Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in Poker Player newspaper in 2009.
This is part of a series by Diane McHaffie. She wasn’t a poker player when she began writing this series. These entries chronicle the lessons given to her personally by Mike Caro. Included in her remarkable poker-learning odyssey are additional comments, tips, and observations from Mike Caro.
Diane McHaffie is Director of Operations at Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy. She has traveled the world coordinating events and seminars in the interest of honest poker. You can write her online at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lessons from MCU
— With bonus content by Mike Caro (pending) —
Lesson 149: Suited connectors and their risks
There is danger in playing small suited connectors, those low ranking cards that run together in the same suit (3-2 up to 10-9). These cards are played much more frequently than they should be, Mike says.
Even skilled players are guilty of this transgression. Often suited connectors aren’t as profitable as they seem. If you’re at a table where aggressive players are thwarting your every move, these cards are not going to be your friends. Nope! They can cause damage or even be the death of your bankroll.
But, if you’re faced with a loose, mellow group of players, then suited connectors are more often profitable. Those are the players whom you want involved, since they rarely raise and will often call with weak hands.
It’s necessary to witness the flop as cheaply as possible if there are several players already committed, to determine if it’s going to help your suited connectors. You see, these cards just don’t have the right caliber to do business with, especially if you’re hoping to catch a straight, flush, or even a straight flush. Why? Well, say you connect with the lower end of a straight, and one of your opponents moves all-in. Then it’s not unlikely that he’s holding the higher end of the straight. You might sometimes have to fold. And when you don’t, you risk losing a huge pot.
Not sweet enough
These little connectors just aren’t sweet enough, usually, to increase your bankroll. You must be ready to admit defeat if you don’t connect. But, suppose you do connect with a pair. You vigorously nod your head, proudly declaring, “I have a 6-7 and the flop just came 6-2-3. I now have the high board pair with a 7 kicker!” Ah, tempting. However, here is something to consider, before you get the bits in your teeth and determinedly race toward the finish line with that pair of sixes.
What if your opponent bets into you? You have to consider folding. “Why?” you whine, frowning in bewilderment. Well, suppose your opponent is bluffing with J-8? If the turn or river card reveals a jack or an 8 and doesn’t help you, then he has just effectively scrambled your sixes with his pair. The point is: Sometimes you can play small suited connectors profitably, but often you can’t. Mike says most players lose money overall with them, just because they don’t fold often enough before the flop.
Medium suited connectors are preferable, because pairing is more apt to bring victory. Your chance of making a straight or flush isn’t enough, in itself, to justify playing suited connectors. You need to win other ways sometimes to make those hands profitable. Don’t routinely raise for deception. Mostly just fold or call. If several players are involved in the pot, play it safe and merely call. These connectors are best attempted aggressively from late position, if the majority of other players have folded and you’re holding at least 9-8, but put the brakes on at 8-7. Don’t attempt this with any suited connectors lower. These larger connectors can be especially lucrative late-position raising cards if you’re facing weaker, non-confrontational players in the blinds.
If you’re hoping to steal the blinds by raising with suited connectors, they need to be impressive enough to beat smaller pairs should you also make a pair. Don’t jump in raising, hoping that your 4-3 will do nicely. You want to see your pair of nines pouncing on a pair of eights.
Unless opponents are especially timid, suited connectors are more ideally played in limit hold ’em vs. no-limit hold ‘em. Why? In no-limit you’ll often be facing experienced players who know how to play their cards profitably. You’ll be facing more expensive raises and might get priced out of making that straight or flush, even if the flop leaves you just one card short. The best attempts are from late positions or against a field of mostly non-aggressive opponents.
To recap, small suited connectors are dangerous. If you play them, try to see the flop cheaply. Get ready to fold if you don’t connect. Steer clear of aggressive opponents. Target the loose, weak players. — DM
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