Holdem Starting Hands 101

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Deciding which hold’em hands to start with can be confusing. Should you play any two suited cards? Should you play everything? Should you wait for aces? Here’s a quick guide to how you should think about starting hands when playing online holdem.

Starting Hands by Position

The later you are to act in a hand, the looser your starting hand requirements should be. Late acting players have much more information than early acting ones. They have a much better chance of getting away from bad hands and getting paid off on good hands. In the first few positions, you should only play premium hands like big pairs (aces, kings, queens, sometimes jacks and tens) or big cards (AK, AQ suited, sometimes KQ and AJ). In middle position, you can open up your standards to include other big cards and medium pairs (JT, QJ, 99, 88, 77). You can throw in more creative hands in late position (44, 33, 22, 56 suited, T8 suited). The hands in the latest category, however, are more valuable in no limit than in limit texas holdem thanks to their implied strength.

Suited Cards

Avoid playing cards solely because they are suited. Playing all suited cards will have you playing too many hands. This can lead to trouble. You should certainly play ace high suited hands frequently and even king high suited hands often. Beyond that, you are asking for problems. Most of the time, you will miss the flop and lose your pre-flop bet. Sometimes you will flop a complete flush and it will be difficult to get any action from weaker hands. Sometimes you will flop a flush draw and have to pay a lot to get to the river. By the time that happens, you may still miss a considerable sum. When you do hit your flush, it will be difficult to get action except from another flush. If you are up against a higher flush, you could lose a lot. Consider suited cards when they are an enhancement to cards that are already good, not as a reason to play a hand.

Suited Connectors

These hands are both suited and connecting, like 6h 7h or 9c Tc. They can be fun to play because they can flop a hidden monster hand. You should generally play these hands in late position when it is likely you will be able to see the flop cheaply. You should look to get away from these hands after the flop, unless you flop a very strong hand or draw.

By Darren Heitner

Darren Heitner created Sports Agent Blog as a New Year's Resolution on December 31, 2005. Originally titled, "I Want To Be A Sports Agent," the website was founded with the intention of causing Heitner to learn more about the profession that he wanted to join, meet reputable individuals in the space and force himself to stay on top of the latest news and trends.

Heitner now runs Heitner Legal, P.L.L.C., which is a law firm with many practice areas, including sports law and contract law. Heitner has represented numerous athletes and sports agents as legal counsel. He has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Indiana University Bloomington from 2011-2014, where he created and taught a course titled, Sport Agency Management, which included subjects ranging from NCAA regulations to athlete agent certification and the rules governing the profession. Heitner serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where he teaches a Sports Law class that includes case law surrounding athlete agents and the NCAA rules.