In a perfect game of Texas Hold'em poker, the best starting hand would win each and every time. Players with weaker hands would rightfully yield to strong, aggressive raises, and only the most powerful hands would be played. But poker is far from a perfect game. Styles, strategies and betting patterns are constantly being altered in an attempt to mislead and eventually thwart opponents. As a poker player, you've got to be ready for anything.
Sometimes, cards are just not going to fall your way. Especially with tournament play, where you're playing the clock and increasing levels just as much as you're playing the other opponents at the table, you have to pick your battles, and patience isn't always the key.
Once the blinds start chipping away, and your tight, passive style of poker isn't hitting the cards you're most comfortable with, you may have to open up and play a little looser. Potentially powerful starting hands, like suited connectors, can be the perfect opposition to crack those cowboys or aces when you're not getting the hands you want.
Doyle Brunson, one of the most recognizable names in poker, says that suited connectors are his favorite type of hand to play in no-limit Hold'em. The reason for this is a crucial one – with suited connectors, (specifically, small ones, like five-six of hearts) you stand the chance of hitting two pair, a straight or a flush on the flop, while maintaining a relatively hidden winning hand.
Suited connectors are extremely useful and beneficial when played from middle or late position when you have a decent number of players involved. As I noted in a previous All-In column, suited connectors grant you great implied odds, or what you can expect to win from your opponents when you hit your hand.
Let's examine how to play these hands. If you are able to get into a hand to see a cheap flop with middle or high suited connectors – particularly if you are under the gun or playing from early position – do it.
From later position, you can widen your range, calling with middle or low suited connectors if the price is right. If you face an opponent who makes a substantial raise, along with some callers, you will likely be trailing and looking for some help from the board.
Keep the pot odds and implied odds in mind, however. I have found on a number of occasions where my suited eight-nine feels pretty good when an opponent raises five times the big blind and gets four other callers. In several cases, their Ace-King, King-Queen and Ace-Queen hands worked in my favor, as some of their outs were already null and void.
If action gets around to you pre-flop, and little has been done in the form of betting, go along for the ride. Without committing too much, too early, it will be easier to get away from a pot if your drawing hand doesn't hit.
Let's suppose you are sitting on a suited 9-10, and the flop comes out 9-A-10. You've made two pair and are likely the favorite at the time, but you have decreased your chances of hitting a straight or flush. Consider playing this aggressively, for if someone is sitting on A-Q, your slow-play runs the risk of losing to a better two-pair or a different drawing hand.
Suppose you hit your flush on the flop, as you sit with low suited connectors. Again, you likely have the lead, but aggressive play is almost a necessity, as one more flush card on the board could put you behind, significantly.
If two cards bearing your suit hit on the flop, sweeten the rake with a small bet, but don't go overboard, as you run the risk of not making your flush.
In the case of a straight draw, exercise caution. Flopping the nut straight is a great feeling, but if you slow-play it too much, someone may catch a flush or full house on the river or turn. Ideally, you want to keep in the players who may only stand a chance to catch a set, two pair or top pair with a strong kicker.
Some poker players recommend playing a call-or-fold strategy when only on a draw. This may be the best way to conserve your chips in the event that you do not hit, but it could also easily telegraph to your opponents when you do hit and lead in with a powerful raise.
If you flop both a flush and a straight draw, even without a made hand, you are likely to be a favorite. In these instances, it doesn't always hurt to play like you have the best hand. Once you hit your straight or flush, the strength of your hand will be disguised.
So, next time out there, don't wait for big slick or pocket queens to come your way. Switch up your style and keep your opponents on their toes.