No Limit Texas Hold’em Pre-Flop, Starting Hands

These are Premium Hands a tight/aggressive player should move forward with pre-flop. Anything else should be folded.

- Any Pairs: 2-2 through A-A
- High Suited Connectors: A-K, A-Q
- High Connectors: A-K, A-Q

It can be very difficult for a novice player to maintain the patience and discipline to play only premium hands, since you’ll be Folding at most every turn. However, consider this to be a great learning period. Observe the players around you and practice your ability to read them. By sticking to premium starting hands, you won’t be met with many difficult situations through the session, and you’ll have great opportunities to win big when a premium starting hand comes your way.

No Limit Texas Hold’em – Minimum Starting Hands By Position (if No Raise)

Now let’s take a more in-depth look at quality Starting Hands, varied by a player’s betting position, if no one has Raised. Novice players should stick with the first list of Premium Starting hands, but as you gain more experience, this second list comes into play as a good NL Texas Hold’em tight/aggressive poker strategy.

Remember, these Minimum Starting Hands are only considered quality starters if no player has yet Raised the pot.

The number to the left of each minimum starting hand requirement is associated with how many players have yet to act Pre-Flop. The asterisk symbol “*” denotes any value card, while “s” requires cards to be suited.

9 – Pair 9-9, A-K
8 – Pair 8-8, A-Q
7 – Pair 7-7, A-Q
6 – Pair 6-6, A-Js
5 – Pair 5-5, A-Ts
4 – Pair 4-4, A-9s, K-Qs
3 – Pair 3-3, A-*s, K-Js
2 – Any Pair, A-*s, K-Ts, Q-Js, J-Ts
1 – Any Pair, A-*s, K-9s, Q-Ts, J-9s

How you react to each of the hands above depends upon the actions of your opponents who act before you. If a payer lips in (calls the Big Blind), and you have a Premium Staring Hand (Pair J-J or Better, A-K), feel free to Raise the pot. Otherwise, you should simply Call the bet. Marginal hands (those listed, but no premium) do well in multi-way pots, therefore a Call works in your favor.

To Limp or To Raise

As a general, tight/aggressive poker strategy rule, a player should always raise with a Pair Q-Q or higher, and high suited connectors (A-Qs, A-Ks). This forces players with Marginal Hands to pay to see the flop. Anything else is a limping situation (Call).

First to Bet: When Raising from this position (first to act, or all others have Folded before you), try to keep your Raise amount to around 70% to 100%. An 80% bet is generally 3x the Big Blind amount, so use that as your template if you must. This helps a good, strategic player hold onto enough chips in the event of a re-raise from strong hands.

After a Limper: If a player has limped in before you, the expected Raise amount is double to 4 to 6 times the Big Blind amount. A limper often has a Marginal Hand at best, and will likely Fold the pot to you on the way back around.

No Limit Texas Hold’em - Post-Flop Advice

The Flop is the most important aspect of Texas Hold’em. This is when many players decide whether or not they really have a hand. Do you really want to be putting out a feeler bet? You could be holding Q-Q, but if a K falls on the Flop, you’ve likely lost the hand. This is something novice players often learn over time – the ability to let go of a premium hand when the Flop doesn’t cooperate.

You must determine whether your hand is at risk of being Second Best. You also need to realize how to play these hands from different positions. Playing J's compared to playing Kings from early position are two totally different scenarios that call for different actions and reactions. The most expensive move you can make in poker is to chase a pot with second best; especially in NL Hold’em, as you risk busting out in a single hand.

The Flop is where everything happens. A popular term comes to mind – “pump it or dump it”. This means either go for the glory or toss in your cards. A simple Call from this position does nothing for you. If you honestly think you have what it takes to win the pot, pump it (Raise). If you think you can entice a Fold from your opponents, pump it. If you are chasing with second best, or the Flop hasn’t helped your situation – no matter how good your starting hand was – dump it (Fold).

Here are a few important Post-Flop Poker Strategy Tips to keep in mind when deciding whether to pump or dump. Ask yourself each of these questions, then base your decision on the answers.

-How did the Flop help you?
-How strong is your hand?
-Did anyone raise pre-flop, and if so, what kind of player are they?
-Do you have good position on the pre-flop raiser?
-If you bluff, how many players are you bluffing? (heads-up is best, 3 or more very difficult)
-What is your chip stack compared to your opponent’s?

To determine the strength of your hand, you must determine the Nuts. The Nuts is the best possible hand a player can have, according to the Flop. For instance, if all Spades fall on the Flop, an Ace-High flush would be the Nuts. If an Ace falls, a Set of Aces would be the Nuts. If the board drops connectors (5-7-8 for example), 9-High Straight would be the Nuts. If you have the Nuts, by all means pump the pot. If you have a Nut Draw, you would have to determine the strength of your opponents before deciding to pump or dump.

Position is key because if you are late or last to act, you have the opportunity to read your opponents Post-Flop before acting. If you have a Marginal Hand or better in late position and everyone Checks to you, place a Bet.