It can be tough to know when (and how) to play a suited connector in Texas Hold’em. If you neglect to consider important factors — such as stack sizes and your opponent’s tendencies — you will likely make a costly mistake with these hands.
You’re about to read 5 tips that will help you understand the mistakes you need to avoid making with suited connectors — and how to maximize your winnings with them.
What is a suited connector?
Suited connectors are hands made by two consecutive, same-suited cards. For example:
Similarly, suited hands with a gap — T8, J9, etc. — are called suited gappers.
Now, time for the tips.
1. Avoid 3-betting against stacks of 60 big blinds or shallower
When the preflop raiser has fewer than 60 big blinds in their stack, you should be less inclined to 3-bet suited connectors, particularly low ones like 65s or 76s.
With deeper stacks, hands like these function well against as 3-bet bluffs for three main reasons:
- You make a lot of better hands fold preflop.
- You have great postflop playability that will provide many profitable bluffing opportunities.
- You will occasionally win a very big pot when you hit two-pair, trips, straights and flushes (implied odds).
Against short stacks, however, the stack-to-pot ratio gives you less room to maneuver postflop — there goes reason #2 — and decreases your implied odds — goodbye reason #3. This change makes them less effective and rarely profitable 3-bet bluffs.
2. Avoid 3-betting against calling stations
You can probably imagine why 3-bet bluffing with a suited connector is less effective against a player who doesn’t like to fold. When there’s little chance your opponent will fold, you lose a major incentive to 3-bet the hand.
But there’s also a much less obvious reason why 3-betting suited connectors is a perilous mistake vs calling stations.
These loosey goosey players will call 3-bets with way more hands that dominate you — hands other players would fold. We’re talking hands like A6s, K7s, and J8s, which dominate your 65s and 87s. This will result in the occasional nasty cooler when you both hit trips or a flush.
By the way, you can get tips for playing against calling stations here.
3. Rarely 4-bet suited connectors
When thinking about which hands make the best 4-bet bluffs, there are three things you need to consider:
- Blocker effect
- Postflop playability
- Implied odds
Of these three, by the most important is your hand’s blocker effects. This is because the ranges involved in 4-bet situations are very tight and being able to rule out a few strong hands from your opponents range makes a significant difference.
Suited connectors actually possess negative blocking effects. They block hands from your opponents’ 3-bet/folding range — such as A5s or A6s — and don’t block any strong hands that will continue.
Suited connectors do have both solid playability and decent implied odds, but even these are stinted with the low stack-to-pot ratios in 4-bet pots.
4. Avoid overcalling (except from the big blind)
It might be tempting to overcall with suited connectors, but unless you’re in the big blind, it is a losing play that should be avoided. I am going to show you why.
Let’s take, for example, a 6-max game in which every player is 100 big blinds effective. Suppose middle position opens to 2.5 big blinds, cutoff flats, and it’s up to us on the button with 6♦ 5♦.
Let’s see how much equity we have against these two ranges, and then how much equity we’d need to have to profitably call based on the pot odds. (I’m gonna run through it fast, but you can learn how to do this here.)
Starting with the pot odds (if you’re unfamiliar with this process, learn how to calculate pot odds here):
Pot Odds = 2.5bb (our call) / 2.5bb (PFR’s bet) + 2.5bb (cold-caller’s call) + 2.5bb (our call) + 1.5bb (the blinds)
Pot Odds = 2.5bb / 9bb
Pot Odds = 0.27 = 27%* raw equity needed
*This assumes we’re in a rakeless game. We’d need 29% if there was 5% rake.
Middle position’s range looks something like this:
Cutoff’s cold-calling range is this:
Here is our 6♦ 5♦‘s equity against those two ranges:
Now, we are in-position with a very playable hand, which means we will likely over-realize our hand’s equity, but we also have to account for the threat of a squeeze behind. One of the two players behind will 3-bet approximately 10% of the time, in which case we will be forced to fold and forfeit our equity. The players behind will also call a high percentage of the time, which lowers our hand’s equity.
These are impossible things to calculate precisely, but it’s safe to say that these two sets of factors are at least close to cancelling each other out. This leaves us with a shortage of around 3–5% equity.
With all that said, over-calling can be reasonable as an exploitative adjustment if there is a weak player in the hand and you know the players behind are unlikely to squeeze.
5. Don’t call 3-bets against short-stacks
Suited connectors can profitably call 3-bets with deep stacks pretty often, but they lose a lot of their value when the effective stack size drops to around 50 blinds.
This happens because their once-great implied odds are diminished. Consequently, you need to pay much more to see a flop compared to the potential win. Consider the difference:
- When you’re 100bb deep: You typically have to call 5–6.5bb to potentially win 100bb. That means you can win 16–20x your preflop investment.
- When you’re 50bb deep: You typically have to call 5–6.5bb (still) to potentially win 50bb. This means you can win just 7.5–10x your investment.
One final nail in the coffin for suited connectors at this stack depth is the reduced fold equity postflop, which is a result of more hands becoming committed to the pot.
At the end of the day, playing suited connectors is not so difficult when you understand which scenarios to avoid and why. Often times, the difficult part is having the discipline to get out of the way — suited connectors look too pretty to fold.
Avoiding the 5 plays I’ve shared with you today is a good place to start. Just because suited connectors look great doesn’t mean they’ll always play great!
That’s all for today! I hope you’ve enjoyed this article and found it useful. As usual, leave questions or feedback in the comment section below.
And good luck out there, grinders!
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Read more from Upswing Poker:
- When Should You Set Mine with a Pocket Pair? These 5 Tips Will Clear Things Up.
- How to Thin Value Bet Like a Pro
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