Holdem: First Two Cards

Main area of hold'em poker play where many strict guidelines can be given in is on the first two cards. This is because the combination of cards is not necessary to be great. However, this does not mean that every hand should be played the same way every time, or that playing the first two cards is easy. You can rarely play a hand differently not only for a variation but also depending on whether the game is loose, or tight, passive or aggressive. Expert players must be tricked more often than poor ones. But even if poor players always have a good idea of exactly where you are, you will lose some of your money.

Also, how loose and passive the game is can make a great difference. Some hands that are not profitable to play become significant money winners if your rivals are not aggressive. The opposite is true. Hands that are generally profitable to play should be thrown away if there are two or more aggressive players playing in the game, particularly if these players know what are doing.

Furthermore, how well you play your hand is very essential. As your judgment improves, you should be able to play many hands than these guidelines indicate. But don't go too far with this concept. Always keep in mind tight, aggressive play will get the money. This is true regardless what you may observe in the short run. You will also sometimes see bad players taking down pot after pot. In the short run their play become remarkable but in the long run, the same play does not extract more money.

Before we get started, remember that hold'em is a game where you can easily go "on tilt." For example, a hand something like

can be very attractive to play, even from the early position, especially if you are losing.
A distinct feature of hold'em is that hands you don't play can sometimes be irritating because the board is always the same whether you play or not. There will be situations where you would have made a strong hand had you not thrown away your cards. Do not let this effect you. Even though any two cards can win, random holding don't win more enough to be profitable.

Hand Rankings

To illustrate the presentation of some strategies that follow, the starting hands have been placed in proper groupings. This is because most of the hands in each grouping can be played roughly the same before the flop in many, but not all, situations. However, there are many exceptions which will be later discussed in the text. The starting hands actually move up and down the hand rankings based on the circumstances. Because of this, it can be a mistake to tightly stick to the hand rankings. Again, you should understand all the discussion relating how the individual hands play.

These hand rankings (with some adjustment) first seen in Johnson's Book Essays on Poker. They are little different from the rankings that appear in the original version of Johnson's book Hold'em Poker. The variations reflect the structure change from one small blind to two blinds which causes more multi-way pots and higher pot odds - particularly on the flop. Also suggested is the fact that the players have become tougher, and usually more aggressive as the days passes.

This has raised the value of suited hands especially suited and connectors. Medium up pairs have gone up in middle value because you should not automatically give up when an over card flops, especially if he pot is being challenged for the short- handed.

The rankings are as follows with an "s" indicating suited and an "x" indicating a small card. Note that a 10 is represented as "T." Also if no "s" appears then the hand is not suited.


Group 1: AA, KK, QQ, JJ, AK's

Group 2: TT, AQ's, AJ's, KQ's, AK

Group 3: 99, JT's, QJ's, AT's, AQ

Group 4: T9s, KQ, 88, QT's, 98s, J9s, AJ, KT's

Group 5: 77, 87s, Q9s, T8s, KJ, QJ, JT, 76s, 97s, Ax's, 65s

Group 6: 66, AT, 55, 86s, KT, QT, 54s, K9s, J8s, 75s

Group 7: 44, J9, 64s, T9, 53S, 33, 98, 43s, 22, Ks, T7s, Q8s

Group 8: 87, A9, Q9, 76, 42s, 32s, 96s, 85s, J8, J7s, 65, 54 74s, K9, T8

These rankings indicate not only which group each starting hand belongs to, but also its approximate order in that group as well. In fact, it's usually only essential to know in which group a starting hand belongs. Therefore, Tables I and II provide an easier scheme for memorizing the group for each starting hand. Any hand which is not listed in the tables is ranked below Group 8.


Table I: Hand Groupings for Pairs

Hand
Group
AA
1
KK
1
QQ
1
JJ
1
TT
2
99
3
88
4
77
5
66
6
55
6
44
7
33
7
22
7

Table II: Hand Grouping for Non-Pairs


Group
Group
Hand
Suited
Not suited
Hand
Suited
Not suited
AK
AQ
AJ
AT
A9
Ax

KQ
KJ
KT

K9
K

QJ
QT
Q9
Q8

JT
J9
J8
J7

T9
T8
T7

1
2
2
3
5
5

2
3
4

6
7

3
4
5
7

3
4
6
8

4
5
7

 

2
3
4
6
8
-

4
5
6
8
-

5
6
8
-

5
7
8
-

7
8
-

98
97
96

87
86


76
75
74

65
64

54
53

43
42

32

4
5
8

5
6
8

5
6
8

5
7

6
7

7
8

8

7
-
-

8
-
-

8
-
-

8
-

8
-

-
-

-


If you are new to hold'em we feel that it is very important to memorize these groupings. The table makes the task much easier. Once the table is memorized, this system will facilitate applying many of the concepts that follow.

However, we want to state that by the time you reach the expert level, you shouldn't be thinking in terms of hand groups. In your playing career, your starting hand decisions should be based on the intrinsic value of each hand in each particular situation. But if you have just started playing, then this would be the best approach.

Continue:The First Two Cards: Early Position

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