Saturday, April 02, 2005


Best Texas Holdem Starting Hands - Edward Hutchison Point Count System

New texas holdem players normally play too many hands before the flop. I know I did. (Sometimes I still do.) There are different ways to determine what the best texas holdem starting hands are. The one I'm writing about today is Edward Hutchison's point count system, which is one I haven't tried yet, but I'm going to try soon.

Here's how it works: instead of memorizing a starting hand chart or a set of starting hands, and whether or not you're going to bet or fold based on position and the hand, you're going to give each opening hand a score and make a decision based on the score of the hand. Edward Hutchison originally devised this system and was gracious enough to allow me to present it here.

Determining the point count of your starting hand

  1. Add the value of your two cards together using the following scale: Ace = 16 points, King = 14 points, Queen = 13 points, Jack = 12 points, Ten = 11 points. All other cards have points equal to their face value.
  2. If you have a pair, add 10 points to your total. (Both cards are the same rank, like JJ.)
  3. If your cards are of the same suit, add 4 points to the total. (Both cards are of the same suit, like clubs or diamonds.)
  4. If your cards are connected, add 3 points to the total. (The two cards' ranks are adjacent, like 9-10, or 10-J.)
  5. If your cards have only one gap between them, add 2 points to the total. (Examples would be 9-J, or 5-7.
  6. If your cards have two gaps between them, add 1 point to the total. (Examples would be 6-9, or 10-K.)

Unraised Pots

Premium Starting Hands

Any total of 30 or more is a premium starting hand. These hands can be played in unraised pots from any position. If you're a new player, then you should stick with premium hands ONLY. This will result in tight play, and your raises and bets will get respect, and you'll be less likely to get sucked out on.

Premium hands have an edge over almost all other hands, so you're giving yourself a mathematical edge by only playing those hands. In a full ring game of ten players, if you stick to only playing premium starting hands, you'll win 17% of the time if all players go all the way to the river with you. (And most of the time people will fold both preflop and on the flop, so your chances will actually be much better than 17%.) That 17% number is significant, because if everyone played every hand they got all the way to the river every time, then everyone would have the same chance of winning the pot--10%. (Since there are ten players.)

Other Starting Hands

If you have some experience, you can loosen up a bit and play some lower-scoring hands from different positions.

In middle position, you can play unraised pots if your starting hand scores 27 or better.

In late position, you can play unraised pots if your starting hand scores 25 or better.

Raising and Raised Pots

In early position, you can raise or call a raise with a hand that totals 34 points or more.

In middle position, you can raise or call a raise with a hand that totals 31 points or more.

In late position, you can raise or call a raise with a hand that totals 29 points or more.

Don't Cold Call

This is my recommendation, not Hutchison's. I don't think you should cold call much at all, if ever. A cold call is when you call a raised bet. In my opinion, it's better to be aggressive and re-raise if your hand scores high enough to be played against a raise. This post doesn't cover post-flop play in Texas holdem at all, but my attitude in post-flop play is the same: raise or fold. Don't just call.

Absolute Poker

More Starting Hand Info

Phil Hellmuth's Top Ten Starting Hands in Texas Holdem

David Sklansky's Starting Hands in Texas Holdem (This is actually more commentary and observation than a listing of Sklansky's starting hands chart.)

Hutchison's Texas Holdem Starting Hands Article (This is the original article that was the basis for the post above. He also has scoring info for Omaha starting hands, Omaha high-low starting hands, and Holdem high low.)

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