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When you’re just starting out or at least starting to get serious about working on your game, you hear a lot about starting hands or poker starts. This simply means which cards you start with, the cards you are dealt. There are various strategies concerning starting hands, and almost as many different views on which start strategy is the best.

At one end of the debate are the players who believe that you should start with what is sometimes called a starting table or starting chart, which lists the possible hands and gives you the relative strength of each starting hand — with statistical probability, one may memorize the “best” moves to make from there.

On the other hand, there are many players who feel you should never start with those kinds of aids. Against human players with widely varying pots, statistical probability loses too much of an edge; learning basic strategy and rules of thumb may be a far more helpful way to start to increase your skills.

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Either way that you decide to start your poker education, the most helpful tip is to play as much as possible, with as many different variables as possible. And the single best way to do that is with the help of one of the best online poker rooms, any of which offer a free game (essential for training) and a wide variety of players, situations, and bankroll levels.

With only 52 cards, there are a finite number of combinations that the cards can make. A game like seven card stud makes that finite number still pretty huge, but the two-card deal of Texas Hold’em brings comprehending the total a little closer to normal human brainpower. Namely, 1,326 completely different cards…and since it doesn’t matter one bit (when there are only two so far) whether a given card is a heart, a club, et cetera, you can get that number down to a very manageable 169.

Thirteen of those 169 starting hands are pairs, 78 are two different-valued cards of different suits, and 78 are two of the same suit. It may or may not help when the suits are the same (“suited”), but eventually you’ll be in a situation where it pays off a little better (such a flush, of course).

The varieties of poker with more possible starting hands make it necessary to learn about them in groups or broad categories. Hold’em has so few starting hands that you can find a lot of details on what to do with each one. Whether or not you decide to go the strategic, statistical route or the more “holistic” approach is your choice — there are plenty of passionate advocates of each method. No matter what you decide to do, get plenty of practice from the poker games on the best online poker room sites. You’ll soon start to recognize patterns and similarities in the ways that the starting hands change your approach to the rest of the hand.

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