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Updated: September 14, 2023
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Best Starting Hands in Poker

In the exhilarating world of poker, the decisions you make in the early stages of the game can significantly impact your overall success. One of the critical aspects of poker strategy is knowing which are the best-starting hands in poker and how to play them based on your position at the table. 

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the art of starting hands in poker, exploring position-based strategies, hand ranges, and the best-starting hands in poker.

Starting Hand Notations In Poker

Before delving into the specifics of best-starting hands in poker, it’s essential to understand the notation commonly used in poker literature. Starting hands are usually represented by abbreviations or shorthand notation.

For instance, “AA” signifies a formidable pair of aces, “KK” denotes a powerful duo of kings, and “AKs” highlights the prospect of an ace and king of the same suit, poised to potentially create a flush or a straight flush. Conversely, “AKo” signifies an ace and king of different suits, known as unsuited, presenting a different set of strategic possibilities. Furthermore, “JT” captures the essence of a jack and a ten, potentially forming a straight if complemented by appropriate community cards.

Familiarising yourself with this notation will help you decipher hand ranges and quickly identify the strength of your starting hand.

Position-Based Starting Hands

Your position at the poker table matters a lot. It helps you decide which starting hands to play. If you’re in a later position, you know more about what others are doing, so you can make better choices. On the other hand, if you’re in an early position, you don’t have as much information, so you need to be careful with your starting hand.

It’s important to pick strong starting hands no matter where you’re sitting. These are the foundation of your strategy. You have to look at your cards and think about how they can turn into a winning hand based on the situation and how others are calling.

In poker, your position and the hands you start with work together to shape your game. Whether you’re getting a lot of information from a late position or being cautious from an early one, understanding this dynamic helps you become a better player in the exciting world of poker.

Which Starting Hands Should You Play From Your Position?

Playing Pairs And Suited Hands

Pocket pairs (e.g., 10-10 or 5-5) and suited hands (e.g., AKs or QJs) are considered one of the best-starting hands in poker. Pairs have the potential to form powerful hands like three-of-a-kind or full houses, while suited hands offer flush and straight possibilities. In late position, consider playing these hands more aggressively.

Playing Off-Suited Hands

Off-suited hands (e.g., AKo or QJo) are generally weaker than their suited counterparts but can still be playable in certain situations. 

In an early position, it’s advisable to be more cautious with off-suited hands and consider folding unless you have premium holdings like AK or AQ.

Starting Hand Ranges from UTG Position in Full-Ring Poker

From the Under the Gun (UTG) position, the first to act in a full-ring game, it’s essential to play cautiously. Limit your starting hand range to premium holdings like high pairs (AA, KK, QQ), strong aces (AK, AQ), and some suited connectors (e.g., JTs or T9s) with good potential for straight or flush draws.

Starting Hand Ranges from LoJack Position

In the LoJack position, which is two seats to the right of the UTG, you can expand your starting hand range slightly. Include more suited connectors and a wider range of pocket pairs, as you have more information about the actions of players in earlier positions.

Starting Hand Ranges from the Button

From the Button, you have the most advantageous position. Here, you can open up your starting hand range significantly and consider playing a wide variety of hands, including suited one-gappers (e.g., J9s or T8s) and suited two-gappers (e.g., J8s or T7s).

Types Of Poker Hands

Understanding the different types of poker hands is crucial for making informed decisions during the game. Let’s explore some common categories:

Pocket Pairs:

Pocket pairs consist of two cards of the same rank, and their strength depends on the value of the pair.

Premium Pocket Pairs:

Premium pocket pairs include AA, KK, and QQ. These are the strongest starting hands in poker and should be played aggressively in most situations.

Strong Pocket Pairs:

Strong pocket pairs range from JJ to 88. These hands hold significant potential and can make for robust starting points, depending on the game’s dynamics and your position.

Middle Pocket Pairs:

Mid-range pocket pairs span from 77 to 66. These hands offer a balanced blend of potential and caution, often becoming pivotal in shaping the outcome of a hand.

Low Pocket Pairs:

Lower in the hierarchy, low pocket pairs encompass 55 to 22. These hands require a more careful approach, often thriving through prudent play, especially when positioned early in the game.

Offsuit Hands:

Offsuit hands consist of two cards of different suits and ranks, such as AKo or QJo. These hands are generally weaker than their suited counterparts and should be played carefully.


Aces, which encompass two cards of the same rank, are widely acknowledged as the most potent starting hands in poker. This holds true regardless of their suits. When these aces are suited, denoted as AKs, their potential is further elevated. Suited aces, like AKs, hold the promise of crafting formidable flushes or even straight flushes, adding to their strategic significance.

Suited Hands:

Suited hands offer the potential for flush draws and are generally more valuable than their offsuit counterparts. Hands like AJs, KQs, or QJs are strong starting hands that can be played more aggressively.

Best Poker Hands – Texas Hold’em Starting Hands:

In the realm of Texas Hold’em, certain starting hands hold a distinct edge, offering superior chances of success compared to others. Let’s delve into a refined compilation of some of the premier starting hands in the poker domain.

Ace-Ace (AA):

Having two aces is incredibly strong. Play confidently, no matter your seat.

King-King (KK):

Two kings mean you’re in a good position. Play with assurance, just like you would with aces.

Queen-Queen (QQ):

Two queens are solid. Be bold, especially when you’re sitting in the middle or towards the end.

Ace-King (Suited) (AKs):

Ace-King suited is versatile for high cards and flushes. Play assertively from later positions.

Jack-Jack (JJ):

Two jacks are respectable, but be watchful for higher cards. Play it safe, especially at the beginning.

10-10 (TT):

Two tens provide stability. Play thoughtfully based on your spot at the table.

Ace-Queen (Suited) (AQs):

Ace-Queen suited is versatile for high cards and flushes. Show strength from later positions.

Ace-Jack (AJ):

Ace-Jack is reliable, yet keep an eye out for stronger aces. Play cautiously, especially in the early stages.

Ace-Ten (AT):

Ace-Ten holds potential for straights and flushes. Play selectively, especially as the game progresses.

King-Jack/Queen-Jack (KJ/QJ):

Suited king-jack and queen-jack can lead to straights and flushes. Play boldly from later positions.

Poker Starting Hands Percentage

Understanding the probabilities of being dealt specific starting hands can help you assess the likelihood of forming strong hands during a game. Here is an overview of the poker starting hands percentage.

Premium Pairs (AA-KK): Approximately 1.4%

Premium Pairs and High Suited Connectors (AA-KK and AKs): Approximately 2.3%

Premium Pairs and High Suited Connectors and Suited Aces (AA-KK, AKs, and AQs): Approximately 3.5%

Any Pair: Approximately 5.9%

Any Pair and Any Suited Connectors: Approximately 10.3%

Any Pair and Any Suited Connectors and Any Suited Aces: Approximately 14.6%

Any Two Cards Ten or Higher: Approximately 18.3%

Any Two Cards Nine or Higher: Approximately 24.0%

Any Two Cards Eight or Higher: Approximately 29.6%

Any Two Cards Seven or Higher: Approximately 35.0%

Best starting cards in poker percentages provide a guideline for understanding the relative strength of your starting hand and can help you make better decisions throughout the game.


1. What poker hands to play preflop?

The starting hands you play preflop should depend on your position, table dynamics, and your understanding of your opponents’ tendencies. Generally, premium pocket pairs (AA, KK, QQ) and strong-suited connectors (e.g., AKs, AQs) are solid starting hands to play from late positions, while weaker hands should be folded from early positions.

2. What are the best Omaha starting hands?

In Omaha, the best starting hands in poker contain four strong, connected cards, preferably double-suited. Hands like A-A-K-K, A-A-J-T, and J-J-T-9 are considered premium starting hands with the potential to form powerful combinations.

3. What are the best Texas Hold’em starting hands?

Pocket aces (AA), pocket kings (KK), pocket queens (QQ), and suited combinations like Ace-King suited (AKs) and Ace-Queen suited (AQs).

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