Texas Hold’em Starting Hands by Position

To have the best chance of success in Texas Hold’em tournaments or cash games, you need to be able to know which starting hands are best to play, depending on your position. All the positions at a poker table can be categorized as early position, middle position, or late position.

Early Position

Playing in the first position in Texas Hold’em, you have to be very selective of the hands you play. This is because there are many players to act after you and so there is a great multitude of opportunities for other players yet to act to wake up with a hand. In addition, you must act first at the beginning of each hand putting you to further disadvantage after the flop.

Consider how much information your opponent gains because your decision to bet or check must be made before it’s his/her turn to act. This all factored together and we can begin to formulate a general starting hand guide for playing hands in early position.

Ace Ace, King King, Queen Queen, Ace King, Jack Jack, Ten Ten, Nine Nine, Ace Queen, Ace Jack, King Queen, plus high suited cards such as King Jack, Queen Jack, and Jack Ten.

When playing middle pairs in early positions they can be tricky to play because fairly often there will be over cards on the flop, making these marginal hands.

In loose passive games, which is typical for $1/$2 NLHE live cash games, you can limp in with small and middley pairs or think about making a small raise when you are first to enter the pot to narrow down the field and to start building the pot and make it easier to win your opponents stack when you hit your set.

You can also think about limping in with suited connectors and suited aces hoping to see a cheap flop. But as you can see from the starting hand selection for early positions, you want to play an extremely limited range of hands, since it’s the worst position at the poker table.

Middle Position

In this position you should play a few more hands. If you are first to enter a pot then it has already had 3-5 people who folded around to you. Thus the possibility of someone at the table having a strong hand is much lower, and therefore your weaker hands increase in value.

In general, in middle position I play some more hands including high unsuited cards such as Ace Ten, King Jack, and similar hands.

Late Position

In the last positions at the poker table there is a good chance that nobody has much of a hand if it has been folded around to you and you should be raising with a wide range of hands in order to steal the blinds, especially on the button. Even if you get called there is a decent chance you will play the hand heads up, and quite often a continuation bet will take down the pot, regardless of your holdings.

In general, in late position you can include all of the starting hands above and the following: ace rags, small pairs, suited connectors and one gap connectors.

So what do you do in marginal situations which you will find yourself in from time to time when you basically have no information on an opponent since you are new to the game? It is probably best folding and picking a better spot.

When you first sit down at a table, it would be a good idea to play a bit more conservatively by playing fewer hands, especially in early and middle position. The wider range of hands you play, the more difficult your decision making is going to be post flop. Early on in a game, you can observe play while you’re still trying to figure out how each opponent is playing.

Keep in mind, there will sometimes be action that has occurred before it’s your turn to make a decision. If someone or multiple players have already entered a pot with a raise, you need to factor in your starting hand selection and should call with a tighter range of hands then what you would raise with from the same position.

That said, there is no absolute strategy when playing Texas Hold’em poker tournaments or cash games, although most of your decisions will be influenced by your position, stack sizes, your table image, and the aggressiveness of the game.