While you might have watched high profile poker players playing 67s or even a 2 gappers like 46h with no fear and take down pot after pot on TV, a word of warning mastering suited connectors requires awareness of the subtler side of poker. Fear not, this introduction to suited connectors will get you well on the way to opening up your game. This won’t just make your poker game more interesting, it will bring you more pots and profit.
Suited Connectors – Starting with the Math
While suited connectors involve a lot more psychology and strategic aspects to poker, its still good to know the fundamental math. Ignoring bluffing for the moment, lets have a look at the odds of making real hands with suited connectors.
The odds of making hands on the flop with a suited connector are:
Two Pair: 2
Full House: 0.09%
Total: 5.6% or 17:1
So you should expect to make a hand around every 18 flops; or put another way, you shouldn’t really expect to make anything by the flop. Most of the time you will be hitting drawing hands by the flop. The odds of making a standard drawing hand on the flop are:
Flush Draw: 5.2%
Straight Draw: 8%
Total: 13.2% or 6.5:1
Somewhere in between, suited connectors can make the big drawing hands. In a lot of these situations, you may be holding a drawing hand but you will still be the mathematical favorite to win the hand by the river. The odds of making big drawing hands with a lot of outs on the flop are:
12 Outer (Flush Draw + Gut Shot): 2.664%
13 Outer (Pair + Straight Draw): 1.147%
14 Outer (Pair + Flush Draw): 1.45%
15 Outer (Straight Draw + Flush Draw): 1.424%
17 Outer (Gut Shot + Flush Draw + Pair): 0.153%
20 Outer (Straight Draw + Flush Draw + Pair): 0.077%
Total: 6.9% or 13:1
Including the made hands and the big draws, you can expect to hold a “big hand” on the flop with a suited connector around 12.5% of the time. A more pragmatic way of looking at it is, you can expect the flop to be no help around 0.743% of the time (around 3:1).
The math highlights that playing suited connectors isn’t as mathematically simple as playing your AA or KK. Many intermediate players will start playing suited connectors by simply calling pre-flop and then folding on the flop when they miss and chasing any draws. This is generally a losing fish strategy.
If you are just starting to play suited connectors, you’ll need to think about combining your suited connector strategy to other NL Holdem poker concepts like bluffing and position.
Tournament – Small Ball Strategy & Suited Connectors
Most professional NL Holdem poker players will go into a deep stack poker tournament with the small ball strategy. In essence, they will be the aggressor in a lot of hands and take down a lot of the small uncontested pots. To differentiate from simply being a maniac, most professional players will still be playing hands with a lot of potential – that is, they will be playing a lot of suited connectors. Suited connectors give you outs, and a starting hand like 89s has a lot more promise than a hand like KTh.
The basic idea is that, most of the time (around 2:1) your opponents will have missed the flop completely. Even if the do hit, they are likely to have made a weak hand rather than a strong hand. Instead of checking down to the river, the professional poker player will be aggressive and take down these pots. It hardly matters whether they have a made hand or even a drawing hand. Until your opponent shows some sign of strength or trapping, you don’t need to worry about your own hand.
The strength of suited connectors comes through in these situations. When your opponents do start showing life, you’ll either have a lot of outs to still make the winning hand or you’ll have quite an easy fold.
Breaking the weak players
So part of logic of including suited connectors in your range of starting hands is that you will necessarily be given more opportunities to steal those pots where no-one is strong. These small pots add up and give you a free-roll when you get into big pots. Yet, the real profit of suited connectors comes from being able to felt the light stackers.
Whether it’s a tournament or a ring game, the ideal situation for suited connectors is against a light stacker who is raising pre-flop with something like AA or KK. Weak and inexperienced players tend to overplay the “big hands”. This means that there the implied odds of suited connectors can be calculated to the size of your stack. In tournaments, the increasing blinds will necessarily force tight players to start getting desperate with big pairs. While you are aiming to steal a lot pots on the flop with some aggression, you are actually hoping to make a big hand like a flush, straight or even two pair and stack against someone with AA or KK.
Mastering suited connectors takes a lot of experience. It will require your other poker skills to be mastered in conjunction before you will be able to do what poker greats like Daniel Negrenau do with suited connectors.
But don’t worry, mastering new skills is what makes NL Holdem endlessly interesting and fun. Just start with the following simple rules:
- Make sure that you and your potential opponent have a deep enough stack to give you good implied odds
- Suited connectors are not hands you want to play when you are on a short stack.
- Try to always be in position with suited connectors. Position always things much easier.
- Be aggressive. You want to be taking shots at any uncontested pots.