It’s been said that No-Limit Hold’em is a game about playing the player, not the cards. There’s some truth to that statement but when you’re starting out, the single most helpful skill will likely be understanding relative hand strength. That’s why lists of the top 10 best starting hands can be somewhat of a cheat code for new players. In the following guide, we break down the top 10 premium starting hands and provide some tips about How To Play Texas Hold’em.
What’s the Best Texas Hold’em Hand?
If you’re pre-flop the answer is easy: pocket aces. Outside of those rather narrow parameters, the answer is: it depends. There are simply so many variables in Hold’em that the best hand can change numerous times from the flop to the river.
How the Flop Affects Strong Hands
Players with strong hands must decide whether to make big bets to win the pot soon but collect fewer chips, or slow-play the hand and give opponents a chance to catch the right cards.
The list of the best starting hands is based on raw all-in percentages vs. random hands so there is some room for interpretation.
Pocket aces is the best starting hand in poker. When you’re dealt pocket aces you’ve got the best hand pre-flop, period. One of the best things about pocket aces is that you dominate other strong starting hands like KK, QQ and JJ so there’s huge potential to win a massive pot. You generally want to bet hard with this hand unless you run into a very dangerous board with straight or flush possibilities. It's common for players to get too attached to pocket aces so be aware if you run into serious opposition. Pocket aces also holds up better when there are less players in a hand. Statistically you’ll only get dealt pocket aces on average once every 221 hands.
Nickname: Bullets, pocket rockets, rockets
Pocket kings are the second best starting hand in Hold’em and an absolute monster in most situations. You should always be betting this hand pre-flop and it’s generally never a good idea to fold this one pre-flop (unless someone accidentally turned over pocket aces). The Achilles heel of pocket kings is when an ace hits the flop. Suddenly your powerhouse is crushed by weak aces like A-9 and even A-2. Usually you’ll want to slow your betting and attempt to control the size of the pot.
Pocket queens are another extremely strong starting hand that beats the vast majority of the deck pre-flop. Players with pocket queens tend to like betting hard pre-flop in order to figure out if their opponent hold monsters like aces, kings or ace-king. There are a number of hands that pocket queens dominates like JJ, A-Q, A-J and A-T that will contribute money to a pot. The flop can be a bit of a minefield for queens, however, as both kings and aces will immediately put you in a tough spot.
Pocket jacks are considered one of the hardest premium hands to play in poker. While the hand has a huge winning percentage against any random two cards, it’s absolutely crushed by pocket aces, pocket kings and pocket queens. It’s also only a 50/50 against ace-king. It’s for all these reasons that you should be extremely cautious when playing pocket jacks. It’s still a good enough hand to open a pot and it’s far ahead of drawing hands like K-J, J-T and Q-J in addition to all pairs form 99 to 22. Don’t be afraid of letting this one go when you hit a flop full of danger cards like kings and aces and encounter serious resistance.
Ace King Suited
The ultimate drawing hand. Ace-king suited is a favorite amongst experienced poker players for its ability to hit the best straights and flushes. Ace-king is also great for hitting aces or flops on the flop because if any other player also has an ace or a king in their hand you’re likely going to make some serious money. On the other hand if you completely whiff the flop than ace-king turns into a very weak ace-high. Be prepared to lay that one down. It’s a good time to mention now that suits don’t matter in Hold’em so there’s no “best” version of ace-king suited or similar double suited hands.
Nickname: Big Slick
Pocket tens is essentially the best hand out of a lower-tiered group of starting hands. It’s still a very good hand against rags but it’s crushed by the aforementioned AA, KK, QQ and JJ. It’s also a coin flip against ace-king. Big pairs are still very strong, however, and this one can be a good one to bet pre-flop and after the flop provided the board is relatively safe (limited aces, kings, queens etc.). One way that pocket tens can leap in front of its stiffer competition is by hitting a set (another ten) on the board. Be aware of what other players are doing because it can be correct to fold pocket tens pre-flop if there’s heavy betting action in front of you.
Ace King Offsuit
Ace-king offsuit takes a hit in the power rankings versus its suited sibling because it doesn’t have the same outs to hit a flush. It’s still a strong drawing hand and is ahead of all non-pairs and a coin-flip against all pairs except pocket aces and pocket kings. One of the best features of ace-king is its ability to crush all weaker ace-x hands.
Nickname: Big slick
Ace Queen Suited
Ace-queen suited is another strong drawing hand that can run out of gas on the flop if it doesn’t spike at least a pair. Interestingly ace-queen suited retains its ability to hit the nut-flush because it still has the highest card (the ace) of its respected suit. With ace-queen suited you’ve still got to be concerned about pocket aces, pocket kings and pocket queens. Facing ace-king is especially bad for ace-queen since you lose all your ace outs.
Nickname: Big chick
Pocket nines is a strong pair that gets crushed by the true premium pairs such as AA, KK, QQ, JJ and even TT. You should play this one cautiously as there are a lot of cards that beat you. It’s a good one to play if you’re in late position and action has been folded to you. It’s also extremely strong in heads-up situations where you’ll be facing weaker cards. Keep in mind that you’re coin-flipping against the vast majority of connectors that people play from A-K all the way down to J-T.
Ace Jack Suited
Ace-jack suited is another hand that performs well against random cards but can get absolutely rocked by the true powerhouse starting hands. It’s similar to how pocket jacks are at the bottom of the premier pairs, except it's at the bottom of drawing hands like ace-king and ace-queen. There are many beginner poker players who have lost significant pots when the flopped an ace only to have an opponent out-kick them with ace-king or ace-queen. Be very careful playing this hand.
Texas Hold'em Poker Hands Odds and Outs
Having a broad idea of the probability of hitting a hand is important in Texas Hold'em. The table below provides a description of each hand, plus probability and combinations columns to help you determine the poker hands' odds and outs.
|Royal Flush||30,939 to 1||4||Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10 of the same suit.|
|Straight Flush||3,437.8 to 1||36||Five cards in a row, all of the same suit.|
|Four of a Kind||594 to 1||624||Four cards of the same rank.|
|Full House||37.5 to 1||3,744||A Three of a Kind mixed with a pair.|
|Flush||32.1 to 1||5,108||Five cards of the same suit, but not in a numerical order.|
|Straight||20.6 to 1||10,200||Five cards in numerical order, but not of the same suit.|
|Three of a Kind||19.7 to 1||54,912||Three cards of one rank with two other non-paired cards.|
|Two Pairs||3.26 to 1||123,554||Two different pairs. Example: Two Aces, two 8s.|
|One Pair||1.28 to 1||1,098,240||A pair of the same rank, plus three other non-paired cards.|
|High Card||4.74 to 1||1,302,540||A hand with no matching cards, not of the same suit, and not in numerical order.|
Top 20 Best Texas Hold'em Hands
The top 10 best starting hands in Hold’em are a good starting point for poker players but every potential starting hand can be ranked all the way down to the lowly 7-2 off suit, which only has a 4% chance of winning versus random cards.
As we mentioned at the top of this article the answer to most questions in poker is “it depends” so this guide should just be used as a rough framework to improve your poker game. Never fold aces pre-flop, though.
Best Texas Hold’em Hands FAQ
What are good starting hands in Texas Hold’em?
Pocket Aces (Ace-Ace) and other big-pocket pairs such as King-King, Queen-Queen or Jack-Jack are definitely the best starting hands in any position in Texas Hold'em. Then there’s big-suited connectors like Ace-King that would be next. And then unsuited big connectors would be the least favorable starting hands in Texas Hold’em.
What's the worst hand in Texas Hold’em?
Holding 2 and 7 off suit is considered to be the worst hand in Texas Hold'em. 2 and 7 are the lowest two cards you can have that can’t make a straight. Even if 2 and 7 are suited, those cards will make you a very low flush. And if either of 2 or 7 make pairs, it’s still a low hand.
Do you shuffle after every Texas Hold’em hand?
Yes, you shuffle after every Texas Hold’em hand. It's actually called Shuffle and Cut, and it's done after every single hand. The deck has to be shuffled after every round is over, and the pot has been won and distributed. In order for the dealer to deal the next hand, the deck has to be cut with minimum four cards with the bottoms of the decks hidden from players.
What hand wins the most in Texas Holdem?
A royal flush is the best hand in Texas Hold'em, so it wins more on a percentage basis. If you're talking about the hand that wins with the greatest frequency, that's more complicated. The answer depends on the strength of the player holding the hand, plus the strength of the rest of the table.
For instance, let's take the best starting hand in poker: pocket aces. A strong player holding pocket aces is going to try to get paid without seeing too many cards. At a table with 8 other players, AA gets outdrawn often. A weak player might try to get paid more and therefore not make strong enough bets to push others out of the pot.
In a home game -- where many casual players will limp into the pot with anything and showdowns often include multiple opponents -- AA is more likely to be outdrawn. Since we can't cover every scenario in this limited space, then the likeliest answer you want is a high pair or two pairs.
What are the best preflop hands in poker?
The best preflop hand in poker is ace-ace. After pocket aces, the best hands are pocket kings, pocket queens, pocket jacks, A-K suited, pocket 10s, A-K offsuit, A-Q suited, pocket 9s, and A-J suited. If you want more analysis, read the sections above that describe each of these hands.
What are the top 15 hands in poker?
Read our Top 10 Texas Hold'em hand list above. If you want 11 through 15, that would be K-Q suited at #11, A-10 suited at #12, A-Q offsuit at #13, pocket 8s at #14, and K-J suited at #15.
For anyone who wants the Top 20 Texas Hold'em hands, numbers 16 through 20 would be K-10 suited, Q-J suited, A-J offsuit, K-Q offsuit, and Q-10 suited.