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Starting Hands in Texas Hold'em

Every decision you make, every pot you win and your ultimate success in poker all begin with those two little cards dealt to you at the beginning of each hand.  With so much riding on your starting hands, it only makes sense that you would want to pick the ones that give you the best chance to win the pot.

In early position, you want to be extremely particular in which starting hands you play.  Early position is a tough place to play from so you need stronger hands to help negate the disadvantage of your position.  Only stick with the strongest hands from early position - look for big pairs like TT-AA and AK.

When you get to middle and late position, you can open up your range a little.  If several people have already entered the pot, you can enter as well with a variety of hands.  Besides the obvious premium hands, you can also play small pocket pairs and suited connectors with the hopes of hitting a big flop.

As a general rule of thumb, you should really only play the top 20% of your starting hands.  The other 80% you should just fold.  It sounds terrible having to fold 80% of the time but that's how the big winners do it.  Even your favorite poker pros on TV have to fold most of the time - you just don't see it on TV.

This is usually where newer players interject with the argument that any two cards can win in holdem.  Of course any two hands can win in holdem but that doesn't mean you should play every hand you're dealt!  Anything can happen in the short term but we look at poker and judge success from a long term perspective.

If you want to win money in the long term, you need to fold all those weak hands and stick with only the best hands.  Weak hands don't win often enough to pay for all the times they don't get you anywhere.  All the times you limp in with a weak hand and end up folding it add up quickly.

The other problem with weak hands is how hard they are to play post flop.  When you play those marginal hands, it's hard telling where you stand because your hand is so iffy.  If you constantly place yourself in marginal situations, you're going to lose money.  Just avoid the problem in the first place and stick with strong hands.

When you play those strong hands, play them like you mean it.  Come in with a raise and get some money in the pot.  Sometimes it seems pointless to raise your strong hands, especially ones like AK, when you know the whole table is just going to call your raise but trust me, there is a point to raising.

Even if there are 9 other people in the pot, you should still raise your strong hands because they have more pot equity than the weak hands your opponents play.  Even a hand like AK that only hits a pair 1/3rd of the time is worth raising because you'll win more than your fair share of pots with it.  Every time you get money in the pot against inferior hands, you win over the long term.  Sure, you'll have all kinds of results in the short term, but the bigger pots you win with your strong hands make up for the times someone draws out on you with a trashy hand.

If you play tight before the flop and raise your strong hands aggressively, you'll already be well on your way to winning big in poker.  Playing a tight but aggressive starting hand strategy is the easiest way to gain an immediate advantage over your competition.  If you couple that with a solid post-flop strategy, your bankroll will grow faster than you ever thought possible.

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