Thursday Poker Blog- Suited Connectors

 

Welcome back to my Thursday poker blog!  Today I want to discuss suited connectors and suited gappers.  Technically speaking, suited connectors are two cards of the same suit which are a number apart in rank, such as the above-depicted 7h8h.  Similarly, suited gappers have all the rules except the cards are two apart in rank, like Td8d.  While hands like QcKc technically qualify as suited connectors, most players associate the term with lower to middle ranked cards, the key trait that merely pairing up your cards will not typically produce a strong hand.  Suited connectors and suited gappers are “drawing hands” played primarily to create well-obscured flushes and straights.

Much like bad beat stories, I have gotten a little tired of listening to players get hands like TJ suited and say “God I love this hand,” or “That’s my favorite hand in poker,” as if they are saying something surprising.  EVERYONE loves these sexy hands.  So the question is, “Are Suited Connectors/Gappers Overrated?”  My answer to that is “No, they’re just badly overplayed.” 

With this backdrop, let’s discuss some tips relating to playing suited connectors/gappers:  (I have to warn you, math plays a significant role here!)

1) Position is a premium with drawing hands.  We have not discussed position that much in the blog yet.  Position is a key term in Texas Hold’em that I presume most of my readers understand.  The bottom line is the dealer position (or “button”) is the best position in poker; you always want to act last.  Playing drawing hands out of position is dangerous for several reasons.  First, it is tougher to win a big pot (or “get paid off”) with a drawing hand.  Statistically speaking, you likely will not complete your hand until the turn or river.  When you fill your hand, particularly with flushes, the card that completes your hand (the third suited card on the board) is called a “chill” card because it slows down the action.  Your opponent, who may have top pair or an overpair, will often stop betting.  The problem with being out of position in this case is that you are left with two choices when you fill your hand — make a big bet, hoping that your opponent is not smart enough to realize that you just made your hand, or check, and hope your opponent makes a big bet, thinking he still has you beat.  I mix up my play at this point, depending on the tendencies of my opponents’ play, but the truth is that you usually do not get paid off either way.  As a result, the big payout you were hoping for by playing an underdog hand never comes to fruition.  In position, however, it is much easier to get paid because if and when your opponent makes a third or fourth bet into the pot on the turn or river, when you raise him, he will have invested that much more money into the pot and will have that much more of a difficult time folding.  

2)  Be mindful of your stack…..   and your opponent’s stack.  The allure of drawing hands are big pots.  It has to be, because the odds are against making a flush or straight on a given hand.  You should only be attempting these hands when the price is right.  Also, drawing hands are rarely made on the flop.  In other words, you will often have to survive multiple rounds of betting to get there.  So, to get involved with a drawing hand, generally speaking neither you NOR your opponent  should be short-stacked. 

For example, you are in Hour Two of an online multi-table tournament.   The blinds are 150/300 with a 25 unit ante.  The player in Seat 3 raises to 800, leaving 3050 units behind in his stack.  You are healthy stacked (12400) and have 9sTs.  This is a hand to FOLD.  The potential payout is not big enough to throw away 800 chips to chase another 3000. 

Similarly, if your opponent is healthy stacked but you are the one with 4000 chips, you cannot call a raise with a drawing hand.  You urgently need to double up, not to keep investing in low-percentage hands. 

Now, if your opponent and you are both heavily stacked, this is ideal for seeing a flop with a drawing hand.

This is why suited connectors are more of a staple early in tournaments when everyone has a healthy chip stack.

3) To semi-bluff, or not to semi-bluff?  Semi-bluffs are when a player on a drawing hand gets a favorable flop, which brings him close to completing his hand (i.e., a 2-8-9 flop when you are holding TJ or, better yet, a 2c-8d-9c flop when you are holding TcJc).  Players who bet here are “semi-bluffing” because, though they technically do not hold a winning hand against their opponent at the time (the bluff part), their chances to win the hand by the time the remainder of the board is dealt are mathematically strong.  The upsides to semi-bluffing are a) it often disguises your hand (you appear to be betting top pair or an overpair); b) it methodically builds the pot; and c) it gives you another chance to win the pot (by getting your opponents to fold now).  Conversely, the downsides to semi-bluffing are a) by building the pot now, your opponent (who may have a strong yet vulnerable hand) is more likely to make a large raise and price you out of the hand; and b) occasionally passing up free cards.   Generally speaking, I prefer to semi-bluff when I am out of position because when out of position, I believe that disguising a drawing hand is critical and its important to build a pot now because I likely will not get paid off later when the chill card comes (especially if I have been checking).  When I am in position, I generally prefer to let the action come to me because, again, when the chill card comes, my opponent out of position will still often have to show some type of strength with another bet.  I would rather take a free card in position than potentially get check-raised or re-raised out of the hand.  

  I hope this has been helpful!

 

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