Every Texas holdem hand starts with the decision of whether or not to enter
the pot. Your starting hand selection is directly related to your results in
both the short and long term while playing holdem.
The simple mathematics show that if your starting hand is better than your
opponent’s starting hand you’ll win more often than they do. Of course Texas
holdem is a game of multiple layers in every hand so your starting hand is just
one part of the equation determining your long term success, but if you start
with a worse hand than your opponent’s more often than not, it’s almost
impossible to be a long term winning player.
Limit Texas holdem requires a stricter following of proper starting hand
election because you can’t win large multiples of your original commitment to
the pot when you hit a hand like you can at time while playing no limit.
Here’s an example:
If you’re playing limit Texas holdem and call a raise with pocket sevens and
complete a set on the flop there’s a strict limit to the amount you can win. In
a 10 / 20 game the average you’ll win is about $200, and almost half of that
will be the amount you put into the pot. In a no limit game at the same stakes,
you can win $1,000 or more on the same hand depending on the stack sizes.
You have the same odds of hitting a set in each situation but in a limit game
you rarely will see the proper return on your investment to make calling the
raise with a lower pocket pair profitable.
But it can also be costly in no limit play to play too loose with your
starting hands because you still start with a disadvantage that can be magnified
by the same things that let you win more when you hit a big hand. When you hit
your hand you still have to have an opponent who’s willing to pay you off.
You only complete a set on the flop roughly one out of every eight times you
start with a pocket pair, so if you call every time you lose your investment
most of the time. It’s irritating and costly when you finally hit a set and then
have your opponent fold when you raise. This is why when you hit a bi hand you
need to maximize your return as much as possible. This is because often you
won’t make a big return when your opponent doesn’t have a strong hand.
We’ve put together a 10 question quiz with multiple choices for answers after
each question. The quiz questions are included in the first section ad all of
the answers are together below the first section. Grab a piece of paper and
write down your answers before moving to the answer section.
You should also know that not every quiz question has a 100% correct answer.
Game conditions, your knowledge of your opponents, stack sizes, and other things
need to be considered in every situation while playing Texas holdem. And the
correct answer in one game may not be the best play in another.
We take as much into consideration as possible and explain the thought
process behind each solution so you can understand the way you need to think
about hands while playing. The real learning opportunity on this page is
learning how to think about your starting hand decisions in a multitude of
Quiz Question 1
You’re playing in a no limit Texas holdem tournament and three players have
to be eliminated before everyone left finishes in the money. You have a slightly
higher than average chip stack and can easily fold every hand until three more
players bust. At the beginning of the tournament your goal was to finish in the
money. You’re first to act and find pocket aces in your hand. What do you do?
Move all in
Make a normal sized raise
Make a raise two times the normal amount
Quiz Question 2
You’re playing in the same tournament with the same situation as the first
question, three of your opponents have larger stacks than you, but you’re playing to
win the tournament, not just slip into the money. What do you do with pocket
aces from early position?
Move all in
Make a normal sized raise
Make a raise of two times the normal amount
Quiz Question 3
In an extremely tight no limit Texas holdem game how should you adjust your
starting hand selection criteria overall? An extremely tight game is one where
almost every flop is only seen by two or three players at the most and most
hands have a raise and everyone else folds before the flop.
Don’t change your starting hand criteria
Play tighter than normal
Play slightly looser than normal
Play much looser than normal
Quiz Question 4
The situation is the same as in quiz 3, but the game is limit Texas holdem
instead of no limit. Does this change your decision? How does this change your
normal starting hand selection criteria?
Don’t change your starting hand criteria
Play tighter than normal
Play slightly looser than normal
Play much looser than normal
Quiz Question 5
What’s the most important factor when deciding which starting hands to play
in any Texas holdem game?
Your table image
Your position relative to the dealer button
Your actual starting hand
Quiz Question 6
You’re on the button in a limit Texas holdem game before the flop with pocket
kings and face a raise and a re-raise. What should you do?
Quiz Question 7
You’re in the small blind in a limit Texas holdem game with pocket fives, the
first player to act raised and one player raised again. What should you do?
Quiz Question 8
You’re in the same situation as in quiz 7 but you’re playing in a no limit
game. All three players involved in the hand have deep stacks.
Quiz Question 9
The last three times you played pocket queens you’ve lost and you’re facing a
raise in late position in a limit Texas holdem game. What do you do?
Quiz Question 10
Suited connectors can be tricky to play in Texas holdem. Where can you play
jack 10 suited from in most Texas holdem games? Pick all that apply.
Quiz Answer 1
The only way to guaranteed that you finish in the money is by folding, and
your stated goal is to finish in the money, so if this is still your goal you
should fold. But if you can’t play the best starting hand in the game when you
receive it how can you hope to be a long term winning player?
Remember that most players at this point in a tournament are hoping to sneak
into the money before taking further chances. This means that unless someone has
a strong hand they’re likely to fold to a raise.
Our recommendation is to consider moving all in if you’re in this situation.
The likely outcome will be everyone folds and you pick up the blinds. But if
someone calls you stand a great chance to double up or at least increase your
stack considerably, to give you a realistic shot at having enough chips to
compete for a chance to win the entire tournament.
Yes if you get called enough times with pocket aces eventually someone will
draw out on you and you’ll be knocked out of the tournament. But in the long run
playing pocket aces is a positive expectation play.
Positive expectation means if you play the exact same situation over and over
that on average you win more money than you lose. This is the way you should
look at every situation and decision you make while playing Texas holdem. Will
this decision make money or lose money in the long run.
The other two choices in this situation are to raise a normal amount or
around twice the normal amount. At the end of the day you can play pocket aces
either way and it’ll be a positive expectation situation.
One of the keys is determining where to draw the line about which hands to
play and which ones to fold. You also need to be able to make a quick decision
about your chances to make the money verses increasing your stack size.
Do you play pocket kings in this situation or fold them? What about pocket
queens or jacks? Where do you draw the line?
If you need to make the money so badly that you can’t play to win the
tournament you probably don’t have a big enough bankroll to play. Just sneaking
into the money usually doubles your entry fee, which is good, but much larger
amounts are available for the top few players.
It’s an excellent idea to know how you plan to play in situations like the
one we’re discussing here. The less you have to decide while playing the better
because it frees your mind for other important things like pot odds and positive
Quiz Answer 2
In this situation your goal is to get as much money into the pot as possible
while having a good chance of at least one of your opponents remaining in the
pot. If you can get all in with one or two callers it’s the ultimate goal.
Folding is out of the question and moving all in will probably make all of
your opponents fold. This only wins the blinds, so it’s not the best option
before the flop. This leaves the two other raise options.
Of course you want to try to get all in eventually, so which raise option
gives you the best chance to get all in? At this point in the tournament a
normal sized raise often looks like an attempt to steal the blinds because most
players are folding in hopes of making the money.
A raise of two times the normal amount will look out of place to experienced
players and may actually hurt your chances of being called or re-raised.
If you’re sitting at a table with a big stack who’s been pushing the table
around you might even get them to re-raise your normal sized raise. When this
happens you need to consider the size of the raise and your stack size. If a
call makes you pot committed, you should re-raise all in, but if your stack is
deep you can consider calling and then checking and raising all in on the flop.
Once you make the initial raise before the flop folding the hand later is
almost impossible. Every once in a while the flop will be ugly, but it probably
missed your opponent too. A flop all of one suit that doesn’t match one of your
aces is the worst flop for you, but you still have to play your hand as if it’s
The last option is to limp, or simply call the big blind. This is rarely a
good option in this situation because it often looks out of place like an
oversized raise, but it can work. If you have two big stacks at your table who
seem to be taking turns raising the pot to squeeze the players trying to sneak
into the money you may be able to limp into the pot and have one of them raise
This is dangerous because if they don’t raise, you’ve missed an opportunity to
get more money in the pot. You also need to consider how you’re going to play
the hand after they raise. If you limp, they raise, and then you move all in it
screams that you have a huge hand. So if you limp you’re almost committed to
calling a raise and seeing the flop.
In most situations making a normal sized raise is the best play, but consider
your other options based on the previous play at your table.
Quiz Answer 3
Generally the best way to play in a no limit Texas holdem game is the
opposite of everyone else.
So if the table is extremely tight you want to play
It can be dangerous to play too loose, so playing a little more loose
than normal is the best way to make your first adjustment.
On the other hand, if the table is playing loose as a whole, which is more
likely than an overly tight table, you should lean toward playing tighter. You
can afford to wait for your best hands because you can usually win more when you
have them because more players are in the pot.
You also need to constantly monitor the table, because a tight game can
quickly loosen up and a loose game can tighten up. It’s also important to
recognize which players are tight and loose.
When a table is tight and you start to loosen up your starting hand
selections you should enter most pots that you play with a raise. While this can
also be a strong way to normally play it’s more important in a tight game
because you may win quite a few blinds uncontested. This can add up quickly.
Quiz Answer 4
In a limit Texas holdem game the answer is much like the answer to quiz 3, but
you can’t afford to be too loose no matter how tight the table is playing.
You should still loosen up a little bit, but it’s more important than ever to enter
the pot with a raise.
Because you’re limited to the amount you win on each hand you need to build a
bank of winning the blinds by playing aggressively to make up for your slightly
looser starting hand selection.
Limit holdem is firmly based in starting the hand with a better hand on
average than your opponents and making the correct plays the rest of the hand
based on pot odds and positive expectation.
This is why you can’t loosen up your starting hand requirements too much.
Quiz Answer 5
Your actual starting hand is always going to be the most important factor of
the four listed in Texas holdem, but it’s closely followed by your position.
Your opponents are also important, and your table image is the least important
of the four listed.
Your table image is important, but the reason it’s the least important of the
four choices is because some of your opponents won’t be paying close enough
attention to have any idea what your table image is.
Knowing as much as possible about each of your opponents is important because
you can use the information to improve your chances to win. Often an extra bet
or two per playing session can add a great deal to your bottom line, and the way
to get the extra bet or two is by knowing your opponent’s playing tendencies.
But you still have to play good starting hands and use your position.
Learning how to use your position while playing Texas holdem and how to
consider your position while selecting hands to play and fold is one of the
biggest steps in a winning holdem player’s career. You need to consider your
position before making any decision at the holdem table.
But nothing matters if you don’t have a starting hand that can be played
So the most important thing will always be the actual cards in your
Quiz Answer 6
Pocket kings are the second best starting hand in Texas holdem. This means
you have to play them like they’re the best hand until it’s clear that you’re
So in this situation you need to raise.
While there’s a slim chance that an opponent has pocket aces, it rarely
happens when you have pocket kings.
You should continue betting and raising throughout the hand unless an ace hits
the board. At that point you should switch to checking and calling, but by the
time the ace hits the board the pot odds are good enough to call the hand down
because your opponent won’t always have the ace, and you still have two outs
even if they do have an ace.
The way you play in a no limit game in the same situation, may be a little
different, based on the stack sizes and what you know about your opponent’s, but
kings are still the second best starting hand so you need to play them
aggressively in all except the most dangerous situations.
Quiz Answer 7
With pocket fives against at least two opponents you’re almost certainly
going to have to hit a set to win. You also need to consider the strong
possibility that the big blind will call, and the original person who raised may
Your decision needs to be based on pot odds. So you need to decide if the
reward when you hit your hand will be big enough to cover all of the times you
don’t hit your hand.
You know that you’ll hit your set on the flop roughly one out of every eight
times you play. The pot only has about four times the amount you have to call in
it at this point so the odds aren’t even close to being in your favor.
This is an easy folding situation in a limit game, even though you already
have a small blind in the pot.
But most players make this call every time. This
is a huge leak in most players’ game, and the thing that separates the winners
from the losers.
Don’t be tempted to play negative expectation hands and situations just
because you’re in the blinds. Simply fold and wait for a better hand to enter
Quiz Answer 8
In a no limit game you have the chance to win a greater amount later in the
hand when you hit a set, so the decision is more difficult.
In this exact situation, the correct play is still a fold most of the time.
The danger is the two players who still need to act behind you. The big blind
still has to act, and even if they fold the first player who raised may
re-raise. What are you going to do if you call the raise and then the original
player moves all in? You’re stuck in a situation where you’ve committed more
chips to the pot but can’t call because you’re almost certainly behind in the
It’s possible the pot odds could be close to correct if this happens, but
it’s still a mistake because you shouldn’t have been in the pot in the first
place an part of the new pot odds include the money you put in from the first
The reason you can play pocket fives in no limit Texas holdem in many
situations is because when you hit a set your hand is disguised so you stand a
good chance of winning more later in the hand against higher pairs. But in this
situation this advantage is negated because of the chance of being re-raised.
You want to play smaller and medium pairs against a single pre flop raise.
Some of the best no limit players simply don’t play any small pocket pairs
because they still lose sometimes when they hit a set, and the times this
happens they usually lose their entire stack. When you play a small pocket pair
and hit a set you try to get all in because that’s how you make money. You have
to maximize the amount you win when you hit a strong hand, but when another
player hits a bigger set this means you lose a huge pot.
Once you consider all of these things you still need to fold the pocket
fives, because it’s still a negative expectation situation in the long run.
Quiz Answer 9
What happened the last time, or the last three times, you played a particular
hand has nothing to do with how you should play the hand in the future. The only
thing that matters is if the situation is a positive or negative expectation
Pocket queens are the third best starting hand in Texas holdem so before the
flop you need to play them aggressively. This is especially true in limit Texas
In this hand you have position and a strong hand.
You need to raise in this
situation every time.
Once you see the flop you may want to slow down if it has
an ace, but you should still usually call down to the show down because your
queens will still be good many times.
It’s easy to get gun shy when a particular starting hand hasn’t worked out
well recently, but remember that the cards don’t have a memory and you need to
maximize your wins when you have a good hand.
The only possible exception to this rule is if you know how the player who
raised plays and she never raises from early position with anything except
pocket kings or aces. This is such a rare thing that even if you’re 95% sure
they play this way you should still call for a single raise.
Quiz Answer 10
The answer is from late position and the blinds in a pot that hasn’t been
raised. The truth is if you always fold suited jack 10 you won’t be giving up
much in expected value. Most players don’t play well enough after the flop to
make them profitable in the long run.
The danger in playing this hand usually isn’t the pre flop call; it’s not
being able to get away from them after the flop when you should.
When you flop a pair it’s rarely the best hand and many players want to
continue chasing the hand when they have a pair. If you flop a flush or flush
draw you still don’t have the top possible flush. You actually have a draw to
the fourth best flush, or have the fourth best possible flush.
You can flop a nut straight or a nut straight draw, but most of the time if
you flop a straight draw it won’t be the best possible hand. And you know that
many players play hands with face cards so you’re on the low end of most draws,
which means you can hit a straight and still lose.
This usually means you either lose a big pot or win a small one.
This is why folding this hand may be best in all situations.
Limit Texas holdem can be less dangerous than no limit with these hands
because of the limited betting structure, but even it can be a negative
expectation situation. In no limit play, unless you’re one of the best post flop
players middle suited connectors can be even more costly.
If you do play jack 10 suited you need to be in late position most of the
time so you can see how the other players are playing the hand and you have the
opportunity to take a free card on some streets. If you flop a straight draw or
a flush draw it can make a big difference if you can see the turn or river for
free instead of being forced to commit more to the pot on a draw.
How did you do on the quiz? As you read the answers you probably noticed that
most of the situations didn’t have an answer that was correct 100% of the time.
This is the case with many situations while playing Texas holdem, but most of
the time one way to play is better than the others.
Use these quiz questions and answers to help you learn more about how to make
decisions at the table. Learn all of the things you need to consider while
playing and how to use them to your advantage. And finally, never stop trying to
learn and become a better player. Your bankroll will always be better off when
you become a better player through study and experience.
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