No limit hold’em is played with a single standard deck of cards. There are 52 cards made up of 4 suits with 13 denominations in each suit. The rank of cards is: A K Q J T 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2. An Ace has more value than any other card except in one situation; when an Ace is used to complete a 5-high straight: A 2 3 4 5. (A 5-high straight is also known as a wheel.) There are no wild cards.
- You took your seat at the table
- The dealer placed The Button in front of a player
- The blinds put in their chips
After the blinds put in their chips, the dealer deals two cards face down to each player. Cards are dealt clockwise around the poker table beginning with the Small Blind. The Button is dealt last.
Your Starting Hand is known as Your Hole Cards
The first two cards dealt to each player – their starting hand – are called their “hole” cards. The hole cards are dealt face down and remain private to each player. The best hole cards you can be dealt are Aces. The worst hole cards you can be dealt are 7 2 offsuit.
Hole Cards aka Pocket Cards
You’ll hear players talk about pocket rockets, pocket pairs, jacks in the hole, etc. The following phrases all mean that the player was dealt a Pair for their hole cards.
Pocket rockets means the player was dealt a pair of Aces.
Pocket ladies means the player was dealt a pair of Queens.
Jacks in the hole means that the player was dealt a pair of Jacks.
When to Look at your Hole Cards
Texas Hold’em is a game of skill. One of the most important skills is the ability to read your opponents. In order to read your opponents, you need to observe what they are doing. If you are looking at your hole cards, you cannot see the first reaction of your opponents upon viewing their hole cards. Do not look at your hole cards until it is your turn. Instead, observe the other players’ reactions to seeing their hole cards for the first time. Make a mental note of what you observe (contentment, a smile, disgust, a scowl?).
After looking at your hole cards, place a chip (or other small object of your choice) on top of them. This is called capping your cards. You cap your cards in order to protect them from being accidentally swept in by the dealer or melded with the cards from another player when they toss them towards the pot (muck). If your cards get caught up in either of these situations, they are “dead”. You are out of the hand and lose any chips that you had invested. No questions. No appeal.
Top 25 Best Hole Cards
Skill aside, the top 25 best hole cards to be dealt are:
- A A
- K K
- Q Q
- J J
- A K suited
- A Q suited
- T T (10 10)
- A K off
- A J suited
- K Q suited
- 9 9
- A T suited
- A K off
- K J suited
- 8 8
- Q J suited
- K T suited
- A 9 suited
- A J off
- Q T suited
- K Q off
- 7 7
- J T suited
- A 8 suited
- K 9 suited
The 10 Worst Hole Cards
Skill aside, the 10 worst hole cards to be dealt are:
Remember that in Texas Hold’em skilled hold’em players “play the player” and not the cards, so, any player with good reading ability can play the worst hole cards as if they were the best hole cards — and take down a pot.
- 7 2 off
- 8 2 off
- 8 3 off
- 9 2 off
- 9 3 off
- 9 4 off
- 6 2 off
- T 2 off
- 7 3 off
- T 3 off
Points to remember:
- A single deck of cards is used in No Limit Hold’em.
- There are no wild cards.
- An Ace always plays high except when used to complete a 5-high straight.
- The dealer deals two cards to each player after the blinds have put in their chips.
- The two cards are dealt facedown and remain private to the player. They are the player’s “hole” cards.
- Watch the other players when they look at their hole cards.
- Look at your cards when it is your turn.
- Cap your hole cards after looking at them.