Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in Poker Player newspaper in 2007.
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 117: Suited connectors
Today’s lesson is going to cover suited connectors. Suited connectors are cards that are of the same suit with neighboring ranks, as in 6c-7c, 8d-9d, 10h-Jh. They can be high or low in importance. Of course, the A-K, K-Q, and Q-J are the ones that you’d rather be holding — despite the fact that they provide less room for making a straight. Only connectors in the 5-4 to J-10 range have maximum opportunity to convert to a straight. The 2-3, 3-4, 4-5, 5-6 versions are the ones you want to shy away from.
Mike says that suited connectors are often overrated and many times they are mistakenly played. It’s dangerous to test suited connectors against forceful, challenging players who frequently only play very strong hands. You aren’t going to get maximum value out of suited connectors against these types of players. You may be forced to fold early, and when you do play, it’s apt to cost you more money to see what develops.
If you’re going to play suited connectors you want other players challenging you, so it’s seldom necessary to be aggressive. A good time to for an exception is when you’re in late position and might steal the blinds. If this aggressive maneuver results in you only facing one opponent then that places you in a potentially profitable situation, too. You want to take the blinds outright, play against just one opponent, or play against a lot of opponents cheaply.
Another time to take advantage of suited connectors is when you have an opportunity to call several opponents, enabling you to see the flop at minimal expense before deciding if it benefited you. Never hesitate to just fold if the flop doesn’t help. Remember, folding can actually help your bankroll.
Loose, weak players are the ultimate opponents to tackle with your suited connectors. Many times they attempt to capture pots with meager hands and continue to imprudently call when you connect, even though they should admit defeat and fold.
If you’re in early position you should not be tempted to play suited connectors. There are too many players waiting to act after you. Any one of them could hold a threatening hand. It’s just too dangerous for you financially. Play it safe and fold.
Suited connectors are better attempted from late position, either when calling many opponents or especially if no one is in the pot, yet. Mike says that if he’s in late position and the players before him have folded, he’ll often take advantage of 10-9 suited, 9-8 suited, or in some cases 8-7 suited and raise. He advises against playing anything lower than 8-7. The lower ranks just don’t carry enough clout to raise the blinds. With medium ranks, you might occasionally pair larger than an opponent in the blinds and unexpectedly win that way.
What could happen
Suppose, although Mike has warned against going in with puny suited connectors, you decide to attempt 6-5 suited anyway. Here’s what could happen: You aren’t fortunate enough to flop a straight or a flush — or even an easy draw to one. Had you flopped a straight, like 9-8-7, keep in mind a larger straight would beat you. Not good.
Typical suited connectors aren’t usually profitable in limit games, but they’re even more dangerous in no-limit games. In no-limit games you’re frequently up against skilled players who have the money and knowledge to prevent you from getting the pot odds that you’d like. In no-limit, when playing against these types of opponents, you have to be cautious and discerning. Usually just fold.
Except in the latest positions with no one else in the pot, the ranks of your suited connectors need to be extraordinarily significant for you to raise the blinds. Should you make a pair, you’re going to want that pair to be impressive enough to endure. When raising the blinds, it’s best to do so from late position. Calling is usually unprofitable with suited connectors in a late position, when you’re first to open the betting.
So, to sum it up, high suited connectors are preferable. Small suited connectors are too risky. Don’t attempt suited connectors against intimidating opponents. Raising with imposing suited connectors is best done from late position when other players have folded. — DM