What are the Best Cards to Have in Your Pocket?


A lot is said about the flop and how to play it. A lot gets said about not being a ‘passive’ player, at least not if your serious about your poker game. Although this is statistically defined as someone who pays for the flop in online Hold’em more than 40% of the time, what does it mean in practice? It is easy to say one should only pay to see the flop with a good pocket, but what cards specifically constitute good and bad pockets? This information can not only be calculated, but can and should be committed to memory as well.


There are 169 possible pockets in a Hold’em game. The question now is of these 169 possibilities which of them are in fact ‘real’, as in playable, possibilities? In order to answer this question we will have to first make a couple of assumptions. First, the following general suggestions are based upon more detailed graphs which one can reference online or download and memorize. The Wizard of Odds deserves credit for one of the best organized tables online. Second, the figures vary depending upon the number of people in the game. This information assumes an online Hold’em table with ten players.


Some people are surprised to learn that of the 169 pockets in Hold’em less than half are worth playing. It means you are, essentially, not ‘playing’ poker more than half of the time you are sitting at the table –indeed if you follow the statistical advice you only pay for 40% of the flops. Some people have little patience for tight play, but it is worth it to have patience. Here is why. Even that ‘good’ 40% of will not win most of the time. If you average out each pocket’s win probability, it comes something close to 13% to 14% (31.36% is the highest, but most ‘good’ hands hover between 10-12%). If, even when you should pay into the flop, you will lose the hand 90%-70% of the time, why only add to that inevitable misery by losing on hopeless hands?


It is not difficult to guess that aces and faces, paired or suited, are the most coveted hands in online Hold’em. That 31.36% probability mentioned above is for two aces in the pocket. It is the only pocket which will win more than 30% of the time. A pair of faces will win 23% to 26% of the time, except for a pair of jacks which only wins 20% of hands, just slightly less than an A/K suited. Hovering around 18% to 19% are suited aces, faces, or 10’s in varying, and mostly non-sequential, combinations. The Face and 10 combinations hover closer to the 18%. All of these are your monster hands. Note that an unsuited A/K is in this category.


A pair of tens has a probability of 17.75%, and puts you more or less into the realm of good, though not monster hands. These are mainly unsuited ace and face cards, or ace or face cards in combination with a suited and relatively high number like 8 or 9. The low probability end of this category is an unsuited Q/J.


The next category defies easy summarization, but ranges in probable success from 10% (a suited 8 and 3), to 14.5% (a suited 9 and 8). These are your decent or ‘drawing’ hands. The majority of them are suited cards with higher valued cards or cards close to being in numerical order. An ace or face with an unsuited number is spread throughout the lower half of this 10-14% probability range.


Check the charts, but when it comes to face card combinations any of them lower than an unsuited king and 6 (maybe 5 at real loose tables) does not have very good chances. For straights, anything lower than an unsuited 6/5 is not a very good hand. As for flushes, an 8 and 2 suited is about as low as you will want to go.



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