Starting Hands in Texas Hold’em

In Texas Holdem there are 169 different two card starting combinations. That number assumes that a hand like

AK is of the same value pre flop as A K. Of course, if three hearts appeared on the flop, the A K would be much more likely to win, but since the flop cannot be predicted, these two hands have the same value before the flop. They would both simply be referred to as AK suited.Each of the 169 starting combinations falls into one of five categories:

Pairs – ex. 8 8 or A A
Unsuited Connectors – ex. 4 5 or Q J
Unsuited Gapped Cards – ex. A J or 2 8
Suited Connectors – ex. KQ or 8 9
Suited Gapped Cards – ex. K 10 or 5 3

Starting Hand Standards

There are a few hands that are strong enough to play from any position on the table. However these hands don’t come very often so you need consistent starting standards to be successful. Here is a table of playable hands relative to position.
Playable Texas Holdem hands from early position:

Pocket Pairs 7s through Aces
Suited Ace with a King, Queen, Jack, or 10
  King with a Queen, Jack, or 10
  Queen with a Jack or 10
  Jack with a 10 or 9
  10 with a 9
Unsuited Aces with a king, queen, jack, or 10
  King with a queen or jack

Playable Texas Hold’em hands from middle position (5th, 6th, or 7th player to act)

Pocket Pairs 5s and 6s
Suited Aces with a 9,8,7, or 6
  King with a 9
  Queen with a 9 or 8
  Jack with an 8
  10 with an 8
  9 with an 8
Unsuited King with a 10
  Queen with a Jack or 10
  Jack with a 10

Late position is the last or next to last player to act. You can add a variety of hands to your standards if the pot has not been raised. Most of these hands you would call with to simply get a bargain flop and hope to get lucky.

Playable Texas Holdem hands from middle position

Pocket Pairs 4s, 3s, and 2s
Suited Aces with a 5,4,3, or 2
  King with an 8,7,6,5,4,3 or 2
  Jack with a 7
  10 with a 7
  9 with a 7 or 6
  8 with a 7 or 6
  7 with a 6 or 5
  6 with a 5
  5 with a 4
Unsuited King with a 9
  Queen with a 9
  Jack with a 9 or 8
  10 with a 9 or 8
  9 with an 8 or 7
  8 with a 7

If you mastered Texas Hold’em and are looking to improve your Pot Limit Omaha game, this article explains the differences between Pot Limit Omaha and Texas Hold’em starting hand values.