Basic Hold 'Em Strategy

Now's the time to reacquaint yourself with Strategy for Beginners under Antes, Blinds and Betting. As we're learning, poker is more than a card game - it's a game of knowledge, skill, strategy and a little luck. We're learning that poker is about making good betting decisions and making good decisions about the hands you play (and don't play). The more advanced a player gets, the more they begin to play the player and less the cards they're dealt. Advanced players know good starting hands. If you've ever watched poker live or on television, it can be hard for a novice to figure out why a player stayed in the hand at all. It goes back to the other variables of poker that determine strategy - position, starting hand, pot odds, outs, skill level and more.

But as a beginner learning Hold 'Em, knowing which starting hands are better than others and understanding the odds of making a winning hand from those starter cards is crucial. We know position - where you sit at the table - makes a huge difference in strategy. The button is the most powerful spot at the table because that player is the last to act. The blinds HAVE to bet, so it's hard to determine if they actually have anything to play with until the flop (the small blind can fold pre-flop if there is a raise in the first round of betting). But the button and blinds are also in a better position to bluff early.

Beginners should be raising in early position (first or second to act) to try to narrow the field and playing more hands in late position (nearest the dealer). If a player raises before you, play less marginal hands. Also, remember poker is about psychology and if you have a great hand in early position, you may not want the rest of the table to know it, so you can bet small to appear weak and try to force a raise later in the betting. The more players in front of you, the stronger your starting hand needs to be. And some starter cards, like pocket Aces which come along on average every 220 hands, may not look as good once the flop comes.

Strength of the starter cards determines whether a player moves forward in the game. More often than not, a premium starting hand doesn't come so most of the time it's in the best interest of the player to fold.


  • Pocket pair: 6%
  • Suited cards: 24%
  • Non-paired and non-suited cards: 71%
  • Ace/King: 0.3%
  • Ace/Ace: 0.5%
  • Suited Ace/King, King/Queen, Queen/Jack or Jack/10: 1%
  • Ace/Ace, King/King, Queen/Queen, Jack/Jack or 10/10: 2%
  • Suited Jacks or higher: 2%
  • Suited 10s or higher: 3%
  • Connected and suited cards: 3.9%
  • Connected 10s or higher: 4.8%
  • Any pocket cards with rank of Queen or higher: 5%
  • Any pocket cards with rank of Jack or higher: 9%
  • Any pocket cards with rank of 10 or higher: 14%
  • Any connected cards: 15.7%
  • Any pocket cards with rank of 9 or higher: 20.8%
  • Non-suited or connected cards with at least one card between 2 and 9: 53.4%