What Percentage of Hands Should I Be Playing?

This question from Robert in Scotland is a common question in poker. Figuring out how many hands to play can be a tricky question. Players get concerned they are playing to loose and wasting money or playing too rocklike and getting abused. To answer this question fully, we need to look at where you are at in your learning and the type of the game you play. By considering these criteria we should be able to come up with an approximate percentage.

Why Experience Matters

The number of hands you play isn’t only driven on the number of opponents at the table. The level of experience and competency should be a huge factor too. The longer you’ve played and the more hands you’ve seen equates to competency in various scenarios. Logically, someone who has barely played and is new to poker is going to be inexperienced in lots of different scenarios.

Texas Hold’em is a complex game with so many variables that you can’t say you’ve seen everything post-flop with any certainty. With different flop textures, bet sizes and relative hand strength, there are so many potential scenarios that can crop up. Therefore, we recommend that players who are new to poker or losing consistently, adopt a tighter brand of poker. This will ensure you’re not getting into lots of tricky scenarios that you can’t play profitably. As you develop, become a consistent winner and gain proficiency post-flop, you can slowly add more hands into your arsenal.

Conversely, if you are consistent winner with vast experience, opening up with more hands can enhance your win-rate, particularly when you play Texas Hold’em. In fact, it’s probably going to harm a part-time poker professional’s win rate to play a TAG style as they will be leaving money on the table. An expert can profitably play far more hands than an inexperienced player can get away with.

What Percentage of Hands to Play in 6 Max?

The main form of cash game online is 6 max. The games are generally juicier and more action packed. Players are more aggressive with frequent 3 and 4 betting going on. As a guideline, we recommend playing the percentage below.

New Players – 20%

Intermediate Players – 22.5%

Experienced Players – 25%

In shorter handed games, there are only four seats which are not in the blinds. Often, raising under the gun in 6 max will result in playing the pot against someone in the blinds. Therefore, an experienced poker player should be playing a decent range of hands from most positions. Having the lead in a hand and exercising your post flop skills will compensate for some of the more speculative hands you will be playing. You can download our 6 max pre-flop charts below for free.

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What Percentage of Hands to Play in Full Ring?

Full ring poker is a completely different dynamic to short handed games. In full ring games, people have hands more often. As such, relative hand strength changes quite a bit. Where top pair and even 2nd pair can be a decent hand heads up in 6 max, it’s often worthless in multi-way pots in a full ring game. Therefore, we need to lessen the number of hands we play to maintain a decent ROI. Playing speculative hands from earlier position is a big no-no for inexperienced players and even intermediate players. For this reason, the percentage of hands to play will be lower than the 6 max suggestions above. See below based on experience.

New Players – 15%

Intermediate Players – 17.5%

Experience Players – 20%

As you can see, even the experienced players are unlikely to be profitable playing more than 20% of hands. The problem is that you can’t profitably get involved from earlier positions lightly. Opening hands like queen-jack or ace-ten from anything later than middle position or hijack won’t help your long-term earnings.


There’s no hard and fast rule as to what percentage of hands to play. The information in this article is our best recommendations based on the level of experience a player has and what games they choose to play. It’s sourced from own experience and what we think will help deliver the best ROI.

However, we need to make the disclaimer that the percentage of hands you play can be personal to you. If you are more confident playing a tighter style, you will want to play fewer hands, even if you’re experienced. Likewise, a beginner should be more careful entering the pot, as our free poker cheat sheet states. The opposite is true for people who have decades of experience playing loose aggressive poker, although we still urge players to settle down, it’s very difficult to maximise your poker winrate playing an inordinate number of hands.

We hope you find this article useful. If you’d like to chat with us to get further support, feel free to book in a call below.

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Narciso Baldo is the Director and Head Coach of Texas Hold'em Questions. He has been playing poker for over 16 years. After spending many years as a professional, he now runs UK poker training site Texas Hold'em Questions. Narciso regularly writes poker articles sharing tips, strategy, news and experience with gambling enthusiasts. Narciso also writes for reputable gambling portal Casino City Times, (bio here). Contact: info@texasholdemquestions.com