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The Value of Suited Connectors in Texas Hold'em

By Dan Pronovost

Introduction

Dan Pronovost is the owner and president of DeepNet Technologies, makers of a wide range of advantage gambling training products and software (blackjack, poker, craps). Their web site is: www.DeepnetTech.com, and all products are available for free trial download. Dan is also the creator of the easy-to-use card counting system Speed Count, which is taught by Henry Tamburin and Frank Scoblete in the Golden Touch Blackjack two day courses: www.GoldenTouchBlackjack.com.

Those Tempting Suited Connectors

You're playing Texas Hold'em at a full table. You're in mid position, sitting with 5 and 4 suited, one of those tempting low-range suited connector hands that holds so much promise, yet rarely seems to deliver the killer punch. There have been a few calls, one fold, no raises, and the bet is to you. What do you do?

Lots of books have great advice on how to handle average to low suited connector hands pre-flop in Texas Hold'em. Generally, experts say to play very cautiously with these hands in tight games, and follow a non-raised pot pre-flop in a passive game from mid or later position. Note we're not talking about the powerhouse connectors, such as 10/9 suited and up, where you can probably bet with confidence. We're going to look today at those low suited connectors inviting you to gamble for the flush or straight!

To bring this discussion down to earth, we're going to use Poker Drill Master for Windows, a new poker training program from my company (www.PokerDrillMaster.com). It includes a very powerful poker simulator and calculator that allows us to see the actual equity and required pot odds with any Texas Hold'em game tableau. Of course, one might also see these kind of challenging hands come up in the drill-mode trainer in Poker Drill Master, but we're going to use the poker calculator today to get some concrete statistics to guide our decisions.

Low Suited Connectors

Let's enter the game scenario above into Poker Drill Master. Specifically, 5 and 4 of spades pre-flop. Let's see what our equity is with different numbers of players in the game. Our equity is our probability of winning the game played to completion (with all players in to the end with no further bets), factoring in ties. For each row below, we completed 10 million random poker simulations with the specified number of players, and all players staying in to the end. No further bets are made (a fixed pot is assumed).

# opponents

Your equity
(4s 5s)

Opponent equity

1

41.48%

58.52%

2

28.97%

35.51%

3

22.66%

25.78%

4

18.96%

20.26%

5

16.42%

16.72%

6

14.84%

14.19%

7

13.55%

12.35%

8

12.56%

10.93%

9

11.61%

9.82%

Heads-up, our suited 4 and 5 fairs worse than an average or unknown hand, significantly with few players. But notice that equity gets closer to the average as we add opponents, and actually flips in our favor with 6 opponents or more! This odd fact may seem counter intuitive… surely your occasional flush or straight has all the better chance of winning with less players? But the reality is that when you do get the flush or straight, you are likely to have the winning hand and will win more when there are more players (i.e. more money in the pot to win). This concept is known as pot odds. You want to make sure there is enough money in the pot when you win to cover the money lost during the times that you don’t win playing that hand. (See Burton’s Pot Odds article BJ Insider Feb 2005 at http://www.bjinsider.com/newsletter_61_pot.shtml).

This might also help you understand why poker experts generally urge caution with low suited connectors pre-flop. The main concern is that betting such a hand, especially early, will just mean being stuck deciding to follow a subsequent raise (from what is likely a stronger hand). But the reality is that your hand is not all that powerful, unless there are enough players in the game to make the long shot of the straight or flush worth playing. The latter condition is all the more likely to be met in a late opening betting position.

When Suited Connectors Get Good

Let's run some more simulations to see when suited connectors become favorable for you. We'll look at all suited connectors from 2 and 3 up to 10/9, with 1, 5, and 9 opponents. Each cell shows your equity versus the opponent equity (left/right).

Suited Connector

1 opponent

5 opponents

9 opponents

2 3

36.01%/63.99%

13.02%/17.40%

9.21%/10.09%

3 4

38.58%/61.42%

14.73%/17.05%

10.44%/9.95%

4 5

41.39%/58.61%

16.47%/16.71%

11.68%/9.81%

5 6

42.94%/57.06%

17.08%/16.58%

11.87%/9.79%

6 7

45.56%/54.44%

17.90%/16.42%

12.29%/9.75%

7 8

47.93%/52.07%

19.05%/16.19%

12.75%/9.69%

8 9

50.75%/49.25%

20.36%/15.93%

13.33%/9.63%

9 10

54.26%/45.74%

22.44%/15.51%

14.92%/9.45%

Not surprisingly, the performance of our suited connector gets better as there are more opponents, as we saw previously. Also, note that suited 9 and 10 always has a better equity position than a random opponent, regardless of how many there are. This helps explain why most poker books recommend betting with a 9/10 suited or better (or J/T in very tight games).

Conclusions

Low suited connector hands need to be played very carefully pre-flop. The general wisdom definitely seems to hold true when analyzed through our simulations:

    • Pre-flop, follow a non-raised bet from a low suited connector hand only in late position, or very loose games.
    • More players is good for 'long shot' hands, especially low suited connectors where the winning potential is limited to the flush or straight.

Learn More about Poker Drill Master…

Bill Burton, author of Get The Edge at Low Limit Poker, has written an independent review of Poker Drill Master in a previous issue of BJI: http://www.bjinsider.com/newsletter_72_pdm.shtml. In it he explains all about the drill training features and other great tools in the product, which we did not cover in this article. To learn more about Poker Drill Master, visit our web site: www.PokerDrillMaster.com.

Asides from the trial shareware version available online, you can also get Poker Drill Master for free when you open a new account with Party Poker! Visit our web site for details: www.deepnettech.com/free-poker-software.shtml. Deposit $60 into a new Party Poker account, play 250 raked hands, and get a free copy of Poker Drill Master ($59.95 value).

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