Suited connectors, like T9s and 98s, all the way down through 54s and 43s, are great hands in the right spots. They can make straights and flushes to win big pots. They can flop strong draws, allowing you to aggressively semi-bluff and take down some pots without the best hand. But they are frequently overvalued.
Suited connectors are great hands in the right spots. The key to playing them profitably is picking the right spots.
Let’s look at an example:
The cutoff open raises and you have 8♥ 7♥ on the button. Is this a profitable opportunity to call? If there is a weak player in the blinds, then yes. This is a good spot to let him in. He’ll provide some nice implied odds when you hit, and play straightforwardly enough that you can win many of the pots where everyone misses.
If instead it’s the cutoff who plays poorly postflop, then re-raising for isolation is often better. You would rather have the weak player all to yourself.
But let’s take that same hand and assume that the cutoff and blinds are all solid players. With stacks of 100 blinds, you won’t have the room to apply much pressure after the flop. Regardless of whether you call or re-raise before the flop, it’s too easy for your opponent to just go with the hand when he makes something like a pair or a draw. Consider the following example:
When your opponent shoves the flop, you’re very near priced in to draw to your hand, but you’ll be getting your money in with just 39% equity. Your opponent could just as easily have A♥ K♥, giving you only 19% equity. With deeper stacks, your opponent would not be able to shove the flop without making a massive overbet. He’ll be forced to make tougher decisions on later streets.
The example above has several different draws, which may lead him to get the money in as shown. If there were fewer draws, he might just call instead.
When the board comes with an obvious draw to a straight or flush, a good hand reader will see through your semi-bluffs. He’ll fold when the draws get there and call down when they miss. He’ll also be more willing to get it in with one pair on the flop than if the board were dry. He may even shove over your flop raise, forcing you to fold a lot of equity or commit your stack as a significant underdog.
When you’re lucky enough to flop a made straight or flush, your skilled opponent will be more cautious, as the board will be scary. Your opponent is unlikely to give you his stack even with an overpair, since he’ll be drawing dead against the possible nuts.
Oddly enough, your best chance of getting paid is to flop a hint of a draw, call as a float, then catch runner-runner to make a straight or flush. Just like in the porn industry, you need to backdoor it if you really want to get paid.
Looking back at your preflop decision, things get even worse when you throw a squeeze-happy big blind or small blind into the mix. Now you’re not even going to see the flop all the time, and will be tossing away a few blinds for nothing. Without deep stacks, you won’t have the implied odds or postflop maneuverability to profitably call their squeeze.
In a typical 100bb game, there aren’t a ton of great spots to play suited connectors. You should stick to spots where you can play multiway or against weaker players. Preferably both.
Once you make the stacks a little deeper, things start to look a little brighter. Now you have more room to maneuver. Your implied odds look sweeter, and your chances of moving someone off of a pair get better. No longer can your opponent shove over a flop raise for a pot-sized bet. They’ll either have to make a big overbet (giving you great implied odds the times you flop a monster), or leave enough money behind for a big turn or river bet. That money will go in most of the times you improve, but not the times you miss. That extra money is like an albatross around your opponent’s neck, weighing him down and letting you get away with a little more theft.
Another decent opportunity to get in there with the suited connectors is when you’ve been playing tight and an active player opens ahead of you. You can 3-bet as a semi- bluff and expect to get a lot of folds. Your range should look very tight to your opponents, and even when you wind up seeing a flop, you’ve got a little something to fall back on.
In summary, be careful with suited connectors. Pay attention and find the right spots to play them in. Look for one of the following:
• Weaker opponents: Bad players will provide you with both implied odds and folding equity. They miss value bets, call with hopeless hands, and telegraph their strength.
• Deep Stacks: The more money there is left behind, the more there is to win with your straights, flushes, and two pair hands. There is also more postflop maneuverability, allowing you to get better odds on a draw or exert more pressure with a semi-bluff.
• Multiway pots: The more players in the pot, the better your immediate odds and the more likely you are to get paid off when you hit something big. Having multiple players in the pot is almost like having deeper stacks, at least in terms of how much money there is to win. You have less folding equity, but you’re more likely to get paid.
Finally, remember that when you have a profitable opportunity to play a suited connector, you can often play some weaker suited hands as well. While hands like 9♣ 8♣ are more powerful than hands like 7♦ 5♦ , the difference is small enough that a single factor in your favor can suddenly make a whole group of hands profitable. You should pay at least as much attention to the current situation as you do to your actual cards.