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The Worst Starting Hands for Texas Hold’em Poker

Home » The Worst Starting Hands for Texas Hold’em Poker

The Worst Starting Hands for Texas Hold’em Poker

Four playing cards with the ranks replaced to spell the word “FAIL” out, lying on a red leather table.

There are no guaranteed winning or losing hands in Texas hold’em poker, but there are definitely some hands that can improve or worsen your chances of taking the pot. Some hands (pocket queens, kings, and aces) are so strong that they’re almost always worth playing. Others (queen-jack, 9-9, ace-king) are potentially strong but can be dangerous and lose you money if you overplay them. 

Then there are the worst poker hands — hands so bad you want to muck them as soon as you get them. It’s important for players starting in online poker to recognize when their poker hand strength is low, so we’ve listed the worst hands in poker for your benefit. Here are the worst starting hands in Texas hold’em, ranked.

What Makes a Bad Hand in Poker?

Desirable poker starting hands are cards that have the potential to create a (preferably high-ranking) straight or flush, or repeat cards that can connect to a double, triple, or full house. Valuable hole cards typically include matching cards, such as pairs, as well as cards that are close together, like 8-9, 10-jack, jack-king, or king-ace.

The worst poker hands are simply cards that don’t match and aren’t close to each other. In other words, they offer very little value. From an odds perspective, the best thing you can do with them is muck them right away. Of course, there’s more to poker hand strength than just odds. Betting structure and position — as well as the number of players and their respective skill levels — are also important, but these are topics for another discussion. Effective Texas hold’em strategies will help when these hands come your way at a poker table.


Ask any experienced player what the worst Texas hold’em hand is, and the answer will come back, “2 and 7.” This combination is a textbook example of everything a poker hand shouldn’t be. Any straight it makes can’t use both cards, so an opponent’s straight can dominate it. Its card value is low, so, for example, if the board has two pairs (say jack-jack, king-king) and a 4, you’re stuck with a 7-kicker. Chances are that one of your opponents will be holding a higher kicker. 

But the problems of the all-time worst starting hand in poker don’t stop there. The pairs that a 2-7 hand can make are all low, with a strong likelihood of overcards to your paired card. As a result, one of your opponents will probably have a stronger pair. Even if both cards pair with the board, the board pairing will often counterfeit one of them. Say the flop comes jack-7-2. Great — now you have a pair of 7s and a pair of 2s with a jack-kicker. Then, a jack comes on the turn. Now you have a pair of jacks and a pair of 7s with a 2-kicker.

On top of that, higher flushes on the river can often dominate any flushes your hand makes. Bottom line: If you get a 2 and a 7, your cards are at the bottom of the Texas hold’em hand rankings, and it’s a good idea just to fold.

A poker player sitting at a casino table with poker chips glances at their two hole cards, revealing a 2 of diamonds and a 7 of spades.

2-8, 3-8 & 3-7

These combinations have just about the same basic problems as 2-7. Two and 8 are slightly better, but 8 is still a pretty lousy high card, and 2s and 8s are still low pairs. But 3-8 and 3-7 are just barely better. You still can’t make a straight with 3 and 8 still can’t make a straight, and the probability of making a straight with 3 and 7 is low. Absent extraordinary circumstances, there just isn’t any compelling reason to play these hands, so go ahead and muck them.


One lousy poker hand that deserves a special mention is 2-10. Not only is the so-called “Doyle Brunson” considered the ninth worst in the ranking of hands in Texas hold’em for pretty much the same reasons as the previous eight, but it’s also one of the most controversial hands in poker history.

It’s named after Doyle Brunson, the legendary poker pro known as ‘Texas Dolly’ or ‘The Godfather of Poker.’ Back in 1976, Brunson was heads up with Jesse Alto at the final table of the WSOP Main Event, the most prestigious of all poker tournaments. Alto opened with ace-jack, and Brunson called with 10-2 suited. The flop came ace-jack-10, which gave Alto two pairs. Brunson’s reaction was to go all in. Alto called, but the turn came 2, and the river came 2, and Brunson won with a full house.

The following year, history repeated itself. Defending his title against Gary ‘Bones’ Berland, Brunson found himself holding 2-10 again. Berland drew 8-5. Brunson was behind on the flop (10-8-5), but the 2 hit on the turn. Berland shoved, Brunson called, the 10 hit on the river, and Brunson made a full house, winning the Main Event bracelet for the second year in a row. Knowing about this event can definitely help with learning rookie mistakes to avoid

The Worst Hand in Poker To Play Heads-Up

A Doyle Brunson is a terrible hand (unless you’re Doyle Brunson,) but it isn’t the worst poker hand to bet out with when you’re playing heads-up. That honor goes to 3-2 off suit. The reason is that heads-up battles turn into showdowns much more frequently than games with more players, so the value of your pairs and high cards is a great deal more important than your ability to make a straight or a flush. A 3-2 has the lowest poker hand strength in this context because it contains the lowest two cards and has the lowest pair and high card value as a result. This information is also useful when it comes to understanding video poker hands. After all, you’re effectively heads up against the machine in video poker.

Get Your Poker Hand In at BetMGM

The best way to learn when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em is to play a lot of hands. The good news is that you can play as much online poker as you please at BetMGM. Simply register to play cash games and daily, weekly, and monthly poker tournaments to suit every budget and skill level.

Raise your poker game by learning which hands are best to fold as soon as you draw them. Keep reading to find out about the very worst hands in poker.