suited face card, with the best of these being the Ace-King suited.

This combination has four ways of developing into a winning hand:

  • If an Ace comes up on the flop you have top pair with a powerful “kicker”.
  • If the face card comes up on the flop you have a powerful pair with the best “kicker”.
  • As the cards are suited, you have a chance of landing a flush. If successful you will have the best flush possible – Ace high.
  • And finally, because of the close rank of the cards, there is a chance of making a straight. Once again, if made, it will be the best possible straight – Ace high.

Suited face cards, give you a chance to make both a flush and a straight, because the cards are suited and close in rank. Face cards are high in rank, so any straights and flushes will likely be better than most others that can be made. In the event that you can only make a pair, again, your pair and your kicker will be of high value.

Aces or Kings with an unsuited high card, still hold the advantages of high ranking cards. Any pairs made and kicker held will contain high value cards. Also with the closeness in rank you can still hope for a straight.

Beginning play with a solid starting hand is a good way to play poker, but it is not a guarantee of success. Poker isn’t that simple. Still, playing these hands, is a good place to start in playing winning poker.

“Why is playing quality starting hands important?”

The short answer: It increases you chances of winning.

One thing that I noticed as I finished a session at Party Poker was that in sticking to premium starting hands I did not have to make a lot of tough decisions and I was losing fewer chips along the way.

A couple of examples come to mind:
The first hand that comes to mind was a classic example of what can go wrong when you play Ace-anything. The flop can turn up your Ace, but then your trouble may start.

I was staying with premium hands. I drew an Ace-King off-suit and then an Ace hit the board. I had the top pair and the highest kicker.

When someone else at the table raised I knew I didn’t have the only Ace in the hole. But because I held such a strong kicker I called his raise.

We bet until the river card was turned, and at the showdown I turned over my Ace-King to win. My Ace-King topped my opponent’s Ace-7 and the pot was mine.

By not having a premium hand, my opponent had left himself vulnerable to the being “out-kicked” for top card. Indeed that’s just what happened.

In playing hands like A-7, you not only have to make your Ace but you have to be aware that your kicker may not be strong enough to out-kick an opponent. If you are the only person to make their Ace you will win, but if not your kicker is not likely not strong enough to out-kick an opponent who is playing a premium starting hand.

Sometimes a pro will play a hand that is “off the chart”, but anyone who regularly plays hands that contain a weaknesses will play against hands that use that weakness against them. The resulting losses will cost you chips.

The second hand that comes to mind where sticking to premium hands won a pot was a hand where both my opponent and I both had made flushes. My opponent played two suited, but low ranking, cards. This left his hand open to being beaten by a higher rankings flush. That’s what happened. I played Queen-Jack suited and outranked my opponent to win the pot.

A hand containing (Ace or King)-anything or two suited cards can look like a hand to play. Hitting your cards will give you a good hand, and a flush is a good hand, but a low-ranking flush is only the best hand when it’s the only flush at the table.

When playing starting hands that are less than premium hands you will have to ask “will my flush be strong enough to take the pot?”. You may find after you play that you it isn’t, and this can cost you chips.

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