Texas Holdem Starting Hand Quiz
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 situations.
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
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
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
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
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
- Your opponents
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?
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?
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.
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?
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.
- Early position
- Middle position
- Late position
- The blinds
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.
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 expectation computations.
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 ahead.
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 behind you.
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.
Generally the best way to play in a no limit Texas holdem game is the opposite of everyone else.
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.
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.
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.
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 profitably.
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 beat.
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.
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 re-raise.
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.
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 the pot.
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.
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 hand.
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 call.
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.
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 one.
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 holdem.
In this hand you have position and a strong hand.
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.
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.
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.