Starting Hands – Based on Position
The starting hands we’ve shown you are a great grounding in picking the right cards to play. The next step is to apply these picks to the game itself and the most important part of it…your POSITION at the time you get one of the 51 combinations of pocket cards we’ve highlighted.
Whilst the cards themselves are important in the game the MOST important aspect of any hand you play is your position in relation to the dealer at the time the cards are dealt.
As we mentioned earlier the BEST position on the table, for any given hand, is to be the actual dealer. This allows you to see what everyone else has done before you need to decide what YOU want to do.
Let’s assume you hold 66 as your pocket cards and you’re in the dealer position. Everyone else passes or limps in and it’s up to you to now act. What are your options?
Well…you have three. You can FOLD your cards, you can CALL the blinds (as others have done before you) or you can RAISE thereby giving out the impression that you have a strong hand and that it’ll cost other players, still in the hand, a whole heap more money to continue to play in that hand.
Let’s now assume that you still have 66 and that you’re still the dealer. Before the action gets back to you there has been a RAISE and a RERAISE! Now what do you do? Well that’s easy. You FOLD!
That hand cost you no money and you’re free to watch as the players who initially raised and re-raised now go to war safe in the knowledge that you’re probably better off out of it!
Let’s now assume that you’re first to act after the big blind with your 66. Now what do you do? Of course, in theory, you still have the same three options as you did in the first example. You can fold, call or raise. The problem here of course is that you have absolutely NO information about what other players, still to act after yourself, have as their pocket card holding so a fold, in this position, is probably a few chips saved.
You can see from the above examples that playing 66 in ‘late’ position is entirely different from playing it in ‘early’ position. It’s with this in mind we now look at which pocket card holdings operate best from these segmented positions.
Our positional strategy is simple. We segment the table of players into THREE distinct positional values. EARLY, MIDDLE and LATE.
EARLY position is where you are 1st, 2nd or 3rd to act after the dealer has dealt the cards. Given that the blinds make up positions 1 & 2 for the first round of betting EARLY position reverts to seats 1, 2 & 3 immediately to the dealers left after a flop has been seen.
MIDDLE position is where you are 4th, 5th or 6th to act and LATE position is where you are 7th to act or later up to, and including, the button.
Having now segmented our table we can look at the hands that are playable in those positions by way of GROUPINGS. Each grouping contains several hands that can be played and, dependant on your current position in relation to the button, can either be used to FOLD, CALL or RAISE with.
Let’s now re-examine our hand ‘groupings’…
AA, KK, QQ, JJ, AKs
These hands are the top 5 ranked starting hands in the game. These hands can be played aggressively from ANY position.
TT, AQs, AJs, KQs, AK
These hands, whilst not as powerful as GROUP 1 hands, can be played from ANY position although you may wish to just call with these hands more often than you raise.
Group 3 hands
99, JTs, QJs, KJs, ATs, AQ
These hands can be played aggressively from MIDDLE position and from LATE position. Calling with these hands in EARLY position is ok but you might want to give them up if there is a raise from later position.
Group 4 hands
T9s, KQ, 88, QTs, 98s, J9s, AJ, KTs, A9s, A8s
We start to get to the ‘fun’ hands. These hands are well suited to be played with by CALLING from mid position and RAISING from LATE position.
Group 5 hands
77, 87s, Q9s, T8s, KJ, QJ, JT, 76s, 97s, A7s, A6s, A5s, A4s, A3s, A2s, 65s
These hands should only really be played from LATE position. Providing there has been no raise prior to the action reaching you then go ahead and RAISE yourself. If there has been a single raise then consider calling otherwise FOLD.
Group 6 hands
66, AT, 55, 86s, KT, QT, 54s, K9s, J8s
Our final group of hands and hands that can only be played in LATE position only and even then I’d only recommend calling with them. If the flop suits then go ahead and get busy but these are the most speculative of our 51 playable hands mentions so deserve to be treated as such.
What about the other pairs??
You’ll notice from the above that we’ve totally avoided hands like 44, 33 or 22. Over a period of time these hands are losers. If you do decide to play them then this will be my advice:
- Call the blind bet ONLY and hopefully see a cheap flop.
- If the flop brings you that magical ‘set’ then aim to eliminate the remaining field down to you plus one other opponent as quickly as possible. Be aggressive where you think you can be. Holding 44 on a 4 5 6 flop might look good but anyone holding a made straight (2 3 or 7 8) or a 3 or a 7 in their hand might not want to leave in a hurry and so is far more likely call your attempts to limit the field with a bet here. Holding 44 on a flop of 4 8 K is a far tastier prospect of success.
- If no ‘set’ arrives then get out at the first sign of any other betting. Chances are that the three cards that arrived on the flop are all HIGHER in value than your 4 so it’s unlikely, especially multi-way, that you’re still ahead at this point even if you were before.
The next table shows profitability for each of the 169 starting hands over many thousands of occurrences in a live LIMIT £3/£6 game. This is a comprehensive listing of Texas Hold’Em poker hands based on their EV (expected value). Expected value is the average amount of big bets this hand will make or lose. So for example, AA from the small blind in a £3/£6 game will make on average 2.32 times the big blind, or £13.92 per hand (2.32 * £6). 22 from the button (D or Dealer position) however, will make -0.09 EV, or -£0.54 in a £3/£6 game (6 * -0.09).
These stats are compiled from live table data instead of simulations. One thing to remember is that these poker hands are statistically based and not mathematically based, which means that this data is based from live Texas Hold’Em table results.
Total EV stats ordered by value
The statistics are based on over 115 million pair of pocket cards dealt real money tables.
Need To Know Block:
- Premium hands (GROUP 1) play comfortably from any position at the table. Other hands noted here and outside this group all have their place.
- Only 51 hands, out of the 169 available to be dealt, are deemed playable. Any other has is deemed UNPLAYABLE.
- The chances of getting AA dealt to you is less than ½%
- You’ll get 2 suited cards almost a quarter of the time