Best Starting Hands: Texas Hold'em Hand Selection
Grinderschool Free Poker Strategy Articles
Jeff "CodeRedRulez" Lipsey
Jeff "CodeRedRulez" Lipsey has been an instructor and administrator on Grinderschool.com since 2008. Subscribe today to download and view his over 175 poker strategy videos.
Regardless of which game you are currently playing, knowing the basic hands to raise pre-flop is a valuable first step to learning other advanced poker skills
The biggest difference separating full ring and 6-max is the inclusion of early position, specifically Under-The-Gun (UTG), UTG + 1, and UTG + 2. These 3 early positions provide little opportunity for beginner poker players to raise as a bluff.
Most players should take this opportunity to raise only strong hands in early position. Marginal broadway hands provide little value when playing against tight players and many beginner poker players will lose money when raising small pocket pairs. If you are looking to grind up your bankroll then expect to raise only 77+ and AQ+ in the first three positions. More experienced players can start to add in 22-66 and other suited connectors like T9s to balance their range.
Middle position full ring and early position 6-max NLHE pre-flop raising ranges are very similar, specifically the positions MP and Hijack. Without any reads, players can raise more hands than in early position and should start to add in some of the higher value broadway cards. Hands like AJ and KQ have more value, hands like suited connectors allow you to hit a lot of boards post-flop and you should now be raising your small pairs as well.
Late position in full ring and 6-max NLHE plays very similar. Even without a read, players should be raising a wide variety of hands on the cut-off and button to steal the blinds and maxmize the number of hands played with positional advantage. All broadway cards, pocket pairs and most suited connectors are now hands to raise pre-flop. Also add most of your Ax hands and several one-gap and two-gap suited connectors, plus more hands if you have a read that blinds are tight.
Once you reach the small blind, you only have one player to get through to steal the blinds. Unfortunately you will be out of position and your opponent will likely expect you to blind steal a lot from the small blind. For this reason you need to raise less hands than you did in position. Your range should be similar to a hand range from middle position. If you have a read that our opponent is extremely tight, then you can raise nearly any two cards to show a profit.
This starting hand strategy will eventually become second nature to you and as you improve you will see many instances where you should deviate from this strategy.