Suited connectors in No Limit Texas Hold’em
Suited connectors and suited gap cards in No Limit Texas Hold’em are the perfect example of cards that can be very rewarding, but also very dangerous, if played carelessly. A starting hand like 7-8 suited is the perfect example of a hand that will not win at showdown on its own merit, but has multiple ways to improve and become a very strong hand.
Playing suited connectors and gap cards requires attention to position and table texture. An under-the-gun raise with suited connectors is seldom advisable, but the ability to limp in and see an inexpensive flop from late position will not only give you the ability to get away from your hand easily if you miss the flop, but will also disguise the strength of your hand if the flop connects with your cards. Often players that hit top pair will bet into you, and your straight or flush draw (or both) will be well-hidden within the texture of the ‘flop’ cards.
It is usually more advisable to wait a few hands after sitting down at a table, to begin exploring these hands, as you are more familiar with the texture of the table and the players around you. If there are very few un-raised hands pre-flop, it’s going to be harder to play cards like J-9 suited, as you will likely be challenged when you try to see a cheap flop. If the poker table has many limpers to each flop, these are the ideal tables for these hands, as you will, almost always, have the correct odds to call and continue playing your hand.
The perfect flop for a suited connector or gap hand in NL Texas Hold’em is one that gives you a powerful holding or draw, while disguising that draw to the other players. For example, your 7-8 suited becomes a potential monster when the flop comes down 6-9-A with two of your suit, as you have draws to both the straight and the flush, giving you 13 cards to make one of your draws, not to mention the potential to catch two pair or three of a kind. With that many outs, it’s frequently profitable to call a decent-sized bet on the flop, hoping to catch one of those cards on the turn.
One thing to be wary of when playing these middle suited cards is the potential that your opponents may have bigger cards of the same suit that you’re holding, so that your middle flush gives them the nut flush or better. That’s when your understanding of the table texture and your opponents’ betting patterns will come into play and allow you to get away from your made hand in the face of shown strength on the part of other players.
Another thing to be careful of in Texas Hold’em Poker is a coordinated flop that hits your hand, but gives you the lower (or ignorant) end of a straight. Your 7-8 suited looks great on a flop of 9-10-K until you consider the potential that your opponents are playing a hand like Q-J, or even anything with a Jack, as they are drawing to a higher straight than you are, reducing your straight outs from eight to four, giving you the same odds as if you were drawing to a ‘gut shot’ straight draw, which is seldom advisable unless the pot is laying you irresistible odds.
If you flop the ‘nuts’, especially with gap cards, you will almost always get paid off. There are few feelings better than completing a small blind with 7-9 suited and watching a flop of 6-8-10 come down in three different suits. This is one of the few times that I advise ‘slow playing’ a poker hand, as a small bet will often give you a call or even a raise that will allow you to bet bigger or even push on the turn. You still have to pay attention to the development of the hand and board, as your nut straight can easily get counterfeited if you let bad flush draws see the next two cards too cheaply. I recommend a very strong turn bet if a second card comes of one of the suits that are showing, rather than giving the flush draws a chance to hit their card on the river.
Suited connectors and gap cards are a very powerful tool in your poker play, but they must be used with caution and consideration to maximise your profit. Adding these starting hands to your toolbox will give you another way to win, and more chances to pad your bankroll.