Various “experts” may disagree on the relative importance of different factors in becoming a successful Texas Hold ‘Em player, but high on everyone’s list is the ability to make correct decisions about which starting hands are worth playing.
While one can err in the direction of being too tight (i.e., playing too few hands), most observers would agree that beginning Hold ‘Em players are much more likely to err in the opposite direction and play too many hands. In all poker variations, especially at the lower limits, the newcomer will pay a higher penalty for being too loose than being too tight. Given this proclivity to play too many hands and the unpleasant consequences of this behavior, it is probably excellent advice for the beginning player to pay special attention to the task of identifying hands that have the best chances of winning the money. There will come a time when other factors, such as the desire to be deceptive, the need to “play the players,” post-flop strategies, the significance of position, the importance of “table image,” etc., will need to be mastered, but these are complex and subtle issues that are very difficult to quantify.
Fortunately for the novice, one skill that lends itself to fairly easy quantification is the question of determining worthwhile starting hands. What follows is a very easy method of using simple math to objectively identify winning hands.
STEP ONE: Add the value of your two cards using the scale below:
Ace= 16 pts. King= 14 pts. Queen= 13 pts. Jack= 12 pts. Ten= 11 pts. all other cards are worth their face value, e.g., a two is 2 pts., a nine is 9 pts.
STEP TWO: If your two cards are paired, add 10 points to the total.
STEP THREE: If your two cards are both of the same suit, add four points.
STEP FOUR: If your cards are Unique Casino connected (i.e., next to each other in rank, as with a Jack and Ten, a Jack and a Queen, etc.) add three points.
STEP FIVE: If your cards have a one card “gap” (e.g., a Queen and a Ten, a Jack and a Nine, or an Ace and a Queen, etc.) add two points.
STEP SIX: If your cards have a two-card “gap” (e.g., an Ace and a Jack, a Queen and a Nine, or a Jack and an Eight, etc.) add one point.
ANY HAND THAT TOTALS 30 POINTS OR MORE IS A PREMIUM HAND AND CAN BE PLAYED FROM ANY POSITION IF THERE IS NO RAISE. IN MIDDLE POSITION YOU MAY ELECT TO PLAY UNRAISED HANDS WITH 27 POINTS. OR MORE. IN LATE POSITION IN UNRAISED POTS YOU MAY WANT TO PLAY HANDS WITH 25 POINTS. OR MORE. TO RAISE YOURSELF OR TO CALL A RAISE YOU NEED TO HAVE A 34 POINT HAND IF YOU ARE IN EARLY POSITION, A 31 POINT HAND IN MIDDLE POSITION, AND A 29 POINT HAND WHEN IN LATE POSITION.
By limiting yourself to 30 point hands you will always be playing premium cards. Monte-Carlo type simulations prove that any hand that earns 30 or more points under this system will win at least 17% of the hands in a ten-handed game. A random hand, of course, will win 10% of the time under Monte-Carlo conditions where every hand is played to the finish (i.e., to the “river”). Thus, a 30 point hand will win at a rate about 70% above chance expectations and this should provide beginning Hold ‘Em players a margin of safety as they progress in developing the other skills necessary for greater success in this interesting and complex game. As these skills are perfected one may choose to follow the slightly more liberal guidelines shown above, but the true novice is probably well-advised to stick with only those premium hands that earn 30 points or more.