Mailbag: Playing Suited Connectors
by Andrew Brokos | Published: Apr 19, '12
Q: My guess is most people (including me) don’t play 89suited (67,910,10J) the right way…
20BB 89 suited on button vs 3x raise?
40BB 89suited on button vs 3x raise?
100BB 89 suited on button vs 3x raise?
200BB 89 suited on button vs 3x raise?
What about 89s on the button vs raise/call before you act?
What about 89suited in BB?
Do we have to raise 89suited to play it?
What about 89 suited with 20BB on the button when it is folded to you? When it is limped to you?
So obviously I could have just asked what is the proper way to play 89 suited?
A: Good question, suited connectors are hands I see misplayed all the time. You’ve also zeroed in on the right variable to consider, as they are among the most stack-size-dependent of all hands.
With a very small stack, your only options are to re-raise or fold. Calling off 10% of your stack hoping to improve on the flop is a losing play. Against an aggressive opener, suited connectors are good restealing hands because they have decent equity even against a strong calling range. You still need a lot of fold equity to resteal with them, though; if you don’t anticipate getting a lot of folds, then you should be the one folding.
Actually, even with more than 100 BBs, fold equity is important. This doesn’t have to be pre-flop fold equity, though suited connectors are often good hands for light 3-betting. The point is that suited connectors aren’t pocket pairs, and you can’t play them that way. With a small pair and a large stack, you can often call simply to set-mine, planning to fold if you don’t make your set.
Suited connectors, however, won’t flop a strong hand nearly so often. Much more often, they’ll make marginal holdings like middle pair or a straight or flush draw. You can’t afford to keep calling bets hoping to improve, because the stacks aren’t deep enough for a big payoff if you make your hand. Besides, unlike with a set, it’s often obvious that your draw got there, so you may not get paid.
To play a suited connector in a heads up pot, you want to be up against a wide and therefore weak range. This enables you both to showdown the best hand reasonably often when you make a medium pair and to steal the pot reasonably often when you flop a draw and play it aggressively. Suited connectors, in other words, are good semi-bluffing hands.
In a multi-way pot, fold equity is less important because there are more people who will potentially pay you off when you make your hand, plus you’re getting better immediate odds to see the flop.
No matter how many people see the flop with you, it’s alsways very valuable to have position when playing a suited connector. With a small, you usually have either a very strong hand (a set) or a very weak one (an underpair to the board). There aren’t a lot of judgment calls, so they are relatively easy to play from out of position. Suited connectors, however, require a lot of judgement calls and a lot of fold equity. Both are easier when you have position.
The deeper you get, the more room there is to outplay people post-flop, and so the less important it is to re-raise pre-flop. With fewer than 50 BBs, I generally prefer to re-raise or fold suited connectors. As we get deeper, I’ll still re-raise if I think I have a lot of pre-flop fold equity, but against a player who is loose pre-flop I like calling.
The important thing to see is that I’m not just trying to flop a super-strong hand like a flush or straight. My main goal is take the pot away when I see a good opportunity, and those opportunities come along more often with suited connectors than with any other hand.
Do you have a question for the Thinking Poker Mailbag? Please leave it as a comment below!