Simple Hold'Em Question

Which is a better pair of hole cards before the flop (in other words, who is

10-8 or 9-8?

I would guess the first slightly because the 10 dominates the 9, but the 9-8 surely has a better straight draw possibilty. So how do the odds flush out?

If they were suited I’d say the 9-8. Unsuited the 10-8.

There are a couple of good Hold’em odds calculators on the net. One good one is at

According to the simulation there, 10-8 beats 9-8 about 2/3 of the time. 9-8 beats 10-8 about 1/4 of the time, and the remainder are ties. This is off-suit.

Here’s the details:

Those are the odds when the hands are heads-up against each other. For the odds of each winning against a random hand, consult an all-in equity chart like this one.

Hand	Wins	Ties	Loses	Pot Equity 
T8s	50.5	3.7	45.8	52.3 
98s	48.9	3.9	47.3	50.8 
T8o	47.8 	3.8	48.4	49.7 
98o	46.1	4.1	49.9	48.1 

I hate those stupid calculators. They are very misleading. And here’s why:

Part of the value of a hand is the size of the pot that you win when you win, and how much money you lose when you lose. A hand like 10-8 will make a greater percentage of ‘wins’ with top pair, and 98 will make a greater percentage by making straights. When you make a straight in holdem, you generally win much more money than when you make a pair, because you can make money from people with hands like top pair, two pair, trips, and smaller straights. If you have the best hand with a pair of tens, the only action you are going to get is generally action you don’t want (people with two overcards, or drawing to straights and flushes).

From that standpoint, 98 is a better hand than T8, all else being equal.

Note that as you go up in rank, this starts to change, because the chance of your top pair standing up is greater. So AQ is better than KQ.

Also, as the number of players in the hand goes down, the value of bigger cards goes up, and the value of connectedness and suitedness goes down.

This is why using hand calculators is a bad idea. It’s much better to learn the theory behind the game and understand why hands are good and bad, rather than just memorizing a bunch of win/loss statistics that are mostly useless. Players that have an intuitive understanding of how strong their hand is for every situation will do much better than those who play a more ‘static’ game.

Excellent post Sam. As a general rule, suited connectors played qua suited connectors (as opposed to something like AKs, which is mainly valuable for its high-card strength) are better when they’re actual connectors, as opposed to one or two gappers. Thus T9s>T8s, 75s>74s, etc.

And of course the situation is vitally important. In a standard ring game, KQs is a very strong starting hand, while A6o is a trash hand. But heads up, the latter is the stronger hand. So there’s no real way to say whether T8 or 98 is “better.” It depends on the game, the number of players, position, etc.

In Texas hold em…it’s not the cards.

It’s the bets.

They’re certainly limited but they are useful for evaluating all-in situations, no? When there’s no further betting possible then knowing the percentages is vital. You can use Sklansky’s TPFAP guidelines (T4 or better with 2:1, anything with 3:1) if you’re heads-up and you think your opponent would push with anything, but what if you want to know if your JTs is worth a call against two short stacks with AK and a small pair? Perhaps for experienced players this kind of thing is easy to intuit, but for those who can’t isn’t running sample hands through a calculator a good way to learn?

10-8 suited or not, is not the best cards and is up there with a 7-2 non suited, I would have folded either way. UNLESS I was in the Big Blind and was guaranteed a check to cheat into the flop.

In hold’em the game doesn’t start with your hole cards, it starts with a round of betting.

Hi Jack!

What happens when a blind comes to a player who doesn’t have the chips to cover it? (For instance, small blind has been raised to $5 and I have $1 in chips)

You put in your one dollar, and are only eligible for that portion of the pot it covers.

It is exactly the same as if another player put you all-in with less chips, you only can get that pot you can cover. The only difference is, because your in a blind, you have no choice on whether to bet that money or not, it is a forced bet.