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Texas Holdem – Top 10 Starting Hands

Starting to play Texas Hold’em is like learning to box. That is, you’re most likely to get knocked out without the protective gear! Keep your stack protected by being aware of the top ten starting hands, listed below. Our rankings order hands by their playability.


These 10 hands can be played aggressively from most positions. You’ll be dealt one of these heavy hitting combinations around 4% of the time.

Compare this to the top 10% of hands, over twice as many combinations.

List of the Top 10 Texas Hold’em Starting Hands

Hand Rank Hand Name Nickname Odds vs. Random Hand
1 AA Pocket Aces Bullets 85.20%
2 KK Pocket Kings Cowboys 82.40%
3 QQ Pocket Queens Cowgirls 79.90%
4 AKs Ace King Suited Big Slick 67.00%
5 AQs Ace Queen Suited Big Chick 66.20%
6 JJ Pocket Jacks Hooks 77.50%
7 KQs King Queen Suited Royal Couple 63.40%
8 AJs Ace Jack Suited Blackjack 65.40%
9 AK Ace King Offsuit Anna Kournikova 65.30%
10 TT Pocket Tens Dimes 75.00%

Download the top 10 starting hands as a printable .pdf here.

Big Pairs – The Heavy Hitters

How to punch, where to punch, which hands should you start playing with? In poker, the maths can give you some direction because the odds will tell you what is supposed to happen when it comes to long term wins and losses. For beginners, sticking to reliable big pairs like AA, KK, QQ, JJ will keep the game simple. These hands can be played from any position.

AA – The strongest preflop starting hand in Texas Hold’em.
KK – Second best in the game, you only slow down the aggression if you see an Ace on the flop.
QQ – Third on the podium, a premium holding.
JJ – The intermediate pocket pair of the Top 10 Texas Hold’em Starting Hands.

You can expect to get each of the big pairs 1 out of 220 hands, but some players prefer to play any match ups at least until the flop, depending on the texture as they expect to be able to outplay their opponents later.

Non-Pair Top-10 Starting Hands

What makes a big pair a good hand is the ‘EV’ or expected value. With one of the big pairs, you’re a 4 to 1 favorite against a lower pair and even more of a favorite against other unpaired hands unless those unpaired hands are also in the top 10 starting hands. AKs, AQs, KQs, AJs, or AKo which have the potential to make a big straight or a big flush.

AKs – The best non-paired hand in Texas Hold’em, Ace King Suited is only in trouble against AA or KK.
AQs – To play with caution when a King is on board.
KQs – A broadway connector, play top pair aggressively if there was no heavy betting preflop.
AJs – Be careful versus a preflop raiser who may have you outkicked on an Ace high board.
AKo – A great hand which plays well against most of the above hands if the flop comes out rainbow..

AKo is a big hand because it plays like a coin flip (roughly 50-50 odds) against any hands except for AA and KK, and yes Ace-high can win a lot of hands against just one opponent.

Dos & Donts

For beginners, the top 10 hands can be considered as boxing jabs.  That is, a move you learn to give you distance, timing and experience at poker, pre-flop and on the flop without getting into too much trouble.


As a beginner simple, ABC poker is one way to avoid large mistakes. For instance, if you do not catch a pair on the flop with your AK you can default to letting go of your hand if your continuation bet gets raised, and wait for a better spot. Once you have more experience you can consider ‘floating’ to peel a card or bluff-catch.

Playing Position

Other than statistical value, position plays a huge part in how to realize the most EV from your starting hands. Much will depend on if you act early or late. For example, the hand #10 of the Texas Hold´em Top 10 hands is TT, a middle pair which can be tricky when you are first to act.

It’s easy to realize that when you hold TT and the flop comes A-K-x, your TT doesn’t look so good anymore, but it’s especially easy out of position. Plus you have the option to check behind and hope to improve on the turn.

All of the top 10 hands can be played in late position, for a raise if players limp in to the pot.

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