How to play suited connectors

Many cash game players like hands like suited connectors along the lines of say 9-8s. They know that they can make big hands with them like flushes and straights. But in order to play these types of hands well then you have to be aware of their strengths and weaknesses in all sorts of scenarios. For example let us say that an UTG player makes it $7 in NL200 and it gets folded around to you on the button with 9-8s. It would be interesting to know what your play is here but I bet many of you would call.

Calling is a not a terrible play in a vacuum as you have absolute position on the button and if no one three bets from the blinds then you have seen a relatively cheap flop for only $7. This all assumes of course that both you and your opponent have deep stacks. However you have several problems in this situation and the first is the amount of implied odds you are getting for your hand. In the modern online poker game then the players are better and more solid than they ever used to be.

So if you make a big hand then the pay-off is likely to be marginal at best. Also a hand like a suited connector tends to make the big hands that they have the potential to make not on the flop but on the turn and river. This means that it can be expensive when you miss or that you often get bet away from your hand on the flop. So calling early position raises is probably not profitable in the long term and using PokerStove can help us to see why that is. Looking a typical range of an UTG raiser and they are probably raising with AA-TT, AK and AQs.

Some may raise with KQs and AQ but that is about the maximum range that you will find in nearly all cases. That only comes to 5% of their range and your equity with a hand like 9-8s comes to around 30.7% which is not enough to warrant making the call. Also remember that this is a best case scenario as well because if they raise with a tighter range like AA-QQ and check all other hands then your equity drops to an alarming 21%.

The argument in the past of course was that weak players compensated for that by over playing big pairs like aces and kings when you flopped a big hand or made a big hand on the turn. This isn’t the case now and so suited connectors do not play well in these situations over the long term. I would much rather call a raise from say the button or the cut-off if the raiser came from the cut-off or the hijack. At least then the call is more comparable in terms of equity against a much wider range.

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