There are 169 different starting hands you can be dealt in Texas Hold'em. Pocket Aces are clearly the best, but what are the worst possible hands in poker? Let's take a look.
List of the Worst Poker Hole Hands
Here is our list of the worst hole cards in Texas Hold'em, ranked on their equity against random cards, full-ring and heads-up.
Hmmm, 7 2 offsuit - the W.H.I.P (worst hand in poker). A hand that is so bad that it inspired the 2-7 poker variant, where players have a side-bet on whether they can win a pot with it.
Against 8 opponents holding random cards, 72o will win about 5.4% of the time. Remember that 11.1% is the equal share and AA's equity is 35%!
Heads-up against any two cards (ATC), it wins around 34.6% of the time, which is actually better than a hand like 32o fares. But still pretty bad, considering 50% is the equal share and AA comes out at 85%.
Why is 72o so bad? You can't make a flush, you can't make a straight and if you do make a pair of twos or sevens the chance of an overcard on the board is pretty much 100%!
The best things about 72o are that it's easy to fold - and nobody will ever suspect you're crazy enough to play it.
With 8 and 2 offsuit, you have all the problems of 72o, but with 8 high instead of 7 high.
This translates to a 5.6% winning percentage against 8 random hands. Heads-up is a similar story: a pitiful 36.9% equity against any two cards.
It's better than 72o - but not by much. Just fold it and move on with your life.
83o has the same problems as 82o except you might make a pair of threes instead of a pair of twos. Not a massive improvement, and that's reflected in its equity calculator results.
83o has about 5.8% equity versus 8 random hands, and 37.5% heads-up.
Yes, 62o can make a straight. But making a straight is very hard in Texas Hold'em - especially when you need three specific cards to come.
Against 8 players holding random cards, 62o wins around 6% of the time. If you are heads-up, it's 34.1% versus any two cards.
32o is statistically the worst hand in a heads-up situation against any two cards, winning only around 32% of the time.
Against 72o (the so-called worst hand in poker), 32o loses 65% of the time! Making this one of the pre-flop poker hands to fold most of the time.
32o fares better all-in against 8 other players holding random cards than the other cards on the list, winning around 6.1% of the time.
But it is still one of the worst poker hole hands you can be dealt, and you should be folding it almost every time.
Worst Texas Hold'Em Hole Cards Explained
How do you work out the worst possible starting hand in poker?
Of course, some hands are harder than others to play preflop. Then, some people just hate certain hands because of bad beats they've experienced. But how can you decide which poker hands are objectively the worst?
Poker equity is defined as the percentage of the time your hand will win the pot at showdown after all the community cards are dealt. This determines the percentage of hands to play in each game.
Equity calculators run millions of simulations to work out how many times a certain hand beats another hand. For example, if you input AA v KK, the calculator would deal all five community cards millions of times and count how many times each starting hand wins. In this example AA wins about 82% of the time, so you can say AA's preflop equity against KK is 82%. At least, when they are heads-up against each other.
You can also run the simulations against random cards. That way, you can see how that particular starting hand fares against all the other possible starting hands.
A hand like pocket aces (e.g.,, ) obviously has very good equity against every other hand. It is the best hole hand in poker, after all. It will win around 85% of the time versus one random starting hand.
However, usually, when people are ranking starting hands they don't do it heads-up. They do it for a full ring of players, usually with 9 or 10 players. Doing this for AA we can see that it wins against 8 random hands 35% of the time. That's pretty good considering an equal share would be 11%.
To make a list of worst poker starting hands, you do the same thing - but with trash hands.
There are a few problems with this method... It's not very realistic, after all. When was the last time you got it all-in against 8 players, let alone without them caring about what cards they have? Only a complete maniac would pushall-in!
But it's still a good starting point. Let's take a look at what comes out as the worst Texas Hold'em hands.
Other Bad Poker Hands
The traditional method of running simulations against 8 people holding any two cards is a very rough-and-ready way of ranking hole cards.
In practice, you'll find the worst poker hand isn't the two hole cards that lose an imaginary all-in situation against random cards.
A bad poker hand is any hand that causes you to lose more money than you should. These are known as "Trouble Hands". They are hands where you rarely know where you are at and cause you to lose a lot of money if you are not careful. These hands can ruin a calling station or unhinged loose player.
Usually this happens when you don't realize you have the second-best hand. That's why there's a saying: "The worst hand in poker is the second-best hand."
You won't get into trouble with trash hands like 72o because you won't play them very often, and if you do you will know where you are on the flop - either you flop something amazing or you still have complete trash. There's not really any in-between. The strategies for a bad poker hand are very straightforward!
72o won't be in many players top ten least profitable hands, because they just won't get into big pots with it. It's easy to get away from, even if you do see a flop.
But a hand like KJo can look pretty good, even if someone has raised from early position. KJo is what's known as a dominated hand. If you hit top pair, but your opponent has a better kicker, you have the second-best hand and you are going to lose money.
And when they don't have the better kicker, you might worry that they do and end up folding the better hand!
With a dominated hand, you never really know where you are at. Even when you do have the best hand, you just can't stand any pressure.
Finally - and this might sound stupid, but bear with us - sometimes big pocket pairs can be the worst hole cards to have.
This is because they can be really hard to fold, even when the board and your opponent's actions are screaming at you that you are beat. This means you can lose a lot of money - something that just won't happen with trash hands. With big pocket pairs you can feel entitled to win - and that's a recipe for disaster!
Nobody likes folding pocket Aces - but at the end of the day, they are just a pair. Hand strength in poker is always relative. Aces are the best pre-flop hand, but after the flop, everything can change. Just don't ever fold them pre-flop!
That's why starting hand rankings are a useful starting point but not the be-all and end-all. Poker is not a game where you can just memorize a bunch of charts and do well. You have to play the board and your opponents if you want to be a winner.
When people talk about the worst possible hand in poker they are often referring to the starting hands that do worst in equity simulations against random cards. But you are unlikely to lose much money with these trash hands - it's the Trouble Hands that you need to watch out for!
This article was published on March 5, 2021, and last updated on July 15, 2022.