Playing Suited Connectors
As you read through the available articles on holdem poker strategy you will often come across references to suited connectors. Even if you hadn’t heard the term before you probably figured out that they were referring to two hole cards that are of the same suit and that are also close enough to each other that they could be part of a five card straight in the sequence of cards for that suit. Examples would be 5c6c (the 5 and 6 of clubs), 7sJs (7 and J of spades), or AhQh (Ace and Queen of hearts).
The advantage of having suited connectors should be quite readily apparent. What they offer is the opportunity to acquire two different kinds of winning hands. First, the fact that both of your hole cards are of the same suit means that you are in the best position possible to have a flush, since you only need three of the five community cards to match the suit of your hole cards. Secondly you already have a block of two cards around which you can build a straight from the community cards. And although it’s not something that’s strong enough to affect your pre-flop betting strategy, the added bonus is that you have the core of a potential straight flush as well.
Be aware that some people define suited connectors as only suited cards that are consecutive, but I don’t define suited connectors that way because it makes no sense to me. It’s true that the odds of flopping a straight or a straight draw when you have hole cards of 8s9s (for example) are not identical to the odds you would have when trying to flop the same straight or straight draw with 8sJs as your hole cards, but they are connectors nevertheless and you should know the odds of various outcomes. Also, even though the odds for a straight are worse with 8sJs, the Jack would probably give you a certain advantage over 8s9s by giving you the opportunity to pair a higher card than if you had 8s9s. A pair of nines on the flop may be marginally satisfactory in some cases, but all things being equal, Jacks are certainly better.
I have read in various publications that Doyle Brunson’s advice is to always raise with suited connectors. Having never heard that quote directly from Doyle I can’t confirm whether or not he actually said such a thing. What I can tell you however, is that if Doyle ever did say something like that it was probably taken way out of context and almost certainly referred to consecutive suited connectors. The best advice I can give you about playing suited connectors pre-flop is that unless your connectors are potential overcards like AK, AQ or KQ you will be betting on a relatively weak hand, and most people who play suited connectors over-value them.
You probably should be calling on these connectors the same way that you would as if you were playing small pocket pairs. That is, you should call only from late position, and your bet should only be as much as it needs to be to allow you to see the flop, hopefully just the value of the big blind. Percentage wise with consecutive suited connectors, you can expect to flop a flush draw or better about 12% of the time, and an 8-out straight draw or better about 10% of the time. Note that the odds of an 8-out straight draw are only about 8% with one gapped connectors (like 53 or QT), about 5% with two gapped connectors (like 52 or KT) and about 2% with three gapped connectors (like 62 or AT). If you don’t get either draw it’s time to fold, and it might be wise to fold anyway depending on how good the potential flush or straight is.
In discussing the strategy of playing suited connectors, it’s important to be aware that lower suited connectors need to be played differently than higher ones, and consecutive suited connectors present different outcomes than non consecutive suited connectors. For example, if you had 8s9s and the flop came out T-J-Q you would be faced with the possibility that another player was betting with AK in the hole and they would therefore have a higher straight than you. The same applies to flushes – when your suited connectors are low you run the risk of losing to a higher flush.
Once the flop comes, the mystery of suited connectors is gone. You will either have rags or you will be playing a flush draw or a straight draw, and the flop might have given you a chance to complete the straight flush. The way you play to these options is no different than the way you would approach a flush draw or a straight draw regardless of your hole cards. You count how many outs you have, note the percentage of times that you can expect to draw those outs on the turn or the river, and bet accordingly.
- Suited connectors are cards of the same suit that can be used in a five card straight.
- Suited connectors have the potential to become either a straight or a flush.
- Suited connectors are a relatively weak hand and are often over valued.
- Bet on suited connectors by calling the value of the big blind from late position.
- Be cautious of losing to a higher flush or straight than your own.
- Post flop, play suited connectors as you would any other straight or flush draw.
Next Article: Playing Small Pocket Pairs