I recommend that when you begin to become serious about playing online poker for real money, you start at the lower limit tables ($2-$4) and stick to limit play because it effectively caps how much you can lose in a single hand. However, you’re going to find that lower limit games are much more crowded, which gives you the ability to win much more, but also opens you up to playing in hands you shouldn’t.
The most common mistake I find among new players is that they play in far too many hands, not realizing that “longhanded” hold ’em poker is a game that requires a lot of patience. This can seem boring, but if a beginner sticks to certain rules, they can literally just wait to be dealt a quality hand and then win with it. For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to break playable pocket cards down into three categories and discard suits for the most part, as beginners frequently get way too caught up in the idea of scoring a flush.
Category 1: AA, KK, QQ, JJ, AK
These are the crème de la crème of hold ’em poker hands and you should raise or reraise with them preflop. Category 1 hands should always be played with the very rare exception of when you hold AK but you absolutely know that another player is holding AA or KK by the way they’re raising. You don’t want to get into a raising war right off the bat with another player that probably already has a pocket pair – you’ll need an A or K on the board to help you make your hand.
Category 2: TT, 99, AQ, KQ
These hands are solid but will need help from the board to really seal the deal when you’re playing against multiple opponents. This means that when you’re facing multiple players in lower-limit games, you’ll need to hit a set with TT or 99 to win. In general, these are best played against fewer other players. If there’s been a significant amount of action before your turn, be willing to walk away.
Category 3: 88, AJ, KT, KJ, QJ, JT, QT
Again: these are good hands but you’ll want to be careful playing AJ, AT and KJ as these are very vulnerable to someone holding a higher kicker. (For instance, if an Ace is on the board but another player is holding AK.) These are the exceptions that prove the rule: if they are suited and you’re in a later position, you have a higher chance of winning, especially in a multi-handed pot. That sad, if the action is fast and furious, and then you’ll want to consider folding.
Frankly, for the beginner, I recommend avoiding playing beyond these three basic hand categories. Once you’ve moved into becoming a profitable player with these types of cards, then you can look at lower-value suited connectors and combinations of Aces and lower-grade hands, but until then, I recommend being very selective and sticking to hands you know stand a good chance of winning.