Hubenak's Hold'em Chart

A. Hubenak, a new contributor, has compiled mountains of data to compose what has to be the most extensive starting hand Hold'em chart available...anywhere. So read his notes, download and print your very own copy, and slay the tables!

Hubenak's Hold'em Chart (PDF)

I originally made this chart to help quantify my thoughts on how I approach starting hands in Texas Hold'em and to provide a guide for my wife who was beginning to play the game. These recommendations are loosely based on the writings of Sklansky, Miller, Malmuth and other great authors who know alot more about how to play hold'em than I do, but I thought this style of presentation might be able to better convey several ideas at once. Some squares have choices like "R/C" which is Raise Or Call.. Often the correct play will be "It Depends" or it may be something else entirely based on the game situation.. But I think the squares will give a basic idea on the correct options and whichever choice is made will probably be pretty close to correct, with the emphasis being on Folding or Raising as opposed to yucky Calling. The main idea here is to illustrate how successful hold’em players have tight pre-flop hand selection criteria, and they seldom cold call raises (calling 2 or more bets/raises) when entering the pot.

The Hold'em Chart has three main sections 1) Early/Middle Position 2) Late Position and Small Blind and 3) Big Blind. I broke the hand groups into these sections to illustrate the different ways of playing the hands. Early/Middle position is characterized by tight selective choices with very few cold calls. Late Position and Small Blind are where players have more choices on the types of hands to play and how to vary them. I grouped these together because I think most people are too loose in the Small Blind and they should play the same as if they were on the Button (this is especially true in the 3/6 and 5/10 structures where the small blind < 50% of the big blind). The Big Blind acts last pre-flop and has its own unique considerations on how to play certain hands.

The Starting Hands are in the following groups - Pocket Pairs, Suited Aces, Unsuited Aces, Suited Kings, Unsuited Kings, Suited Queens, Unsuited Queens/Jacks, and Small Suited Hands. Hopefully the chart is easy to read and information can be quickly looked up.

For each type of position I've further broken down play to the different actions that have taken place before it’s the players turn to act. The Early and Middle position player will often either be first to act or there will have been no raise (NR) before them, or someone may have already raised (R), or else someone raised and someone else reraised (RR). By entering the pot with only the top rated hands, especially if there has been a raise or reraise, it will keep players from getting into trouble with 2nd best type hands which are often expensive to lose. Early/middle players need to be careful with questionable hands because they face the prospect of raises behind them which will make calling/chasing an expensive losing proposition. Sometimes the Early/Middle player can "borrow" the recommendations from the Late/Small section if they know the characteristics of the game (ie Loose Passive) but this is probably best left for more experienced players.

Late Position and Small Blind players have a different set of preceding actions to help guide their play. Its here that alot more hands become playable depending on game situations. 0-1C (0 to 1 Caller so far in the pot) is a characteristic of a Tight Passive game. This often allows a late player to be more aggressive with starting hands and to raise trying to steal the blinds. 2+C (2 or more Callers so far in the pot) is a Loose Passive game where nobody has raised yet. These types of games give higher implied odds thus making it profitable to chase with lower pairs, suited connectors, and suited Aces. R0-2C (someone Raised 0 to 2 Callers) is a Tight Aggressive game which are the toughest to beat. Someone has raised and few people are calling. Often only the best hands are worth playing aggressively here. R3+C (someone Raised but 3 or more Callers are also in the pot) is a Loose Aggressive type game with several maniacs or calling stations staying in the pot even though its been raised. These are often the best games to be in, with higher implied odds and more "Cold Calling" hands.

The Big Blind reverts to Early/Middle guidelines in the NR, R and RR categories. If there has been a raise in front of the Big Blind then with only 1 more bet to call more hands become playable, but its still often best to throw alot of hands away. Different situations apply if its blind stealing/defense tactics but those aren't covered here.

The Action squares are color-coded. First and foremost are the black FOLD squares. The #1 mistake most beginners make is calling too many hands pre-flop. Its often MUCH better to FOLD most hands. Save your money and stay out of questionable pots. Learn to Love the Fold! Folding is your Friend. The best hold'em players only enter 15-25% of the pots (not counting the blinds). Fold the other 75-85% of the starting hands and you'll be way ahead of most players when it comes to the quality of starting hands you're fighting with. Spend that folding time doing something constructive like studying your opponents. Moving on... White squares are definitely playable, often with a raise (highly recommended - don't be shy). The green Calling and blue Cold-Calling squares illustrate what types of situations you may consider calling with. Again, I don't like calling unless I'm getting good odds to draw, and I almost never cold call a bet.. I'd much rather Raise or Fold.. but for those action junkies who wana stay in lots of pots to see what might happen next, here are some areas where calling might be correct. When I see someone bet, someone else raise, then several people cold call, I KNOW its a good game filled with fish food. Finally some squares are labeled "C/F/R" for Call or Fold or Raise. This should really be FOLD or maybe Raise but almost never Call... the idea here is that these situations will allow a creative player to vary their play with the intent of sometimes trying to steal the blinds, sometimes just limping and trapping.. but usually it’s best to just fold and stay out of the pot.

I welcome all feedback and questions thanks for reading this.

Allen Hubenak