Almost everyone would agree that the best starting hand in Hold’em is pocket Aces. It’s guaranteed to have the most pot equity in any preflop situation.

But what about the worst starting hand?

Experienced Hold’em players would generally cite 27o as being the worst starting hand.

As it turns out, though, it’s just not that simple.

The Problem with Rankings Hands

The problem with ranking hands is that there is no objective way to say which hand is better than another.

It all depends on the system we use to measure.

  1. One method of ranking hands is to look at their equity vs a random holding. This system doesn’t give us the complete picture, though.
     
    • For example, A6o in Hold’em has more pot equity against a random hand than 9Ts, but many would argue that 9Ts is a better starting hand
  1. We can partly account for the playability of holdings by measuring their equity vs multiple random hands.
     
    • For example, if we look at our hands’ equities vs 2 random holdings, 9Ts becomes a clear winner vs the A6o.

The Top 7 Worst Hands

We’ll go for a nice balance between equity and playability by -

  • Considering our equity vs 3 random holdings.
     
  • At the end, we’ll also list equity vs 1 random holding and equity vs 9 random holdings.

The top 7 words hands are:

  1. 7th Worst - 83o
  2. 6th Worst - 52o
  3. 5th Worst - 82o 
  4. 4th worst - 42o
  5. 3rd worst - 62o
  6. 2nd worst -72o
  7. Worst - 32o

7th Worst - 83o

7th-Worst---83oThis hand is eight high (low equity). There is zero connectivity between the cards. So, it is impossible to make a straight using both hole cards

The cards are also off-suit, meaning it is impossible to make a flush with both cards. 

6th Worst - 52o

6th Worst - 52oThis hand has even lower equity than 83o by virtue of the fact that it is five high. But it has slightly different characteristics than 83o. It can make a straight using both hole cards. 

That said, the weaker pairs it will make on average are enough to make this holding worse than 52o. 

5th Worst - 82o

5th Worst - 82oIt should be easy to see why this holding is worse than 83o. Both holdings are unsuited and disconnected. But 82o flops slightly worse pairs on average than 83o. (A pair of threes is always slightly better than a pair of twos.) 

4th worst - 42o

4th worst - 42oThis holding is similar to 52o but slightly weaker. It makes worse pairs on average. It makes the same number of straights as the 52o - the five-high and the six-high straights. 

3rd worst - 62o

3rd worst - 62oWe now meet in the middle. This hand is a cross between our 82o type holdings and our 42o type holdings. It has a little bit of straight potential, but it is worse than the 42o. It only now makes one straight (the six-high straight). 

It also has a high card (the six). But this is worse off than the 82o, which has a higher high card.

2nd worst 72o

2nd worst 72oThis holding is complete and utter garbage! It is only 7 high and has zero straight potential. For the record, this is usually considered the worst hand in Hold’em

But with the system we used, it comes out as the second to last!

Worst 32o

Worst-32oNot too many poker players realise just how bad 32o is! It’s true that it can make one straight (the ace-high straight). But, in many models, this doesn’t make up for the fact that we hold the two lowest cards in the deck.

Often players might imagine that 32o is considerably better than 72o due to the straight potential. But most forms of analysis suggest otherwise.

Other Hand Ranking Systems

For a bit of fun, let’s see what the ordering looks like using other hand ranking models.

Equity vs One Random Hand

Ranking Holding
7th Worst 32s
6th Worst 43o
5th Worst 72o
4th Worst 52o
3rd Worst 62o
2nd Worst 42o
Worst 32o
 

When playing against one random hand, playability is not so crucial. (By playability, we mean the possibility of making straights and flushes).

  • The most essential factor in this calculation is raw equity (the quality of the high cards essentially). For this reason, the four worst hands have possible straight draws and no decent high cards.
     
  • The possibility of making a straight is rather unlikely. So, it is completely overshadowed by the fact that we are holding two incredibly low cards. (This factor decreases our equity vs 1 random hand.)
     
  • The seventh worst hand is even a suited combo. This fact goes to show how much equity is dependent on the high card rather than playability when facing 1 random hand. 

Many players might argue that this should be the most accurate version of the worst holdings list. 

We spend most of our time playing heads up vs 1 opponent. 

Note how 32o is still the worst combo. 

Might the general poker playing public have it wrong?

Equity vs 9 Random Hands

Ranking Holding
7th Worst 32o
6th Worst 62o
5th Worst 93o
4th Worst 92o
3rd Worst 83o
2nd Worst 82o
Worst 72o
 

The situation changes when playing against multiple opponents.

Playability starts to become way more critical than high cards in determining equity.

72o ranks terribly in this model since it is arguably the least playable holding in the deck. It’s the lowest set of two cards that doesn’t have any kind of straight possibility.

Notice that none of the bottom 5 in this table have any sort of straight potential. At least 32o can sometimes make some type of nut straight and still be good vs a field of 9 other players.

This scenario is virtually impossible with 72o.

Most other guides to the worst hand in Hold’em appear to be based on this model.

  • We could stop to ask whether this is the most realistic model.
     
  • How much of our time do we spend playing against nine opponents after the flop?

Nonetheless, it’s this model that allows players to arrive at the conclusion that 72o is the absolute worst hand in Hold’em.

Worst Hands in Poker Takeaways

Make no mistake, all the hole cards in these lists are total garbage.

  • If there is one thing to learn from this article - it is not to play any of these holdings preflop apart from some exceptional circumstances.
     
  • As for the contest for the position of Worst Hand in Hold’em, my advice is as follows.
     
  • If anyone asks you - tell them that 72o is clearly the worst hand in Hold’em.

But afterwards, enjoy a secret smile and remind yourself that everyone has it wrong.

32o is clearly the worst, but it’s the master of disguise!

About the Author
By
Timothy "Ch0r0r0" Allin is a professional player, coach, and author. Since the beginning in 2006 he has built his roll from the lowest limits online without depositing a single dollar. After competing in some of world's toughest lineups (and winning) he now shares his insights and strategies with the 888poker magazine.
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