Sklansky Starting Hand Groups

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Starting Hand Selection: Chen Formula : Sklansky Starting Hand Groups

The Sklansky & Malmuth starting hands table.

Group Hands
1 AA, AKs, KK, QQ, JJ
2 AK, AQs, AJs, KQs, TT
3 AQ, ATs, KJs, QJs, JTs, 99
4 AJ, KQ, KTs, QTs, J9s, T9s, 98s, 88
5 A9s - A2s, KJ, QJ, JT, Q9s, T8s, 97s, 87s, 77, 76s, 66
6 AT, KT, QT, J8s, 86s, 75s, 65s, 55, 54s
7 K9s - K2s, J9, T9, 98, 64s, 53s, 44, 43s, 33, 22
8 A9, K9, Q9, J8, J7s, T8, 96s, 87, 85s, 76, 74s, 65, 54, 42s, 32s
9 All other hands not required above.

Holdem Poker For Advanced Players BookThis table comes from the book Hold 'em Poker for Advanced Players by David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth.

This is a strategy book for limit Hold'em, but the starting hand groups do have some practical use in no limit Hold'em.

What is the Sklansky and Malmuth starting hands table?

The table is a general ranking of hands in Texas Hold'em.

The Sklansky and Malmuth starting hands table groups together certain hands in Texas Hold'em based on their strength. Starting with the strongest set of hands that you can be dealt in group 1, the hands get progressively weaker working down the table until the virtually unplayable hands in group 9.

The rough idea is that a hand in one group has roughly the same value and can be played the same way preflop as any other hand in that group.

How to use the starting hands table.

In their book, Sklansky and Malmuth provide some in-depth guidelines for starting hand strategy in limit Texas Hold'em using this table. Unfortunately, I'm not going to work out any guidelines for you for the NL Hold'em game using this table because:

  1. It would be quite a tricky job.
  2. It would be difficult to remember and implement.
  3. Like any starting hand strategy, it would have its flaws.
  4. You should avoid using strict guidelines and set rules as much as possible during play.

So really there is not a lot to take away from this table from a purely strategic perspective. Nonetheless it's interesting to see how specific starting hands compare to one another based on their preflop value.

If you're really after a starting hand strategy guideline, try the Chen Formula.

Sklansky and Malmuth hand rankings evaluation.

Although it's a very popular hand group rankings table, it's not going to do you too much good to learn the whole thing off by heart. In my opinion, the real value of this table is being able to see how different starting hands can be grouped together and ranked based on their value before the flop.

For other useful charts and tables, see the odds charts page from the Texas Hold'em tools section.

Go back to the awesome Texas Hold'em Strategy.

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