Good Texas Hold'em Starting Hands
Many professional players will tell you that the starting hand is only as good as your ability to bluff, but when dragged down to the river holding a turkey you will feel the sting of losing a large pot all the same. The best starting hand, by the numbers, is A-A, with a 1 in 210,000 chance of drawing them. If no aces fall in the flop, and your opponent is holding a pair and flops a set, then those aces will only get you into trouble.
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The key to playing a good hand is not getting something unbeatable pre-flop, but knowing when to bet into someone that simply has a worse hand.
Most Poker books, and many computerized games that have "helpers", will tell you that folding a K-7 off-suit is good idea. This is not necessarily the case. If a king comes on the flop and is the top card, the chances of winning are great. Some sources will tell you that 7-4 off-suit is the worst hand at poker, for the fact that it's usually too far from a straight, and has no chance of flushing. Again, this hand has flopped into an unbeatable full house on some really good draws.
So, what constitutes a "good" poker hand?
Obviously, the top pairs are great, A-A, K-K,Q-Q, and so on. Top combos are good, too, but can get you into trouble if they do not draw pairs on the flop, such as A-K, A-Q, K-Q, etc. By the numbers, lower pairs become as good as upper combos around 9-9. A pair of nines can win if the other cards to not fall for the person holding the combo. Unless you can bluff right off the line with absolutely nothing (such as 2-4, 3-7, and other unsuited lower cards), it is a good idea for the novice to fold anything under one face card, i.e. Q-5 or J-9.
Always be aware of the flush/straight ability of your hand, because most players will forget this and pay attention to only pairs and sets, not realizing they shouldn't have folded a J-9 combo when there is a 10-Q-6 showing. Either the 8 or a K would save the day for their hand.
Here is a list of cards that should be played, or at least taken to the flop to see if they hit:
A-A, or "Bullets".
A-K, or "Big Slick" (because this combo often gets people into trouble when they think they have it locked)
A with any card over 8.
K-K, K-Q, K-J, K-10,Q-Q, Q-J, Q-10, J-10, are all playable hands, and some have the great ability to surprise with straights. Some of these can be trouble, especially Q-Q or J-J. If the opponent flops a top pair, you may bet into them all the way to the river and then bust. Caution is the key.
Lower pairs (10-10, 9-9 and so on), straight draws (10-9, 4-5, etc.), and flush draws (any two suited cards) are all marginal hands, but if the betting is not crazy, and you are not out of position then you should probably see a flop. If the flop does not go well, fold and get out of the way.
The odds, and mathematics, of poker can be helpful without a doubt, but the real key to winning is knowing when not to. If you bluff and lose a small pot on a 2-4, it will make your opponents bet into you when you have a great hand, like K-K. Sometimes letting opponents catch your bluff can work in your favor later on.
And, as any good player will tell you, losing a hand when you're holding A-A is a bad feeling. If the flop is 8-9-10, and they start telling, fold those wonderful aces.
In the end, a poker hand is only as good as the person holding it.