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Texas Hold'em Poker Starting Hands by Position

What cards you can play in different poker positions at the table

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Here's a quick guide to what Hold'em starting hands to play in different positions:

In early position, only play:
  • High Pairs: Ace-Ace, King-King, Queen-Queen, Jack-Jack
  • High Suited Cards: Ace-King, Ace-Queen, King-Queen, Ace-Jack, King-Jack, Queen-Jack, Jack-10
  • High Unsuited Cards: Ace-King, Ace-Queen, King-Queen

In middle position, you can also play:
  • High Suited Cards: Ace-10, King-10, Queen-10
  • High Unsuited Cards: Ace-Jack, Ace-10, King-Jack, etc.
  • Middle Pairs: 10-10, 9-9, 8-8

In late position you can add:
  • Suited connectors, such as 9-10, 7-8, etc.
  • Small pairs all the way down to 2s
  • Ace-littles: A-8, A-6

Now, this is not an absolute guide. Just because I say you can play ace-little in late position, that doesn't mean you always should. Almost none of the hands that I added for middle or late position should be played if there is a large raise before you get to act, and definitely should be tossed if there are two raises in front of you. The reason the hands are more playable in later positions is precisely because you'll have more information about what the other players are going to do, and if everyone's just calling or folding, there's a better chance that one of the second-best hands above is the best hand at the table.

All that said, this is a rough guide, and it also helps to be able to read the most basic of poker tells and pay attention to the other players playing styles (are they tight? loose? etc.) so you can guess what hands you might be up against. Still, if you stick to this what-to-hold and what-to-fold guide, your poker profits should grow.

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