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Continuing our poker instruction, we're going to talk about the best poker hands to start with.

The Church of Texas Holdem looks at starting poker hands. Which are good and which should you avoid?

The most important lesson you must learn is whether to play a hand or not. The most it can cost you to fold is the blind you have posted, while calling with a bad hand can be VERY expensive.

There are four types of starting hand in Texas Holdem:

1) Pairs

Pretty obvious. If you can play Snap, you can identify a pair. But for the dummies out there, any of these are pair hands:

AA KK QQ JJ TT 99 88 77 66 55 44 33 22

The higher the pair is, the stronger your starting hand becomes. Be very careful though! Just because you have a pair, you should not ALWAYS play it. If somebody raises and somebody else reraises, a pair of fives is not winning.

Once you REALISE your paired poker hand is probably NOT winning, you should downgrade it and treat it as a drawing hand. In this example, assuming we're playing FIXED LIMIT (no limit can be expensive), see the flop and hope to hit a third 5. If you miss, BAIL if anybody bets. Period.

People who chase their pair to the river throw good money after bad.

2) High card poker hands with a kicker

An unpaired hand with high-card power. Both cards should be Ten or higher. Suited is better than unsuited. The higher your main card, the better, and the higher your kicker, the better. These are high card hands:

AK AQ AJ AT KQ KJ KT QJ QT JT

Obviously you're hoping to flop top pair with a good kicker. Bear in mind that these hands are NOT created equal! AK is much, much better than QJ (though QJ might look very pretty).

If your poker hand misses completely and there's a lot of action, you should consider bailing. It might sound over-tight, but you should also think about downgrading hands like QT and KJ until your game improves.

These are dangerous hands, which require skill to play. Essentially, you must be able to ascertain when you are losing and be able to fold them. If you aren't sure, it's better to FOLD them than play them and get yourself into trouble. Another hand will be along in a minute!

3) Drawing hands

An unpaired hand with a chance of drawing to a straight or flush. It's much better to have no gap between the cards. One gap is barely playable; two gaps are garbage.

T9 98 87 76 (suited is better than unsuited).

Obviously these hands need help. You want to flop at least two pairs, or an open-ended straight draw. If you miss, it's easy to fold them. BE CAREFUL ABOUT HITTING ONE PAIR WITH THESE HANDS. If you do, you might well be behind to an overpair.

Try not to play any lower than 76, as you could make a straight and end up with a losing hand when somebody makes a higher one.

4) Garbage

Any cards which don't come into the above lists should be thrown away. ALWAYS. Getting into hands with garbage will only cause you grief in the long run. Get into the winning habit of folding these.

IMPORTANT NOTE #2:

Texas Holdem is essentially a high-card game.

Example:

Here you have high card Ace with a ten kicker (forget the fact that they are of the same suit for now).

Here's an example of a horrible hand for your opponent to have:

This is called being DOMINATED. Anytime you are dominated, you are in big, big trouble. You need to improve and pray that he does not. In this example, you MUST hit either a ten, a flush or a lucky straight to beat him.

If NEITHER hand improves, his higher kicker wins the pot. So you can see the vital importance of kickers in Texas Holdem poker hands.

This is why hands like AT are 'trap hands'. They must be played very cautiously, even though they look very tempting.


Finished studying poker hands? Click here for part three of the series.


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