Charts are a kind of poker tables that show spectrum of hands you should play with and what to do in any given situation with these cards.
Each of them is made up of ranges.
Chart of starting hands gives information on a preflop about what cards to choose for play and how to step into the play.
It is correct to use separate chart for each discipline, because what is good for cash games isn't always good for tournaments. And if something is good for heads-up game, it can look quite different for 6-max or 9-max tables...
Let’s figure all this out in the right order.
Starting hands are pocket cards you enter the game with. The selection of correct starting hands is very important in Hold 'Em, because the result often depends on the cards you play with. Roughly speaking, you need to be able to separate good cards from bad cards, fold garbage hands and play with stronger ones. Such strategy will be positive in the long run.
These are some of the most popular questions: “What cards should beginners play with?” or “What cards should I play with in order to win?”. Unfortunately, there is no 100% correct answer to these questions. You can both win the hand with 2-7o (off suited) and lose it with a pocket aces. Many more factors influence the game's outcome than just starting hands quality. However, with the correct approach it will be more effective in the long run to enter the game with stronger cards, such as pocket pairs, suited connectors, high cards of the same suit and so on.
There are many different charts of starting hands depending on the game type, chosen strategy, your position and situation at the table. But there are some basic principles of starting hands selection on which you can compose the basic charts.
Premium starting hands:
Top-10 starting hands:
Aces, kings, queens, jacks, tens, AKs, AQs, KQs, AJs and AKo.
Top-20 starting hands:
Top-ten starting hands + A10s, KJs, QJs, K10s, Q10s, A9s, AQo, AJo, pocket nines and pocket eights.
Visually basic charts are as follows:
Chart of premium starting hands
Chart of top-10 starting hands
Chart of top-20 starting hands
You don’t have to be an expert to read poker charts. There are all possible pairs of cards in table that could be dealt to you in Texas Holdem (total amount is 196 possible combinations). The suit of the cards is not taken into account here. The only fact that is taken into account here is whether they are suited or off suited.
Typically several colors are used in the chart and there are author’s explanations of these colors. For example, if you have cards in blue color in the chart and the author writes that the cards identified with blue are worth raising with, so according to his belief the raise will be the most effective solution in this case.
Please note: in order to understand our charts and preflop tables hereinafter, we remind you that “s” in the text means “suited cards”, “o” – off suited cards. It is worth reminding because newbie players could interpret “s” as a sign of spade. ("h" – hearts, "s" – spades, "d" – diamonds, "c" – clubs).
If the letter is not specified, it is likely that off suited cards are meant there. The suit doesn’t matter in some particular cases.
Example: AKs mean A♥K♥; A♦K♦; A♣K♣; A♠K♠ (4 possible combinations).
AKo mean A♥K♦; A♥K♣; A♥K♠; A♦K♥; A♦K♣; A♦K♠; A♣K♥; A♣K♦; A♣K♠; A♠K♥; A♠K♦; A♠K♣ (12 possible combinations).
In some tables and texts “X” is indicated instead of specific card. It means that it could be any card (usually it is the card of lower value than the first indicated one). "Xs" means any card of the same suit.
Each player selects an individual chart for himself and determines what percentage of hands he is going to play. Chart selection depends directly on the player’s strategy. If he follows a tight style, then his range will be narrow enough. If he uses a loose style, his range will be wider.
Newbies could use the charts from the internet, gradually adapting them to their play. It’s important to focus not only on your range but also on opponents. Even the tightest player could enter the game with any two cards in particular situations. For example, when a player sees that there is a high probability that his opponent will fold cards to his raise on preflop.
You will find many poker charts and starting hands tables in the internet. There are plenty of them in poker books, forums and professional players’ articles. Many poker schools give out free charts for micro limits play or provide their students with specially designed tables for an extra fee.
The key thing is to figure out which of them are most suitable for you. You can create the chart yourself but it is quite a meticulous work.
In this article we have collected for you the most popular and highly-demanded charts for cash players and tournament players.
For ease of use we have used several colors in the table. You can print it out (download the chart BSS 9 мах in good quality + colored version) and use it as crib note.
Red colored cells mean strong hands. They are worth playing in case you are the first to enter the game or if your opponent entered with a limp. If the player in front of you entered the game with a raise, you should make a re-raise with these hands about 3,5 times higher than his bet. If there was a raise after you, then you should be raising three times higher or shove all-in.
Yellow colored cells (only for BB) mean the hands that are good for steal from players with 50 BB stacks and above. You should play them in the big blind if the raise was no bigger than 4 BB from CO, BU or SB. If there was a raise from MP2, MP3 or more than one opponent, then you'd better fold the cards.
Blue colored cells mean the middle-strength hands. You should play them if nobody enters the game before you, or there was an entrance into the game with a limp. If there was a raise before or after your action, you'd better fold the cards. The exception will be only in the big blind.
Green colored cells mean weak hands. With their help you could steal the blinds and you should play them only in case if nobody enters the game before you.
High stakes and low stakes games are different in many ways, but the charts are defined by means of hands’ range and more dependent on your selected strategy. That’s why they are not divided into micro-limit charts or charts for high stakes players.
The blinds grow in the tournaments over time and the ratios of players’ stack to blinds are steadily declines. Furthermore, the play is carried out for pushing opponents out of it, that’s why you need to apply different tactics in early, middle and late tournament’s stages and therefore use different starting hands charts.
More simplified chart for MTT at an early stage:
MTT-chart for middle stage of the tournament:
At a late stage of tournament (final table) a stack size plays a much more significant role than pocket cards. You'd better avoid the play with large stack opponents if you are not confident in the strength of your hand. You should choose the chart at the late MTT stage according to amount of chips.
The above-mentioned charts may be suitable both for expensive tournaments and freerolls. In any case they can only be used as a guide in situations where it is difficult to adjust to specific opponent. In real life it is difficult to play exclusively based on the cards in multi-table tournaments.
For a start you can verify the chart on freerolls, because their field differs from usual MTT for real money, and at the same time you will determine the convenience of ranges for free.
Spin&Go starting hands chart will be very useful for beginners. It helps players to understand which hands to use for call, raise, push or fold and in what position should they do it. Suggested below charts are best suited for 3-max Spin&Go with 25BB starting stack.
Starting hands charts for Spin&Go on the button
With 10-25BB stack on the button it's recommended to enter the game with min-raise 2BB, since this position is the most profitable at the table and has its advantages. In the first table cells highlighted with colors mean the hands that can be raised on the button.
With the amount of stack 10BB or less, the stage “push-fold” begins in the Spin-and-go, and the fewer chips you have, the wider your range should be (purple cells – 10-8 BB, red cells – 7-6 BB and yellow cells - less than 5 BB).
You shouldn’t call with speculative hands the opponents’ bets that are larger than 10% of your stack.
Starting hands charts for Spin&Go in the small blind
You should decrease the number of calls in the small blind. As on the button, in charts for MB hands that are worth entering the game with min-raise (2.5BB) with the stack above 10 BB are highlighted with colors, and also hands for push with stack less than 10 BB (purple cells – 10-8 BB, red cells – 7-6 BB, yellow cells – less than 5 BB).
A lot of factors influence the decision-making in SNG plays: starting hand, position, number of players in the pot etc. If nobody entered the game before you or did it by a limp, then generally the decision is taken according to your table position and pocket cards. In this case the most comfortable and simplest chart for low limits SNG tournaments can be indicated in the table:
It’s indicated in the table what maximum quantity of BB in stack is suitable for shoving with one or another cards. The hands that are absent in the table are not suitable for a push.
With the help of Nash equilibrium charts you can modify your play in such way where you always make the right mathematical decision. It’s indicated in the diagrams whether it is worth shoving or folding a hand in dependence of your current stack size:
How to use Nash equilibrium charts
Find your hand in above-stated table (blue central diagonal – pairs, pink cells under the diagonal – offsuited, purple cells over the diagonal – suited cards).
If player shoves all-in against you, use the second diagram. If not – use the first one. If your blinds’ quantity is equal or less than stated in charts, you should put all your chips in pot. If your amount of blinds is more than it is stated in the diagram, you should fold the hand.
Your winning advantage may be not so large but you get profit after playing hundreds or even thousands of heads-up matches by using Nash equilibrium charts (push-fold charts).
Each player has its own unique approach to play, but the majority follows similar ideas concerning the range of starting hands play.
For the first time their classification was created by David Sklansky, the famous poker player and poker books author. He determined 8 starting hands groups and explained which hands to choose and when to enter the game in preflop.
Poker starting hands (table by David Sklansky):
Sklansky writes that:
For your convenience we transformed Sklansky’s table in chart.
Chart of starting hands by David Sklansky:
In this chart group 1 hands are colored with blue, light-blue – group 2, green – group 3, light-green – group 4, yellow – group 5, orange – group 6, pink – group 7 and purple – group 8.
Gray cells show garbage hands that need to be folded in most cases.
There is special soft that automatically computes the hands’ range according to set parameters. Most programs suggest free trial versions where you can form up the chart of starting hands (more often it’s preflop chart).
The most popular programs for forming up the charts: Equilab and Poker chart. You can use other poker calculators with charts.
With the help of special programs you can also determine the ranges of specific opponents and adjust your chart for them.
Please note: in some poker-rooms it is prohibited to use such programs at the same time as their opened client. Moreover, some poker rooms can suspend an account even for an opened Excel program where multicoloured cells are used. For example, if PokerStars notices an opened program for charts or excel document, they send warning to the e-mail and then could suspend account.
As it’s desirable to have the chart at hand, there is an easy way out of this situation: open it on the other device (laptop, phone) or print it out if it’s possible.
Standard charts and ranges are good for newbies but for more effective play you should learn to adapt to opponents and optimize your game in dependence of their indicators. For example, if opponents often fold against raises, you should extend the spectrum of hands and if there are more loose players against you, then it might be worthwhile to play only with the strongest cards.
In order to optimize starting hands’ chart you should pay close attention to opponents’ play, record the notes, look through VODs in your discipline and read modern literature.
Ideally, your chart should be as flexible as possible in order to adjust to opponents.
Don't forget that all charts are of recommendatory nature and even if you follow them inviolately it cannot guarantee you 100% profit.
To adjust the chart for yourself you need to check it on your current limits, but at first you can test the chart on freerolls or cash games for play money.
If you are just starting your poker way you can also add charts and tables that are mentioned in this article to your armoury. They are suitable not only for expensive games. You can use it as charts for microlimits and charts for freerolls.