When playing Hold'em
poker, you can be dealt 169 different two-card starting hands. Thirteen
of them are pairs (such as 8/8), another 78 hands are suited hands (like
the Q/10 of spades) and 78 more hands are unsuited non-pairs (such as
All good players
understand that you must reduce your selection to the better quality
hands if you want to win. I have never paid a red cent to see the flop
with a hand like 3/6 or 5/9. These are known as "rags" in
poker lingo and there's just no future in them.
So then, if a 3/6
or 5/9 is a rag hand, then which are the premium ones I mean,
the real "dukes" of Hold'em hands? The absolute best, most
moneymaking hand you can hope to be dealt is of course, "pocket
rockets" (A/A) but you already knew that. So what other
hands are really good where profit potential is concerned?
According to David
Sklansky's Hold'em Poker for Advanced Players, the top 10 most desirable
starting hands are:
5. A/K suited
7. A/Q suited
8. A/J suited
9. K/Q suited
may argue over the exact ranking of the bottom five hands, but it doesn't
matter much because you're going to need more than ten hands in your
playing repertoire. These ten holdings comprise only 6% of all the hands
you can get.
So here's a tricky
question for you. Which of the top 10 hands will you be dealt most often?
The answer is #10, the A/K unsuited (aka "Big Slick"). You'll
squeeze out that puppy once every 110 hands on average. Any specific
pocket pair comes once every 221 hands and all the suited hands come
once every 332 hands each.
As rare as those
top 10 hands are though, believe it or not, sometimes you should actually
fold certain ones of them before the flop. Why? Well, if tight, tough
players are raising and re-raising before it becomes your turn to act,
it's best not to get involved with pocket pocket 10s.
If you're last to
act and it's been double raised in a two player pot, the same can be
said for A/J suited and K/Q suited. Against only two players, your potential
for making a flush doesn't add that much value to your hand, and A/J
or K/Q isn't an enviable hand against a double raise.
That brings up this
next curiosity question. When your hand is suited, how often will you
make a flush? Okay, you'll make a "no waiting" flush (right
on the flop) once every 118 hands. You'll flop a 4-flush and eventually
complete the flush either on the turn or the river another 1 time in
26. All in all, assuming you fold when you flop a "back door"
flush draw (only one of your flush cards on the flop), your suited hand
will turn into a flush once every 21 times. It takes three or four opponents
in against you for that longshot to have much extra value.
Alright, so if you
need to find more hands to play besides the top 10, which ones should
you pick and how many? Any Hold'em player worth his salt knows that
depends upon position. In fact, if you're "under the gun"
(first to act right after the blinds), the top 10 plus maybe another
seven or eight quality hands are about all you should fool with. These
would be holdings like A/Q, A/J, K/Q, pocket 9s, pocket 8s, Q/J suited,
J/10 suited and maybe K/J suited. Anything less is too risky since you
don't know what all those players behind you might do.
When you're in the
middle of the table and you've seen a few people fold, you can come
in with the likes of A/10, K/J and pocket 7s, etc. And when you're all
the way around back and can get in for just one bet, that's when you
can speculate with your pocket deuces and 6/5 suited connectors, etc.
Finally, if you're
on the button (last to act) or in the "cutoff" seat (right
in front of the button) when everybody else has folded thus far, you
should come in raising with any hand that's merely worth a call. That's
to put pressure on the blinds and give you a chance to take it down
without seeing a flop. You could do this with hands as weak as J/9 or