One of the biggest problems new poker players have is that they play too many hands. A simple but effective first step for new players is to learn the 19 hand strategy. This simple strategy forces the new player to exercise discipline and learn a tight game. Aokrongly discusses these 19 starting hands in his ring game strategy.

The 19 starting hands apply to no limit ring games. They don’t apply to tournaments, SNGs, or limit. They are good for new players. Everyone needs a base from which to expand their playing repertoire.

The 19 starting hands are:

All pocket pairs (that’s 13)







Here’s how you play them. (BTW, this thread will be full of a lot of people talking about a lot of things. That’s great. I could talk about a lot of things too. But the fact is newbie players need someplace to start that’s going to keep them in the game and out of trouble. Texture, color, feel, the flow of the game, etc. are all advanced topics – be sure to fire away.) Play the 19 hands on NL ring games below NL $200 and you will at least be playing live cards and, more often than not, win when you hit the flop.

When you have AA, KK, QQ, JJ and AK, raise preflop 3-5xBB. If the pot is raised before it gets to you then reraise with AA, and probably KK. If you get reraised back, then push the AA. KK is a toss up; do what you want. Call a raise with the rest. If you end up in the middle of a raise/reraise between two players, just get out of the way without AA. Or, if you think your KK is good, push and hope one of them doesn’t hit their A high.

AQ, IF NO ONE HAS RAISED BEFORE YOU then RAISE. If someone does RAISE BEFORE YOU then FOLD. You heard me right. AQ is a raising hand preflop into an unraised pot but it’s an autofold into a raised preflop pot.

AJ, KQ, QJ, call preflop if it’s unraised. FOLD preflop if it’s raised.

POCKET PAIRS – Call raises preflop up to 4xBB. Fold to bigger raises. HOWEVER, look at the raiser (other callers stacks) and if they don’t have any money then just fold. You want them to have money so IF YOU HIT A SET you will get paid off. If you don’t hit a set, then be prepared to fold very quickly. If you have an overpair to the board, then play it carefully.

AT is an auto fold. KT is an autofold. People will talk about connectors and suited whatever, position, pot odds, blah blah blah. They don’t mean much in very low NL ring games. In those games your cards generally win. But, if you’re going to push people off a hand, then at least do it with a good continuation bet after raising preflop.

I’m a big fan of learning to play a well rounded game. But I’ve done that and made a lot of money in NL ring, SNG, and MTTs. Wanna know how many hands I play preflop?


It’ll keep you out of trouble. I will say I’m a master at playing those 19 hands, imho. And I will say there’s a lot more to poker than what hands you start with. HOWEVER, the biggest problem most players have (not just beginning players, but MOST players) is that they have no idea what they should play preflop, how or why. Just master the 19 and at least explore various ways to play them, learn how others react, see how hands play out, etc. After you do that (which should take about a year playing 5000 hands per week), then start doing some other things.

Anyway, you asked. That’s the answer on 19 hand NL holdem. I’m the one who coined the phrase and created the style of play, so you got it from the horse’s mouth. GL.


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Texas Holdem Starting Hands - 19 Hand Strategy
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