A tip frequently offered to players who are just getting started with online poker is to stick to solid starting hands such as pocket pairs and suited aces. This tight style of play will improve your chances of making a good hand at showdown and will also cut down on the number of difficult decisions you’ll have to make per hand.
At the same time, this approach has its limitations. The best starting hands don’t come around that often, so you’ll find yourself folding one hand after another while the blinds eat away at your chip stack. Another disadvantage is that you become easy to read, so when you do finally raise, it’s likely that everybody else will fold, limiting you to small pots. To loosen up your style profitably without throwing caution to the wind, you may want to add suited connectors to your opening hands. Let’s take a look at what suited connectors are and how to play them in Texas Hold’em poker.
What are suited connectors in Texas Hold’em poker?
Any two consecutive cards that are in the same suit are called suited connectors. Examples would include the 4 and 5 of diamonds, the 8 and 9 of spades, the jack and queen of hearts, and so on. Non-consecutive cards in the same suit (say the 4 and 10 of clubs) are called suited gappers.
Suited connectors can be tricky to play, but mastering them is a great way to potentially improve your poker win rate. They’re essentially drawing hands with the potential for a straight, a flush or even a straight flush. How you play them depends mainly on three things: The kind of flop you hit, your position and (especially in poker tournaments!) your stack size.
A dream flop with suited connectors
Let’s take a look at an ideal flop for a player holding suited connectors. Imagine you’re out for an evening of casino table games and end up playing in a $1/$2 No Limit Texas Hold’em poker game. You’re in the small blind position and you’re holding the 3 and 4 of spades. The player in the earliest position (“under the gun”) immediately raises to $20. One by one, every other player calls. By the time your turn comes, the pot is very big! With suited connectors in your hand, you decide to call as well. The big blind also calls and the flop comes ace, 2 and 5 of spades. Congratulations, you’ve flopped the nut straight! What’s more, the pre-flop action strongly indicates that someone at the table is holding something big. This means it’s highly likely that at least one other player will come along with you to the showdown.
Playing position with suited connectors
The previous example is an ideal scenario, of course. You can’t count on flopping a nut straight with suited connectors every time. What you can do is take advantage of your position at the table when you’re playing live poker online. The best situation to play suited connectors is when you have position. In other words, you’re the last to act on each post-flop street. That makes it possible to open-raise and steal the blinds or set things up so you’re playing from position against a caller in the blinds. Your opponents are likely to think that your raise means you’re holding big cards, so open-raising with suited connectors disguises your hand. Say you raise with the 8 and 9 of hearts and the flop comes 7 of diamonds, 6 of clubs and 5 of hearts. Your opponent may think you’ve missed the flop when you’ve actually hit it hard.
If you don’t want to commit to raising, you can always call bets or check behind. You can even call from the blinds and play from out of position, hoping for the kind of flop that will let you beat an opponent with an overpair like aces, kings, or queens. In general, the idea is to see the flop cheaply for a chance to win big.
Poker tournament tips for suited connectors
Another consideration when playing suited connectors is your and your opponents’ stack sizes. This is especially important when it comes to online poker tournaments. Remember that the goal with suited connectors is to play for high rewards at low risk. If you’re short-stacked – or your opponent is – it simply isn’t worth calling a raise with suited connectors because there’s a limit to the size of the pot you can win, even if you make a big hand. It’s a good poker tournament tip not to call big raises if you’re short-stacked or go all in with medium-suited connectors such as the 9 of clubs and 8 of clubs or the 8 of spades and the 7 of spades.
Suited connectors after the flop
So you’ve seen the flop with your low, medium or high-suited connectors. If you got there cheaply, or even if you raised pre-flop, be prepared to let go if you miss the flop or if the flop is no good for your hand. If you think a continuation bet might get your opponent to fold, go for it, but don’t chase the draw against the odds.
If the flop has decent drawing potential, though, you can always semi-bluff with your suited connectors and potentially win the hand. Even if you’re called, an opponent who expects you to bet again may check and let you see the turn for free. If you do make a straight and win at showdown, the image that your opponents have of you will change. Instead of seeing you as a tight player who only plays with big cards, they’ll see an opponent who’s willing to play suited connectors and bet the flop without a made hand. As a result, you might get some action from them next time you play a big hand!
The value of suited connectors
To sum up, suited connectors provide you with a low-risk option to extend your range of playable hands, thus advancing your game and maybe winning more and bigger pots. Adding suited connectors to your preferred premium starting hands will encourage you to make plays that go with the basic “fit or fold” strategy of playing when you have a big hand and folding when you don’t. What’s more, you’ll get exposure to a bunch of different post-flop situations.
Pretty soon, you’ll start thinking differently about Texas Hold’em poker as your mind opens up to various aspects of the game. You may even become interested in using poker solvers. Last but not least, you’ll become less predictable to other players, which translates into more action and more fun at the Texas Hold’em poker table.
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