In Texas Hold Em there are 169 possible starting hands if you exclude classifying by Spade, Heart, Diamond, and Club. Depending on your Position at the table you will want to play your hands differently. The value of your cards is also determined by how many chips you have versus how large the blinds are in a tournament format. If you are the short stack you may not want to enter late in position with certain hands but would raise in early position with face cards in hopes of doubling up. Phil ‘The Unibomber’ Laak suggests short stacks go all in with cards that’s total face value is 18 or greater (quoted from E’s Hollywood Hold Em where The Unibomber served as the dealer.) Anyone who has ever played blackjack should know what cards total up to 18 or higher (exception: in Blackjack AA is only worth 12 and you would always split. In poker if you are on the short stack you should definitely know the move to make.)
Red means raise in that position
Early Position Hands
Middle Position Hands
Other Notes: Raise with every hand from the Early Position Chart aside from KT, QT, and JT suited. Also reraise with QQ and JJ because someone from Early Position may be trying to make a play at the pot (players usually don’t raise from early position unless they’re strong or are trying to make a play. Test them on it to determine which of the 2 categories they fall into. Every hand on the list aside from the pocket pairs and A9, A8 have a chance at making a straight. They are either connected or have a 1, 2 or 3 card gap. K9 and AT are the only 2 hands on this list that have a 3 card gap.
Late Position Hands
Other Notes: When you are in late position you can raise with pretty much any hand from the Early Position and Middle Position charts. T9 and below suited are questionable at best for a raise but if you raise with face cards you should be in decent shape unless someone was playing Big Slick or AA in early position praying for someone to raise the pot. The main reason you want to raise with a lot more hands in Late Position is to A) remove any Limpers with weak hands from seeing flops B) remove any tight players from seeing flops C) remove players who feel they don’t want to risk the extra chips due to chip stack size. Also, because the blinds are forced bets those players may have been dealt 3 2 off suit and have no intention of playing. Or they may have pocket rockets in which case they’ll (most likely) reraise you at which point you can fold and save yourself some chips. Aside from the pocket pairs A8, A7, A6, Kx suited, and Q7 all the hands mentioned above can make a straight with the proper flop.
You’ve already partly paid to see a flop, why not pay the whole way? If you can afford it, that is. All the hands on the small blind chart have the possibility to make a straight (except for 72 and T2, those are just fun to win with because everyone can have a good laugh about it, or start a fist fight). Keep in mind that you will be first to act on the flop so if you don’t hit anything you have absolutely no information about the other players hands and will most likely be forced to check and fold. If you aren’t willing to take a gamble do not call with any of these hands. A good portion of the hands on the small blind chart are controversial at best and don’t have a very good chance of winning. Nevertheless, if you do manage to catch something you’ll be glad that you didn’t fold the small blind. As we said before, only call out of the small blind with these hands IF YOU CAN AFFORD TO. If you’re on the short stack in the small blind and have any of the above hands its probably a good idea to fold (or if there aren’t many players in the pot possibly an all in stone cold bluff to pick up your chips as well as the big blinds and anyone else who was in then folded). After all, you do have 2 live cards. This will backfire on you if anyone is playing tournament style call the short stack with any two cards system. Know your opponents before trying to pull any sort of bluff.
Winning with a garbage hand you normally wouldn’t play with is known as the ‘Big Blind Special.’ As the Big Blind you have wonderful position Pre Flop but terrible position on the Flop. You will either be second (if the small blind calls) or first (if the small blind folds) to act on the flop. With weaker starting hands probably safer to check. With a strong starting hand it’s definitely better to raise. There are 2 reasons for this: 1) You will remove any limpers who may have caught something lucky on the flop and 2) Players may put you on a Position bet (players who bet on the Dealer Button or the Big Blind are typically assumed to be making Position bets to buy the pot) and if/when your strong hand hits you may end up winning a larger pot due to the assumptions of the other players at the table.
Types of Hands and the type of action you are looking for
Large Pairs – Best against as few opponents as possible to avoid the risk of being outdrawn
Medium Sized Pairs – Best against many opponents to justify making a call
Small Sized Pairs – Best against as many opponents as you can get to justify making a call
Drawing Hands – Best against many opponents to justify making a call
Please send us as much hate mail as you’d like for including 73, 72, and T2 on the list of playable starting hands out of the small blind.
There are many different strategies on what hands should/should not be played in a certain position. This is just an idea of what you could do, not what you should do. No 2 hands are alike, sometimes your terrible cards in the blind might flop a boat other times your AK suited might not even pair up and lose to some incredibly loose calling station who (because he’s a calling station) called your all in bet with 85 off suit.
Starting Hands List For A Tight Player (note: do not rely on this list entirely when playing against a tight player. this is a list of the hands a tight player will most likely play. There are a few on here a Tight Player might not even consider playing as well.) This Chart does NOT cover position, only the starting hands a tight player might play (it doesn’t really need to cover position, these are the stronger hands in Texas Hold Em)