What Percentage of Poker Starting Hands Should I Play?

By Sarah Thomas
November 16, 2021

When you start playing poker, Texas Hold’em in particular, you will want to learn all of the different strategies and ways of playing that you need to be a success.

As part of this, you may wonder how many of the hands you are dealt you should play, and how this affects your chances of success.

casino holdem

It Depends Upon the Cards Dealt

To start with, we need to consider that there are no fixed rules you can use here, because every poker session is different and depend on a number of factors. You may get a few great hands in a row, or you might find that several hands in quick succession aren’t worth playing.

It is important that you remain patient and only play the number of hands that you feel is right. Don’t feel pressured into playing more hands than you think is wise, as you are more likely to lose if you carry on betting on hands where you have a weak set of cards.

This isn’t like video poker, where you play every hand that is dealt to you, because you are simply trying to get a winning combination of any sort. You can find more information about video poker here:

Instead, with conventional poker, you need to carefully consider your chances of winning against the other players before going ahead. Sometimes the competition you’re facing will be stiff and you won’t be able to push through bluffs, thus you’ll need to wait for premium hands. Other times, against weaker opponents, you can allow yourself to play inferior starting hands, knowing there’s still a shot you can maneuver a way to a win, even though you may not end up with the best of it card-wise.

Find Your Own Style

Every poker player has their own style, and how many hands they bet on is a big part of that. A tight player will only ever play a small percentage of the hands that they are dealt, patiently waiting for cards that they feel are right for them. This sort of player might only play 1 out of every 10 hands, or fewer.

On the other hand, a loose player will want to play the majority of the hands that they are dealt. Even if the cards they receive aren’t all that strong, this player will feel comfortable putting money into the pot.

Passive and aggressive are other terms used to describe different playing styles. The idea is similar but refers to their overall strategies, as a passive player will be happy to follow others and call or fold, while an aggressive poker player is more like to raise the stakes.

You Will Play More Hands with Experience

It can be frustrating to start playing any new game and realize that you lack the experience and knowledge to make the most of each situation. Poker is no different from other games in this aspect, as you will find that you grow in confidence the more you play.

Over time, you will feel more comfortable betting post-flop and trying to win with a wider range of hands. Of course, the other factors that we have looked at will also affect this, but there is no denying the part that having more experience plays in the percentage of poker hands that you play.

When you are first starting to play the game, it probably makes sense to play it safe and not bet on as many hands.  For example, you might decide to make a simply decision between raising and folding when it is your turn to bet. Put plainly “tight is right” as a beginner poker player.

This simplifies the decision-making process. You are either saying that the cards in your hand are good enough for you to raise, or else you aren’t so confident and will sit it out. It also has the added advantage of allowing you the opportunity to watch what the other players do and learn some more strategies.

Think About Your Starting Position

The number of players who need to act before or after you is another important point to bear in mind. If you are in one of the early positions, there are still a few players to come after you. This means that you usually need a particularly strong hand to play.

If you are in a middle position, you are likely to play more often. This is especially true if the players before you are playing it tight. Expect to play more, but if you have loose players coming after you, this may cause you to tighten up a little.

Look at Strategies and Charts

A great thing about learning how to play poker nowadays is that there are so many tools and resources available for us to use. For example, you could look for a starting hands chart that lets you see exactly what hands you should play in any position at the table.

This is a great help in getting clear in your mind what hands are worth playing, although you can still adjust the strategy to your own preferences and playing style. Tournament play differs from cash games as you progress into the tourney and the stacks start to reduce. The increased benefit to winning each pot means that you might be tempted to play more hands.

All of this may seem like a lot of information to take in, but the best way to filter it all is to start playing and see how it makes sense in a real-life game of poker.



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Sarah Thomas poker author
Written By.

Sarah Thomas

Sarah Thomas is a content writer for entertainment websites. In her free time she enjoys playing all sorts of games, both live and online.

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