Why is it when you watch televised poker it always seems the players winning huge pots are the ones playing non-premium hands? Ever since you started playing poker you’ve been told, “Play tight. Throw away most of your hands pre-flop and only play the best cards.” But on TV, there’s Daniel Negreanu taking down a pot against some guy with Aces when he has 5d4d.
Well, you can play those hands in NL Hold’em – known as “suited connectors” – too, you just have to realize when and how to play them. First of all, let’s define the term, shall we? Suited Connectors are simply cards that are close in value and share the same suit; i.e., 8s7s, Td9d, even AhKh is a suited connector. Hands like Jh9h also count and are usually called “suited one gappers.”
We like playing these hands because they can often turn into flushes or well-disguised straights. We often get in trouble with them, however, when we flop a not-so-great pair and pay off another player who has a better pair or kicker. So how to play them properly? The best way to tell you that is to tell you mostly how NOT to play them.
First, you must be fairly deep. Your stack should be at least 150-200 big blinds deep, or else you just don’t have enough chips in your stack to make playing suited connectors worthwhile. If you’re a short stack, you need to only be playing premium hands.
Second, you must not get married to a hand when you flop a pair. Remember, you were looking or straight or flush cards, not a pair! You can sometimes win small pots when you flop a pair with suited connectors, but if there’s any real money going into that pot, believe me, your hand is usually not good. So you must have discipline and be able to fold a pair on the flop if you didn’t also flop some kind of straight or flush draw.
Oftentimes you will flop a gutshot and be tempted to call a flop bet with it. Don’t. The odds are against you and even if you hit, you’ll usually have four to a straight on board and won’t get any action for your less-than-disguised hand. So not only did you draw to an inside straight when you didn’t have the proper odds to do so, when you hit you don’t get paid off!
You also want to watch out if there are four or more players calling a flop bet – it’s almost guaranteed one of them will be drawing to a higher flush than you. So again – discipline, discipline, discipline!
Suited Connectors should be played only in late position when you can see what others are doing before you have to act. There’s nothing more discouraging – or bankroll depleting – than calling a small flop bet in middle position only to have someone behind you pop it up for a big raise. Now you have to fold and you’ve wasted money on a hand like 6-high! Not good.
One last tip: stop calling raises pre-flop with these hands. It’s a huge leak and it must stop. If you must, raise it up occasionally in late position with 7c6c, but for god’s sake, stop calling raises with it.