How to Win at Poker Instantly! (Only Play These Cards)

How to Win at Poker Consistently (Only Play These Cards!)

This article was written by contributor Fran Ferlan.

Winning in poker consistently is no easy feat, even if you follow the right strategy to a tee. Due to the nature of variance, you’re bound to have some losing days, even through no particular fault of your own.

So rather than aiming to win in poker every time you play, your goal should be to minimize losses on your losing days, and maximize your winnings when cards actually fall your way.

And the best way to lose no more money than it’s absolutely necessary is to only play certain cards, and ditch the rest.

This article will show you exactly what cards to play and how to play them. It will also highlight some common mistakes players make when playing them, and how to avoid them.

By playing these cards only, you’ll be able to win money playing poker (somewhat) consistently. 

What Makes a Good Card in No-limit Texas Hold’em Poker?

Before getting into the specifics, there are certain guidelines to keep in mind when evaluating what actually makes a good starting hand in no-limit hold’em:

1. High cards are obviously better than lower cards, as they will make stronger pairs. 

The most common hand combination you’ll get is one pair, so you want to aim to make the top pair more often than second or third pair.

2. Cards directly adjacent to each other (connectors) are stronger than ones with a gap between them, as they’ll make straights more often. The bigger the gap, the weaker they are.

3. Suited cards are stronger than their unsuited counterparts, as they’ll make flushes more often.

The more of these characteristics your hole cards have, the more inclined you should be to play them. With these in mind, let’s get to the actual hand categories in more detail.

1. Broadway Hands

Broadway hands are the ones that can make the strongest possible straight, so any two cards from Aces to Tens. 

These hands are especially valuable because they will often make the top pair on the flop, with the added possibility of improving even further on future streets.





Playing these hands gives you an automatic advantage over the loose players who tend to play far more hands than they should, and you will often get involved with them in situations where your hand dominates theirs.

A dominated hand is the one that is very unlikely to win against another hand. For example, if you hold AK, you dominate other Ax hands like AQ, AJ, AT etc.

By the way, Nathan made an entire video just last week on the PERFECT way to play your Ace King.

But in practice, the most common hand combination you’ll make in no-limit hold’em is one pair, so you want to make sure you make a top pair hand as opposed to second or third pair. 

You also want to have at least a decent kicker, so your hand can dominate your opponents, instead of the other way around.

By the way, a kicker is a card that doesn’t help you make a certain hand combination, but can determine the winner if both players have the same combination. 

So if both players have a pair of Kings at showdown, for example, a player with the stronger kicker wins the pot.

Broadway hands have the additional advantage in the sense they can make the nuts (i.e. the strongest possible hand combination on the board). 

Most of your winnings in poker will come from strong value hands where your opponent also has a strong hand and is willing to pay you off with it. 

While those situations are rare, as it is very hard for both players to have a really strong hand, the majority of your profits will still come from these spots. 

Broadway hands, especially suited ones, have the ability to make very strong combinations, such as straights and flushes. 

And more importantly, when they do, you’ll often have a stronger straight or flush than your opponent, and you’ll be able to take down a huge pot.

For example, on a board like:


There are multiple possible straights, but if you hold KQ, you have the nut straight. 

Your opponents could easily pay you off with hands like Q9 or 97, or a number of weaker hands like sets, two pair hands and so on.

The point is you always want to get involved in spots where you have the chance of making the strongest combinations and making your opponents pay.

As opposed to getting involved in marginal situations where you are in danger of making the second best hand and not being able to get away from it.

For more on how to play broadway hands in particular check out my recent ultimate Texas Holdem Cheat Sheet.

2. Pocket Pairs

In no-limit Texas hold’em, most hands miss most flops, so having a pocket pair in hand automatically puts you ahead of your opponents. 

It’s easier to be dealt an unpaired hand than a paired hand, as there are a lot more combinations of unpaired than paired hands. 

Pocket pairs have the ability to make very strong combinations, like sets and full houses. It’s a lot easier to make three of a kind or a full house with a paired hand than it is with an unpaired hand. 

What’s more, it’s more difficult for your opponents to put you on a hand if you hold a pocket pair. 

If you flop a set, for example, your opponent will have a hard time putting you on that hand, and you will often be able to get action from a lot of weaker hands, like top pair, two pairs, a number of drawing hands etc. 

If you flop a set, you also have the potential of making a full house on future streets. 

With six outs (an out being the card that improves your hand) to a full house, and one additional out to quads, your chance of improvement from a set to full house from flop to river is roughly 28%.

If you struggle with poker math by the way, I recently wrote an entire poker odds "cheat sheet."  

Now, it’s worth mentioning that you won’t usually be fortunate enough to hit a set on the flop with your pocket pair. 

In fact, the chance of flopping a set with a pocket pair is only a meagre 12%. This means you shouldn’t always play your pocket pairs, especially smaller ones. 

What will end up happening most of the time is you’ll be holding something like third or fourth pair on the flop with very little chance of improvement on future streets. 

So you should only play small pocket pairs if you think you have enough implied odds, and you will actually extract value from your opponents if you do hit.

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Of course, the bigger the pocket pair, the less worried you need to be about missing your set, as big pocket pairs are usually strong enough on their own, without needing to improve to be ahead of your opponent’s range. 

If you have pocket Aces, for example, you will always hold an overpair on the flop. By the way, an overpair is a pocket pair that’s stronger than paired hands on the flop.

For example, on a flop:


Pocket Aces, Kings and Queens are an overpair.

If you hold an overpair, particularly on dry boards like in the example above, you are usually comfortably ahead of your opponent’s range, and can get action from a lot of weaker hands, like Jx hands, inside straight draws and so on. 

The only hands that have you beat are sets or two pair hands, but as mentioned before, it’s highly unlikely to flop a set, and players usually won’t play hands like J3 or 73, so there aren’t many combos of two pair hands either.

Remember, in no-limit hold’em, it’s a lot easier to miss the flop completely than to hit. And strong hands like two pair or better are even less likely. 

One last thing pocket pairs have going for them is the showdown value. Hands with showdown value are those that aren’t quite strong to value bet with, but can win the pot at showdown more often than not. 

Of course, the stronger the pocket pair, the more showdown value, up to the point they stop being hands with showdown value and actually become value betting hands.

If you struggle with the lower pocket pairs like 22, 33, 44 and 55, make sure you check out my ultimate strategy guide for small pocket pairs.

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3. Suited Aces

Suited Aces are not strong hands in and of themselves, but their potential to make nut flushes more than makes up for it.

The beauty of suited Aces is the fact that if you flop a flush draw, you’re always drawing to the strongest possible flush. 

This means that if your flush draw completes, you’ll always have the nuts, and don’t have to worry about having the second best hand. 

The only exception would be if the board pairs (i.e. there are two same cards on the board), so full houses are possible, or if the cards of the same suit are so close together that a straight flush is possible. 

But these situations are so highly unlikely they shouldn’t really be a concern. 

The stronger the hand combination, the less likely it is to occur. (For example, the chances of making a straight flush in no-limit hold’em is only 0.00139%).

That being said, it’s also very uncommon to make flushes as well, so when you do, you want to make sure you make the strongest flush possible. 

Just for context, the chance of flopping a flush is only 0.82%, and the chance of flopping a flush draw is only 10.9%. 

Since it’s so uncommon to make a flush, you can’t rely on your hand strength alone to win the pot, as really strong hands don’t come around nearly as often one might hope for. 

That’s why you’ll sometimes need to win the pot without a strong hand, and push your opponents out of the pot. 

And suited Aces are ideal candidates to do so, especially preflop, as they are great cards to make an occasional 3-bet bluff as discussed at length in Modern Small Stakes.

By the way, a preflop 3-bet is simply a raise against another player’s raise. Suited Aces are great hands to 3-bet bluff with for a few reasons.

First of all, you have some sort of equity postflop if your 3-bet gets called. 

You’ll often flop a pair of Aces, and an occasional flush draw, meaning you can continue applying the pressure with a c-bet.

By the way, a c-bet, or a continuation bet, is a bet made by the previous street’s aggressor.

Also, suited Aces have blocker power. A blocker is a card that reduces the number of combinations in your opponent’s range. 

Since you hold an Ace, it’s less likely for your opponent to have really strong combinations, like pocket Aces, Ace-King, or Ace-Queen.

So suited Aces make great semibluffing candidates, either preflop or postflop. As mentioned previously, you can’t always rely on your hand strength alone to win the pot. 

You will occasionally have to try to push your opponents out of the pot without a made hand. 

But when you do, it’s always useful to have some sort of hand equity to fall back on in case your bluff gets called.

Bottom line, do not under-estimate the power of suited aces!

4. Suited Connectors

The last category of hands you should play preflop is suited connectors, i.e. cards of the same suit directly adjacent to one another, like T♠9♠ or 76.

These are speculative hands that are also not strong in and of themselves, but have the potential of making really strong combinations like straights and flushes.

This is why any good advanced poker strategy will always include these hands.  

What’s great about them is there’s more than one way for them to connect with the board, and they’ll connect more often than unsuited and unconnected cards. 

It’s worth mentioning that while these middling suited connectors look pretty enough, they’ll miss the flop as often as other hands, so you shouldn’t make the mistake of overplaying them. 

They tend to perform best with deep stacks behind, and the deeper, the better. That’s because they will usually flop some sort of a drawing hand if they connect with the board, and will need improvement on future streets. 

And once they do improve, you want to make sure you can extract as much money as possible with them. So if you decide to play them, you should consider the implied odds. 

This means you need to make sure the stacks are deep relative to the size of the pot, and that your opponent is likely to pay you off if your draw does complete.

Bear in mind that completed flushes are fairly obvious to spot, even to recreational players. That’s why it’s usually a good idea to play your draws aggressively as a semi-bluff, similar to the suited Aces.

Unlike suited Aces, however, middling suited connectors aren’t drawing to the nut flush, so you have to be careful not to find yourself in a flush over flush situation. 

As a general rule, the lower the suited connectors, the more cautious you should be when playing them. That’s why you probably shouldn’t play super low suited connectors like 32s or 43s. 

An exception might be when you’re stealing the blinds on the button against really tight or really bad players in the blinds. 

The reason you’re usually better off ditching these hands is: 

A) these hands don’t connect with the board nearly as often, and have very little going for them if they miss, and 

B) even if they do connect, you run the risk of someone having a stronger flush or a straight, as you’ll usually be drawing to the low end of a straight. 

Even if you end up flopping something like two pair, you run the risk of your opponent outdrawing you on future streets.

So ideally, you want to play your suited connectors with great implied odds, while also considering the possibility you might end up having only the second best hand, so tread with caution.

Check out my complete suited connector strategy guide for much more.

How to Win at Poker Consistently (Only Play These Cards)

These hand categories listed above account for roughly 20% of all starting hands in No-Limit Hold’em. 

Now, playing only those hands might sound a bit too restrictive, but being disciplined with your starting hand selection is the single best way to win at poker consistently, especially for beginners. 

The reason for this is you’re automatically coming into the pot with a mathematical advantage, and you’ll often make stronger hand combinations than your opponents.

Now, these hands are only a rough guideline, and they don’t account for other factors you should consider, like your position at the table, types of opponents, stack sizes and so on.

You want to play less hands in early positions, and way more than 20% in late positions (namely the cutoff and the button).

Some other hands you might consider playing in late position could be weak Aces (like A5♣ suited Kings (K♣8♣), unsuited connectors (9♠8), suited one-gappers and two-gappers (J9 or T7).

The point is being very tight from early positions, and gradually opening up your hand selection as you move closer to the button. These are the basics of the winning tight and aggressive poker strategy.

Remember, there are no hard and fast rules you should follow as to which hands to play and not to play. 

Poker is an incredibly dynamic game with a lot of variables to consider, and you’ll never play the same hand twice. 

In the end, winning in poker consistently isn’t about following and memorizing some charts. It’s about expanding your knowledge base and thinking critically. So keep reading, and keep questioning.

Lastly, if you want to know the complete strategy I use to make $1000+ per month in small stakes games, get a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

How to Win at Poker Consistently (Only Play These Cards!)