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Playing Suited Connectors in Six-Max No-Limit Hold'em
Suited connectors can be your best friend or your worst enemy.
For most professional poker players though, it definitely leans toward the love affair.
It's easy to understand why: suited connectors can make both straights and flushes, which are ultimately the true "big pot" hands.
Sure, big pocket pairs will win you a high number of small pots. But suited connectors will win you the biggest ones.
Suited Connectors Before the Flop
That said, suited connectors are not so strong that every time you're dealt them you should be in the pot.
Suited connectors are still a drawing hand and need to be treated as such.
In other words, you need to look for the right situations.
Because suited connectors can make big-pot hands, they should often be played before the flop.
The problem is that although they make big-pot hands, straights and flushes don't come around nearly as much as we would like.
So limping and hoping to hit hard just ends up with you bleeding money in the long run.
The proper way to play suited connectors in short-handed games is to play them aggressively. Limping is a no-no.
When you're aggressive with your suited connectors, you give yourself the most ways to win.
You can win the pot immediately, you can take advantage of your initiative on the flop and win with a continuation bet, or you can win by making the best hand by showdown.
Just because aggression is good doesn't mean you should raise them every time however.
You have to be wary of your position. Position, as always, is a major factor when deciding how to play your suited connectors.
Early and Middle Position
Much of the power in suited connectors comes from when they flop a draw, but playing draws out of position tends to be very difficult.
When you're out of position your opponent controls the hand and you're left playing by his rules.
Because of this, most suited connectors are not profitable from early position.
Occasionally, with the right table dynamic, you can raise suited connectors like T♥ 9♥ or J♠ T♠ from early position to mix up your play and balance your range, but for the most part they should just be folded.
Playing suited connectors from out of position is a difficult thing to do and unless you play extremely well post-flop, it's a break-even proposition at best.
As you get closer to the button though you can start to add more suited connectors into your mix.
You want to play these hands aggressively, bringing them in for a raise.
You should still throw away the smallest suited connectors, as they still are too weak to show a positive expectation, but from two off the button a hand like 8♥ 7♥ is fit for a raise.
When you're in the cut-off or the button, almost all suited connectors are raiseworthy when folded to.
You will often find yourself winning the pot before the flop without showdown or up against a single, out-of-position opponent.
How Do I Play Post-Flop?
Playing suited connectors post-flop can be tricky for some players, which is why it's not a good idea to limp in with them.
Limping in gives you no initiative. You'll often miss the flop completely or make one small pair with no clue as to where you stand.
When you raise first in, you gain the initiative in the hand and can often take the pot down on the flop with a continuation bet.
Take a look at the board texture.
Is it likely to have helped your opponent? Does it look like it could have helped your hand?
If the answer to either of these is yes then it really doesn't matter what you hold. Fire a continuation bet. You will often win the pot without a fight.
If you flopped a pair or a draw or even a combo draw, you're obviously in an even better position.
Despite the fact that raising pre-flop with suited connectors is becoming more standard, many opponents still are unable to put you on them after a raise.
If you end up making a straight or a flush on a later street your hand is often disguised as your opponent will still figure you for big cards.
If you hold a monster that your opponent cannot put you on, you stand to make a lot of money.
What About Against a Raise?
Although suited connectors can often be raised when you're first into the pot, when you're facing a raise it's seldom profitable to play them.
That's because you will be left without initiative and you leave yourself only one way to win the pot.
The exception is if you find yourself in late position against a weak player's opening raise and you either know you can outplay him after the flop. Or you know that he sucks at folding after the flop and thus will pay you his stack should you hit.
In those few situations you can flat-call from the cut-off or button and play poker from there.
The "Light" Three-Bet and You
Occasionally you may decide to three-bet suited connectors against a raise.
This is not for value, since your opponent almost surely has a better hand than you.
This is what is known as a "light" three-bet - the idea being that your aggressive opponent is opening lots of hands before the flop and you know he is doing it with weak hands.
You can reraise him with your suited connectors because he is often going to fold before the flop, forfeiting the pot to you.
Suited connectors are great for this purpose because they make excellent "Plan B" hands. Plan A, of course, is to win the pot without showdown before the flop.
However, you will get called from time to time, which is where Plan B comes in. Suited connectors can still make big-pot hands after the flop.
With your reraise you're relying on the fold equity of your raise, but you also have the equity of suited connectors which are a strong drawing hand to fall back on.
You Gotta Play Some Pokah
Pocket pairs and suited connectors are very similar in a six-max game.
They are both drawing hands that should be played aggressively before the flop.
After the flop you need to put your opponent on a range and analyze the strength of your hand before deciding how to proceed.
A lot of the time you are going to win the pot with little resistance from your opponent; other times you are going to have to make a hand.
Poker is a game of situations, and there is no cookie-cutter way to approach playing after the flop.
You need to take all of the table dynamics into consideration before choosing your line.
Just remember, suited connectors are strong, but much of their value comes from getting folds from your opponents.
Just calling and hoping for a miracle flop is going to leave you penniless and depressed.
So use your brain: raise when you are first in, in position, and play poker after the flop. The rest is easy!
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12 March 2018 70