Understanding Texas Hold'em Poker Starting Hand Odds: Effective Pre-Flop Play

Understanding Texas Hold'em Poker Starting Hand Odds: Effective Pre-Flop Play

In Texas Hold’em Poker you’re required to place a bet before the starting flop, so it’s always worth considering how strong any two starting cards are against the different two-card combinations your opponents may have. Once you familiarise yourself with the range of possible match-ups and the chances of them being dealt, you’ll be in a better position to decide how much to bet before the flop. Here are some of those vital statistics that will help you get your games off to the best start.

Chances of Getting Good Cards

The first thing to consider is how often you are likely to get the best cards. The top starting hands in poker aren't common - the odds of receiving a big-suited hand (Jacks or better) are 54.3 to 1, and the odds of receiving a big-suited pair (tens or higher) are 43.2 to 1. It's a good strategy to wait for these hands in general, but be aware they might not come for 40+ hands, so when the blinds are high, don't hold out for Aces and Kings.

How Good Are Your Cards?

The next thing to consider is the actual strength of your high cards. To help you understand your hand strength, compare the five possible combinations you might start out with. Each of these considers the likelihood of one two-card hand beating another:

  • A pair against two lower cards (e.g. 8-8 vs 7-6) is 4.9 to 1 to win – the best starting odds in the game. If you have a high pair, you're in a great position. If you have two unpaired cards and you think your opponent has a high pair, you're in a lot of trouble. No matter how high your cards, if they’re lower than your opponent's pair you’re going to struggle. KQ suited or a 7-2 combination, for example, are almost equally bad against a pair of aces.
  • A pair against any lower pair gives the next highest odds, at 4.5 to 1. In this situation (e.g. J-J vs 10-10), you’re likely to face a big pot, so be wary of playing a big hand against a suspected higher pair when you’ve got a small pair.
  • A pair versus one higher card and one lower card (e.g. K-K vs A-7) gives the next best odds, at 2.5 to 1. If you have the pair it's good to push your advantage, but be wary of high cards on the flop.
  • A pair versus two higher cards is even more dangerous - leaving you with only a 1.2 to 1 advantage. Even a high pair like 10-10 would have these odds against KJ. With such a thin advantage, it's almost always a bad idea to stake a lot of chips pre-flop.
  • For hands without pairs, two higher cards have a 1.7 to 1 advantage over two lower cards (e.g. AK vs QJ), whilst a single higher card and a single lower card has slightly lower odds at 1.5 to 1 (e.g. AQ vs KJ). Again, these are slight advantages, so don’t overplay your hand before the flop.

This information should help you choose which cards are worth playing, and start you thinking more about what your opponents might be holding. With practice available online for free, or at small stakes, try different combinations and see how those odds translate to real games, then test your newfound skills over at partypoker!

Recommended Poker Sites

shield of trust Secure trusted partners Trusted star verified Verified
Bell Icon
Affiliate Disclosure: At Gambling.com, we want to ensure that players are matched with the right casino and sportsbook offers for them. For this reason, some of the recommended site links are affiliate links. This means that if you visit a website through our link and make a deposit, Gambling.com will receive a commission payment at no extra cost to you. At Gambling.com, we want to ensure that players are matched with the right casino and sportsbook offers for them. For this reason, some of the recommended site links are affiliate links. More
  1. 1
    PartyPoker
    Established 1997
    More Details
    Deposit £10, receive up to £40 in Free Play
    Official Partner of F1 McLaren Racing Team
    Poker Ambassadors Kevin Hart & Carl Froch
    Earn up to 40% Cashback Every Week
    Bonus Code
    The code required to claim this sign-up bonus (if any)
    not required
    Bonus Wagering
    The number of times you have to play though your bonus before you are able to withdraw any winnings
    4x
    Payout Time
    The usual withdrawal processing time
    1-2 Days
    Rakeback
    Does this poker site refund a portion of your rake or offer cashback for poker loyalty points?
    Yes
    WSOP Satelites
    Can you enter satellites for World Series of Poker™ event packages?
    No
    Home Games
    Can you set up private online poker games with friends?
    No
    One of the pioneers of online poker, PartyPoker was once the world’s biggest poker site and they still host huge online tournaments such as the prestigious MILLIONS series - with a $1million guaranteed main event, plus satellites to PartyPoker live events.
  2. 2
    888 Poker
    Established 1997
    More Details
    100% Welcome Bonus up to £800 + £20 Free Bonus
    'Online Poker Operator of the Year' 2022
    Unique BLAST & SNAP Fast-Fold Games
    Satellites to Exclusive Online XL Series
    Bonus Code
    The code required to claim this sign-up bonus (if any)
    NEW888
    Bonus Wagering
    The number of times you have to play though your bonus before you are able to withdraw any winnings
    30x
    Payout Time
    The usual withdrawal processing time
    1-3 Days
    Rakeback
    Does this poker site refund a portion of your rake or offer cashback for poker loyalty points?
    Yes
    WSOP Satelites
    Can you enter satellites for World Series of Poker™ event packages?
    Yes
    Home Games
    Can you set up private online poker games with friends?
    Yes
    With over 10 million registered members, 888poker is one of the world’s largest poker networks and they also have their own live circuit featuring some of the most prestigious poker events in the world, with destinations such as London, Barcelona and Bucharest.
  3. 3
    Double Bubble Poker
    Established 2021
    More Details
    Play £10, Get 50 Extra Spins
    'Wild Seat Poker' Texas Hold'em Game
    Instant Play Software (No Download Required)
    Poker Tutorial Videos to Improve Your Play
    Bonus Code
    The code required to claim this sign-up bonus (if any)
    not required
    Bonus Wagering
    The number of times you have to play though your bonus before you are able to withdraw any winnings
    1x
    Payout Time
    The usual withdrawal processing time
    24 Hours
    Rakeback
    Does this poker site refund a portion of your rake or offer cashback for poker loyalty points?
    No
    WSOP Satelites
    Can you enter satellites for World Series of Poker™ event packages?
    No
    Home Games
    Can you set up private online poker games with friends?
    No
    Double Bubble Poker is a fun place for beginners with a friendly interface, welcoming hosts and pocket-friendly tournament entry fees starting at just £0.01.
  4. 4
    GG Poker
    Established 2014
    More Details
    Deposit £10, Claim £40
    Largest Online Poker Site in the World
    World Series of Poker™ Official Partner
    External Tools & Tracking Software Blocked
    Bonus Code
    The code required to claim this sign-up bonus (if any)
    not required
    Bonus Wagering
    The number of times you have to play though your bonus before you are able to withdraw any winnings
    1x
    Payout Time
    The usual withdrawal processing time
    1-3 Working Days
    Rakeback
    Does this poker site refund a portion of your rake or offer cashback for poker loyalty points?
    Yes
    WSOP Satelites
    Can you enter satellites for World Series of Poker™ event packages?
    Yes
    Home Games
    Can you set up private online poker games with friends?
    No
    GG Poker offers award winning features include EV Cashout, Snap Cam, NFT Avatars and Squeeze Cards. You can also play online with GGTeam Pro Players Daniel Negreanu, 'ElkY' Grospellier and Jason Kroon.
  5. 5
    PokerStars Poker
    Established 2015
    More Details
    Bet £10 Get £40 Free Play
    Owner & Sponsor of the European Poker Tour
    Official Partner of the Red Bull F1 Racing Team
    Signed Neymar Jr as 'Cultural Ambassador'
    Bonus Code
    The code required to claim this sign-up bonus (if any)
    FORTY
    Bonus Wagering
    The number of times you have to play though your bonus before you are able to withdraw any winnings
    1x
    Payout Time
    The usual withdrawal processing time
    3-5 Days
    Rakeback
    Does this poker site refund a portion of your rake or offer cashback for poker loyalty points?
    Yes
    WSOP Satelites
    Can you enter satellites for World Series of Poker™ event packages?
    No
    Home Games
    Can you set up private online poker games with friends?
    Yes
    PokerStars host some of the biggest online poker tournaments including the famous Sunday Million which has a $1million guaranteed prize pool, plus exclusive satellites to the European Poker Tour.
  6. 6
    Coral Poker
    Established 2002
    More Details
    Deposit £20, receive up to $30 in Tournament Tickets
    Sit & Go Leaderboards with Daily Prizes
    MyGame Whiz - Personal Poker Coach
    Up To 40% Automated Weekly Cashback
    Bonus Code
    The code required to claim this sign-up bonus (if any)
    not required
    Bonus Wagering
    The number of times you have to play though your bonus before you are able to withdraw any winnings
    1x
    Payout Time
    The usual withdrawal processing time
    3-5 Days
    Rakeback
    Does this poker site refund a portion of your rake or offer cashback for poker loyalty points?
    Yes
    WSOP Satelites
    Can you enter satellites for World Series of Poker™ event packages?
    No
    Home Games
    Can you set up private online poker games with friends?
    No
    At Coral Poker you can qualify for big online and live poker tournaments, including the Irish Open and UK Grand Prix, plus the high roller MILLIONS tournament series.
  7. 7
    Bet365 Poker
    Established 2001
    More Details
    bet365 Poker - Welcome Package of up to €365
    63 Million Customers in Over 150 Countries
    Regular Tournament Series Events
    Twister Sit & Go's with Jackpot Prize-Pools
    Bonus Code
    The code required to claim this sign-up bonus (if any)
    not required
    Bonus Wagering
    The number of times you have to play though your bonus before you are able to withdraw any winnings
    30x
    Payout Time
    The usual withdrawal processing time
    1-3 Days
    Rakeback
    Does this poker site refund a portion of your rake or offer cashback for poker loyalty points?
    Yes
    WSOP Satelites
    Can you enter satellites for World Series of Poker™ event packages?
    No
    Home Games
    Can you set up private online poker games with friends?
    No
    Bet365 Poker offer regular Cash Games, Sit & Gos & Tournaments, plus premium tables where you'll play exclusively against Bet365 players only. They also provide 24/7 customer support.
  8. 8
    Paddy Power Poker
    Established 2004
    More Details
    Bet £20, receive up to £50 in Tournament Tickets
    Sponsors of the Irish Poker Tour & Championship
    Daily & Weekly Freerolls with Big Rewards
    £12.5K of Prizes in Weekly Twister Races
    Bonus Code
    The code required to claim this sign-up bonus (if any)
    not required
    Bonus Wagering
    The number of times you have to play though your bonus before you are able to withdraw any winnings
    35x
    Payout Time
    The usual withdrawal processing time
    1-5 Days
    Rakeback
    Does this poker site refund a portion of your rake or offer cashback for poker loyalty points?
    Yes
    WSOP Satelites
    Can you enter satellites for World Series of Poker™ event packages?
    No
    Home Games
    Can you set up private online poker games with friends?
    Yes
    Paddy Power Poker have a 'Twitch Team' of poker ambassadors, who you can enjoy live interaction with as they broadcast MTTs & Cash Games via their Twitch channels.
  9. 9
    Grosvenor Poker
    Established 2007
    More Details
    Earn up to 40% Rakeback
    Online Home of the Grosvenor UK Poker Tour
    Qualify for 'National Poker League' Events
    'Loyalty Club' - Earn Up To 40% Rakeback
    Bonus Code
    The code required to claim this sign-up bonus (if any)
    not required
    Bonus Wagering
    The number of times you have to play though your bonus before you are able to withdraw any winnings
    1x
    Payout Time
    The usual withdrawal processing time
    1-3 Days
    Rakeback
    Does this poker site refund a portion of your rake or offer cashback for poker loyalty points?
    Yes
    WSOP Satelites
    Can you enter satellites for World Series of Poker™ event packages?
    No
    Home Games
    Can you set up private online poker games with friends?
    Yes
    Grosvenor Poker can reasonably be called the home of UK poker, with exclusive satellites to live events taking place at Grosvenor Casinos across England, Scotland & Wales, including the GUKPT and the biggest live poker tournament in Europe - the Goliath.
×