Suited Connectors and Non-Connectors: Mind the Gap

Poker players compete. (Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP)

“But they’re soooooted~!”

That’s the mournful cry of many a Texas Hold’em player. The temptation is always there to play any two cards of the same suit, even Seven-Deuce suited – the lowest of the low. You’ve already got 40% of a flush before the flop is even dealt. Why wouldn’t you enter the pot with such attractive hole cards?

There are reasons. But I have come here to praise suited cards, not to bury them. There’s a lot of potential in these cards in live or online poker; it’s just a question of being choosy about which ones to get involved with, and how to use them when you do.

Suited vs. Non-Suited

Before we get into anything strategic, let’s take a look at some raw numbers. You may have heard in the past that suited cards only give you a slight bump in hot-and-cold equity compared to non-suited cards. And it’s true. Here’s how Seven-Six suited and non-suited stack up against any two napkins:

– 76s: 43.09%
– 76o: 42.32

That’s barely a drop in the bucket. But this is hot-and-cold equity, like when you and your opponent go all-in pre-flop and flip your cards over to see who wins. You’re not getting any opportunity to leverage your suited cards from street to street.

Connectors vs. Gappers

Now let’s start putting some distance between your suited hole cards and see how that affects your equity:

– 76s: 43.09%
– 75s: 41.30
– 74s: 39.37
– 73s: 37.46
– 72s: 35.48

As you can see, those gaps have way more impact on your hot-and-cold equity than being suited or not. Yet even with something as janky as Seven-Deuce suited, you’ve got more than a third of the pot on your side – and that’s without any of that sweet, sweet leverage.

How to Play Your Cards Right

If you’ve been playing online poker (or live poker) and tournament poker for a while, you’re probably comfortable enough with handling suited connectors. You know it’s good to open them occasionally from early position, sticking with the tastiest of the bunch – say, Six-Five suited or better. As you reach the cut-off, Four-Three suited becomes playable; even Three-Deuce suited is fine to open when you’re heads-up.

You can take pretty much the same approach with one-gappers. Just make sure to “click” your ranges up a notch or two; sometimes open Eight-Six suited or better from early position, Six-Four from the cut-off, and Five-Three from the button.

Two-gappers require another click up the ladder. If you’re in early position, Queen-Nine suited is probably the worst you should fire with, widening to Ten-Seven on the cutoff and Six-Three on the button. Keep climbing the ladder for each gap you introduce to your hole cards, and you should be fine.

But what if someone opens ahead of you? Now you get to make some executive decisions. Suited gappers can make excellent cold-calls in position; however, if you’re out of position, you should generally be more inclined to 3-bet, hoping to induce a fold or at worst, a call. Stack sizes and other considerations will obviously play a role here.

Playing Post-Flop

Things get much more complicated once you’re post-flop. Your decisions at this point will naturally depend on the strength of your hand, as well as your position and everything else. But again, if you’ve got a flush draw on the flop, you can often call (aka “float”) a flop bet when you’re in position, or stymie your opponent by either leading out or check-raising when you’re first to act.

Of course, you’ll have to fine-tune your decisions as different scenarios come your way. You don’t always need a flush draw to pull off these moves; sometimes having three cards to a straight flush is enough, provided two of those three cards are your hole cards. Having an Ace for a backdoor nut flush draw might be sufficient, too.

You’ll get the hang of it the more you practice and play. In the meantime, I hope this exercise gives you the confidence you need to take those suited cards and work some magic with them.