Understanding the best Texas Holdem Poker hands is a crucial starting point if you want to become a good player. We’ve put this guide together to help you learn what those starting hands are, their relative strength and how to play them.
What Are the Best Texas Holdem Starting Hands?
Before we get into anything more detailed, let’s quickly run through the entire list. Here are the 10 best Texas Holdem hands pre-flop:
Tips on Playing the best Texas Holdem Hands
Now that you know what the best pre-flop Texas Hold’em hands actually are, let’s learn a little more about them.
The highest card value in the deck is obviously the Ace. So naturally, receiving two of these is the strongest of all Texas Hold’em poker hands you could be dealt. But despite being the best possible pre-flop holding, there’s never any guarantee that it wins the pot.
Against other premium pocket pairs, such as two Kings, you’ll be in a dominant position. But the pocket Kings will still win a heads-up battle against Aces around 18% of the time; that’s almost one in five. Believe it or not, 6-5 suited has the best equity against a pair of bullets at a little under 23%.
You’ll receive a pair of Aces once every 221 hands on average. When you do, it’s usually best to play them aggressively to thin the field and extract maximum value. If you come up against a board that features lots of draws, don’t fall in love with your hand. The strongest of pre-flop Texas Hold’em hands is not necessarily the best post-flop and may not be amongst the most often winning poker hands.
Related: How To Play Pocket Aces
In second place on the list of powerful Texas Hold’em hands are pocket Kings. Like Aces, you should always be betting, raising and re-raising pre-flop with such a powerhouse. It’s hard to ever make a case for folding this holding before the flop. Unless you are extremely deep-stacked and facing multiple raises from the tightest of players, you should play back 100% of the time with this poker hand.
The obvious weakness of this particular hand is an Ace on the flop. In such cases, when your opponent has an Ace in the hole, you’ll be crushed. With just two outs barring some kind of backdoor draw, you’ll have less than 9% equity. Just like Aces, you must be careful not to get married to your hand.
Related: How To Play Pocket Kings
A pair of ladies is the third-strongest possible holding in the top 10 list of Texas Hold’em hands. As with the other premium pocket pairs, it’s important to bet and raise aggressively. First, you’ll want to get the maximum value from weaker hands, of which there are many. But you also need to find out whether or not your opponents also have a strong poker hand.
While an Ace or King on the flop leaves you in a tricky position, you dominate plenty of other top holdings. Against A-Q suited, your pocket Queens will be good around 65% of the time. You’ll beat lower pocket pairs in roughly 80% of encounters, while you still have an almost 19% chance when crushed by pocket Aces.
Related: How To Play Pocket Queens
Many poker players loathe pocket Jacks, considering them overrated and finding them difficult to play. But the fact is, this is the fourth-strongest of the possible pre-flop Texas Hold’em hands. You just need to understand how to play them correctly.
People tend to forget the times when they win, which will happen a lot against any two random cards. Instead, thanks to confirmation bias, we tend to focus on the situations where we run into an overpair. But even then, you’re going to outdraw your opponent around one-fifth of the time.
Against A-K or A-Q suited, you’ll be a marginal favourite at around 54%. But you destroy speculative drawing hands like J-T suited, with over 81% equity. Sometimes known as “hooks”, pocket Jacks are always worth a pre-flop open and usually a three-bet. But do proceed with caution, especially against tighter players.
The first unpaired holding to appear among the 10 best Texas Hold’em hands, this is often nicknamed “Big Slick”. Although slightly behind to a pocket pair of Queens or lower, you’re essentially in a coin-flip situation. But the real value of A-K suited is in how “connected” it is.
There are many boards that suit this hand very well. All kinds of draws can appear and Royal Flush straight away springs to mind. But any Ace or King on the flop gives you a top pair top kicker, plus the potential for flushes and the nut straight is huge.
You should definitely be raising and three-betting pre-flop with A-K suited. Even if you run into pocket Kings, you’re still going to outdraw them one time in three. The only hand that truly crushes you is a couple of bullets, where you’re looking at less than 12% equity.
Similar to Jacks, pocket Tens is another of the most misunderstood hands in Texas Hold’em. Many players feel it’s a troublesome holding because you’re almost always facing an overcard on the board. But in truth, it remains one of the strongest hands in poker.
You should always open with a pair of tens, and in almost all cases, you can three-bet. It’s a hand that plays extremely well in raised pots because of the potential for flopping a set. That will happen almost 12% of the time, and when it does, you’re in an extremely strong position.
Don’t forget, too, that you can still outdraw your opponent around one time in five when dominated by an overpair.
Clearly not as strong as its suited cousin, Ace-King offsuit remains one of the most powerful starting hands in Hold’em. It may not have quite as much flush draw potential, but you can still make the nut straight, as well as top pair top kicker.
This is also a good hand for semi-bluffing, due to the blocking potential. Imagine a board of Q♣ 8♣ 3♦️ J♣ when you’re holding A♣ K♦. It’s true that you only have Ace high in this spot. But you also know they don’t have the nut flush and you block a lot of their straight draws.
Since it’s much less likely that they have these hands, you could actually represent them yourself. You may be able to get a top pair type hand to fold. And if it goes wrong, you can still backdoor something on the river.
Another of the best starting hands in Texas Hold’em for post-flop playability is Ace-Queen, which suited, is an excellent holding. You can draw to both the nut flush and nut straight, as well as flopping top pair top kicker on a Queen high board.
Although you’re dominated against pocket Aces, you have a better than 30% chance against Kings and Queens. While against any lower pair, you’re never worse off than 50-50.
It may feel like a mid-sized pocket pair, but 9-9 is one of the top ten Texas Hold’em hands. Sure, you’ll be crushed by higher pairs, but against any two random cards, you’re in a dominant position.
Similar to T-T, this hand is extremely dangerous for your opponents when you flop a set. But if you run into trouble, it’s a lot easier to ditch two nines than a bigger pocket pair.
Rounding out the top ten strongest pre-flop Texas Hold’em hands is Ace-Jack suited. You’ll need to be careful when flopping top pair since you might be in kicker trouble against A-K or A-Q. But a Jack high board leaves you in great shape, especially if you also pick up a draw to go with it.
Ace-Jack suited is almost always worth a pre-flop raise, particularly when playing short-handed or heads-up games.
Starting Hand Selection in Short Deck Hold’em
It’s easy for a newcomer to forget that there are other poker games besides No Limit Hold’em. But if you’re thinking about dabbling with something new, you might be interested in trying Short Deck.
The rules are similar to a standard Hold’em game, but with some key differences. The most obvious of which is that Short Deck is played with just 36 cards, with none ranked two through six. This greatly affects the probabilities of various situations occurring, not to mention starting hand equities.
The best Texas Hold’em hands are not necessarily the strongest in Short Deck Hold’em. For instance, straights and sets are far more common, meaning your premium pocket pairs like Aces decrease in relative strength. You can check out our guide to Short Deck poker to learn more.
Texas Holdem Poker Hand Ranking
Here are top Texas Holdem poker hands ranked, from the best to the worst.
Royal Flush: Ace, King, Queen, Jack and a Ten of the same suit, e.g., A K Q J 10
Straight Flush: 5 cards of sequential rank, all of the same suit, e.g., 9 8 7 6 5
Four of a Kind: 4 cards of the same rank, e.g., 7 7 7 7 4
Full House: 3 cards of the same rank and one pair, e.g., K K K 8 8
Flush: 5 cards of the same suit (not sequential), e.g., K J 4 5 3
Straight: 5 cards of sequential rank, e.g., J 10 9 8 7
Three of a Kind: 3 cards of the same rank and 2 random cards, e.g., 5 5 5 J 8
Two Pair: 2 pairs and 1 random card, e.g., Q Q 4 4 7
One Pair: 2 cards of the same rank and 3 random cards, e.g., A J J 9 7
High Card: 5 cards with different suits and without any matching ranks, e.g., J 10 8 4 2
So there you have it. There’s no excuse for not knowing the top ten Texas Hold’em hands pre-flop and their relative strengths. Commit these to memory and you’re well on your way to becoming a better Hold’em player.