Ranking Poker Hands

I’ve never been a successful texas hold’em poker player, but I enjoy analysing gambling games (and games in general), so I decided to take a closer look at starting hands in an effort to slowly build my poker skill. Many of my friends play poker and I follow the poker business as an investor. My plan is to build my poker game in a step by step process.  I’ve decided to focus on 1-2 NL cash games, with a bankroll of 100 buy-ins.

The Wizard of Odds website has a lot of tools available to gamblers. In their poker section, they have published starting hand ranking tables. Users can choose to view the rankings and values of any two starting hands for games with a number of players.

I decided to analyse hand rankings for cash games with six and eight players as those will be common numbers of players for games I’d play.

Click the links for tables relating to six player games, and eight player games.

I’m not sure what percentage of hands I should be playing. From what I read and hear from my friends, the hands to play should be based on the players at the table and my position. But there is no consensus on specifics. I guess it makes sense that there aren’t common guidelines for what percentage of hands to play since some games are loose and some are tight. Good players adapt to the type of game. But since these player reading strategies are too advanced for me at this point, I’m going to give myself some guidelines to start with.

From what I understand, the fewer number of players, the wider your starting hand range should be, and the greater number of players, the narrower your starting hand range should be. So I’ve decided to determine starting hand ranges to play based on the number of players at the table. The percentage of hands that I will play will be determined by dividing 1 and the number of players at the table. So for games with 6 players, I will aim to play  around 17% of hands (1/6), and for games with 8 players, I will aim to play around 12.5% of hands (1/8).

By using the starting hand ranking tables linked above at the Wizard of Odds website, I can determine which starting hands to play and which starting hands to fold by finding the cut-off hand for each game. Determining the cut-off hand is done by taking 1 divided by the number of players, and then finding the hand with an additive probability equal to this ratio. For 6 player games, this ratio is 17% as outlined in the formula above and the hand rank cut-off is Q T unsuited. Any hand with a higher rank will be played and any hand with a lower rank will be folded.

With this starting hand strategy, I can make some conclusions. In six player games, the lowest pair I’ll play is a pair of sevens. I’ll dump J T unsuited, but I’ll play K T unsuited. The lowest suited hand that I’ll play is A 5. It’s interesting to keep in mind that I wouldn’t play A 6 suited since A 5 suited has a higher EV due to the straight possibilities. Any two face cards will be played.

Determining the starting hands to play in eight player games is done using the same formula. Take 1 divided by 8 to get 12.5%, then look up the hand with an additive probability equal to this ratio. For 8 player games, this hand is J 9 suited. This time, most unsuited face cards are played, except for Q J unsuited, which is dumped in eight player games. The lowest pair played is a pair of eights. Any pair lower than eight is dumped.

I would be playing a bit tighter in an eight player game compared to a six player game using this starting hand strategy. The first thing I need to do is memorize the starting hand ranges for each type of game, this won’t be too hard as all I really need to do is memorize the hands around the cut-off point for each type of game. Then, the next step will be to come up with a strategy to modify the hands I play based on the players around me and also on my position.