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Categories a Starting Hands

  Knowing the categories of starting poker hands will not necessarily in itself make you money or save you money.  What it will do is serve to remind you what type of hand you have and what type of hand you are looking to make.  It will also remind you of the limitations of your hand and hopefully keep you from losing too much money in the wrong situations.  Two good examples of what I’m talking about would be expecting to make a straight when you have K♥ K♠ in the pocket or expecting to make a♥ or♦ flush when you have J♥ T♦ in the pocket.
  Here’s the 14 categories of starting hands that you should be aware of:

  1. High Pairs

A♣ A♦, K♥  K ♠,Q♦ Q♣ .  You will always be a favorite with these cards and you usually want to raise pre-flop.  You will win bigger pots when you have the best cards games and you’ll drive out the garbage hands that might occasionally draw out on you.  It’s a sin to limp in with A♥ A♣ and get beat by someone holding 7♠ 4♠, especially after the hand when he’s dragging the pot and says, “I wouldn’t have played if you had raised before the flop.”

  1. Medium Pairs

J♦ J♥, T ♠ T♣, 9♣ 9♦,8♥,8♣ .  You might be surprised to see that a pair of Jacks in the pocket is considered to be a medium, and not a high, pair.  The fact is that if you have J ♦J♣ in the pocket, you will get a queen , king or Ace  (an overcard ) on the flop 57% of the time.

  1. Low Pairs

7♠ 7♥ , 6♦ 6♣, 5♥ 5♦, 4♣ 4♦ , 3♥ 3♠ , 2♦ 2♣ .  When you have 7♥ 7♣ in the pocket you’ll flop one or more overcards 92% of the time.  So what you’re really looking for is to flop 7♣ would be 6♠6♥4♦or 8♣ 6♦ 5♥.  The fact that you hold not one but two sevens makes it 33% less likely that anyone else will be holding one also to create a split pot if you make the straight.  You normally cannot win a big pot with these hands if you don’t improve on the flop.
  You should try to see the flop as cheaply as possible since you will not improve most of the time.  One overcard on the flop does not always kill your hand but the problem is knowing when to continue playing or when to let the hand go.  The most important considerations are the number of players in to see the flop against you and what the overcards is.
  A flop of A♥6♠2♣ with seven players seeing the flop makes your hand unquestionably unplayable when you hold 7♥ 7♣, while a flop of 8♦ 6♣ 2♥ against one opponent is not as threatening.  This is especially true if your sole opponent raised pre-flop, indicating he does not hold an 8, even though he might have a premium pair in the pocket.
  By the way, if you hold 3♣ 3♠ and flop 6♠ 5♥ 4♦, get the hell out.  A draw to the low end of a straight is one of the classic sucker plays in Hold’em and you won’t be a winner in the long run if you normally attempt draws like that.

  1. Nut Flush Draws

Any card with a suited Ace.  You’ll have the nuts if you make the flush the board doesn’t pair and if you’re aware of straight flush possibilities.
  The value of the non-Ace card has a serious impact on your chances of winning the hand also, especially if you miss the flush draw.  For example, a♥ K♥ will win about 24% of the time while A♥ 2♥ will win only about 11% of the time.  This is because when you miss the flush but pair your odd card, a pair of Kings will win more hands than a pair of deuces.  Keep this in mind: Starting with two suited cards, you will not make a flush 97% of the time.

  1. King-High Flush Draws

K♣ Q♣ down through K♣ 2♣. The basic poker odds of making the flush are the same as with the A♣ Q♣ but the problem is when you actually make the flush.  It’s a real chip bleeder when you make a flush holding K♠ J♠ and you get raised and lose a big pot to someone holding A♠ 3♠.  The good news is that one-third of the time you do make the flush, the Ace of your suit will be on the board (giving you the nut flush ) and when you make a King-high flush you will often have the best hand because the Ace of your suit is just not in play this hand.
  Be especially careful when you make a flush holding K♦ Q♦ and you are raised or reraised.  For you to have the best hand at this point, your opponent would have to be raising you with at best a Jack-high flush.  You have to ask yourself, “Would he play the hand this way with just a Jack-high flush, knowing that I could have the Queen, King or Ace-high flush”?  Most of the time in this situation you’ll find that you’re beat by the Ace high flush.  If you really know your opponent, you could even throw the hand away, saving one or two bets on the end.

  1. Ace-High Suited

A♣ K♣ , a♦ Q♦ ,A♥ J♥.  Most of the time you win a pot with one of these hands, it will be because you made a pair of Aces and your kicker help up, or you made Ace-up.  You will make a flush with these hands only 3% more often then you would if they weren’t suited.  Any Ace-high straight draw you have with these hands will be always be a gutshot.
  The beauty of this hand is that you can miss your straight or flush draw and still win the hand by making a big pair.  Occasionally Ace-high will be the best hand at the end.  You should usually play the hand as if it were not suited until you see the flop.  An exception would be if you were last and a lot of players have limped in to see the flop.  In this case I would raise to build a pot in the event I hit my hand.  With no pre-flop raise, you probably have the best hand at that point anyway and you figure to win more than your share of pots in the long run.

  1. Ace-Medium Suited

A♦ T♦ , a♠ 9♠, a♥ 8♥, a♣ 7♣.  With this hand you are really hoping to make either Aces-up or a flush.  If you make a pair of Aces you’ll find that your kicker is usually no good if there’s any other interest in the pot at all.  Do not play this hand head-up if there’s a raise pre-flop because you don’t figure to beat the raiser in the long run and you don’t have the proper odds to draw to a flush.  You’re about a 4-1 underdog to any other player holding an Ace with a higher kicker than yours.
  Ace-medium suited is a vastly overrated hand by typical low limit players and you should invest a little as possible in it until you see the flop.  This hand is best played in late position with a lot of callers already in the pot.  This also applies to A♦ 6♦, a♥ 5♥, a♠ 4♠ , a ♣3♣ and A♦ 2♦.

  1. Ace-Face

A♣ K♦ ,A♥ Q♠, a♦ J♣.  These are the bread-and-butter cards of Texas Hold’em.  You’ll get these cards three times as often unsuited as suited and they’re usually played pretty aggressively poker pre-flop and on the flop.  The most common hand you’ll make with these cards is a pair of Aces with a good kicker.  If you pair your face card, you’ll always have the best kicker (your Ace).  If you make a straight, it will be the nuts if you use both cards (barring flush or full house possibilities).

  1. Ace-Medium and Ace-Low

A♣ T♦, a♦ 9♥, a♥ 8♠, a♠ 7♣, a♣ 6♠, a♦ 5♥, a♥ 4♦, a♠ 3♥ , and A♣ 2♠.  These are the most costly trap hands in low limit Hold’em and you should routinely much them every time you get them.
  If you flop an Ace, your kicker will almost always not be any good.  In a ten-handed low limit game where most every player plays every Ace he’s dealt, you can safely assume that if an Ace comes on the flop, it has made someone a pair of Aces.  When you have an Ace in the pocket there will be an Ace dealt to at least one other player 74.7% of the time.  If his kicker is better than yours then you are a 4-1 underdog and if your kicker is worse than his then you won’t win much from him or you’ll have a split pot.

  1. Face-Face

K♠ Q♥ , K♥ J♦ , Q♥ J♠.  You have the nut straight draw and your main concern is that you don’t flop an overcard.  If you have K♦ Q♥ or K♠ J♦, you will flop one or two Aces 23% of the time, and if you have Q♥ J♣, you will flop one or more Aces or Kings an incredible 41% of the time.  This hand does best when you use both pocket cards to make a straight.

  1. Any Two Suited Cards

Not already mentioned, such as K♠ 7♠, Q♥ 5♥, 9♣3♣.  These hands are played almost purely for the flush draw.  When you start suited you will flop two more cards of your suit only 10.94% of the time-that’s 8-1 against. And after you flop the four-flush, you’ll make the flush only 35% of the time.  This type of hand is a favorite of a lot of low limit poker players and it is a hand that you should encourage your opponents to play. 
You will never have the right odds to play the hand for any reason and it is a big loser.  If you are a good player, this is the type of hand that the other players will be holding when you beat them.  Your job is to smile, drag the pot and say, “Nice  hand.”

  1. Two connected Cards

Hands not already mentioned, such as T♠ 9♦, 7♣ 6♥ or 5♦ 4♣.  Your goal is to make a straight and you should only play these hands in late position when there are a lot of callers and no raises pre-flop.  If you pair one of your cards on the flop, such as holding 6♥ 5♣ and you get a 5♥ on the flop, you’ll get another 5 by the river only 10.9% of the time.  These are terrible odds to fight in the long run and you often won’t win the hand even if you do make trips.

  1. Suited and Connected

Cards  such as 9♠ 8♠, 7♥ 6♥ or 5♣ 4♣.  These hands are only marginally better than the same hand unsuited.  You have only an extra 3% chance of making a flush and when you do it’s only eight or nine high.  You should see the flop as cheaply as possible with this hand, play it only in late position with many players and be careful if you make the flush.  Oddly enough, you would rather make a straight than a flush with this hand because you can make a nut straight but you can never make a nut flush, unless it’s a straight flush.

  1. J♥ T♣

In the early 1970’s when Texas Hold’em was gaining popularity, an influential poker writer made a comment something like this: “Of all the possible hands that I could hold in a full game of Hold’em, I would choose J♥ T♣, suited or not. It  makes the nut straight five different ways, it fits in with the cards immediately above and below it, and the only way you don’t get some piece of the flop is if the flop is all low cards, which is unlikely.  I actually prefer it to A♦ A♥ in a full game.”
  Since there weren’t that many Hold’em books on the market at that time, he was able to influence the thinking of a whole generation of Hold’em players and his sentiment on the subject is popularly believed by most low limit players today.  I want to tell you that computer analysis has shown J♣ T♦ to be a vastly overrated hand and it is only marginally profitable in most circumstance.  You should usually not play this hand in early position and play carefully with it until you see the Pre- flop-raises.