Poker Tips by George: Starting Hands and More

By George Epstein
May 30, 2023

Hold’em players often struggle over their starting hands selections. And well they should; it may be the most important decision they make at the poker table. Should I invest my precious poker chips in these two hole cards? Or should I wait for a better hand?

No matter how good a player you become at poker, perhaps the best skill to continuously work on is decision-making, as making the wrong decisions can be costly to your bankroll. For instance, if you want to play casino games online and choose a reputable one like fruity king casino NZ, you’ll likely have a far better experience than at other online gaming establishments… but we digress.

In any event, from a deck of 52 cards, there are 169 different two-card combinations that can be dealt out. (That includes paired cards of the same rank and unpaired cards of different suits.) There are three different ways that can be used to select starting hands before the flop, and we’ll discuss them below.

Methods for Selecting Starting Hands

1) There are some players, perhaps new to the game, who are so anxious to get into action that they will play indiscriminately or with the “any two cards can win” philosophy. They are strictly gambling. They could get lucky and win some of those hands; but, of course, they are bound to be losers in the long run.

Starting Hands

Image credit: Jayne Furman for PokerNews

2) Color-coded charts of playable starting hands are available in many books and other sources. These offer starting hands that have a reasonable chance of winning the pot at showdown. An excellent chart is shown on the inside back cover of Lou Krieger’s book, Hold’em Excellence – From Beginner to Winner. Actually there are two charts, one for pairs and suited hole cards, and a second chart for unsuited cards.

Starting hand selection depends on several key factors:

  • Rank of your hole cards
  • Are they suited or connectors?
  • What is your betting position?
  • Have there been any raises?
  • How many opponents have already called?
  • Playing traits of your opponents
  • Texture of the game

Many players, as they gain experience, rely on their memory and rarely (if ever) use these charts. Have you ever seen anyone use them at the poker table? And, certainly, even a novice knows to play preflop made hands (A-A and K-K) and premium hands (including Q-Q, J-J, and A-K).

3) My preference, of course, is to use the Hold’em Algorithm as described in my book, Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision. This avoids the need to peruse charts while the hand is in play. (Which takes precious time while the other players are anxiously waiting.) Basically, using the key factors listed above, the algorithm sets numerical starting hand point criteria for each position. These are the minimum scores for staying to see the flop. And they are easy to remember and use.

Read Also: Poker Tips by George: The Squeeze Play and The Esther Bluff

What Next?

Having decided to stay to see the flop, next in importance is how well the flop helped your starting hand. If you caught a made hand or lots of good outs, it would make sense to consider remaining in the hand; if not, fold your hole cards and save your chips for another opportunity. Combined with starting hand selection, we dub this the Two-Step Process.

Perhaps the next most important factor in going home a consistent winner is being aggressive in your betting, coupled with the Esther Bluff – acting with self-assurance and much confidence as you bet out or raise, along with a reverse tell, such as leaning forward in your chair. This includes opportunities to bluff and semi-bluff when appropriate…

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Written By.

George Epstein

After a long and productive career as a leader in the aerospace industry, upon his retirement in the 1990s, George Epstein chose poker as his “second career.” George has been widely recognized for his many significant accomplishments and contributions to our society. These include pioneering and innovations in various materials, testing and manufacturing technologies for […]

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