Suited connectors are poker’s special hand. Our perception of them is indicative of how our minds work – we can be dealt a hand like K 9 offsuit and (correctly) muck it without a second’s thought, but on seeing 5 4 suited appear we start to get a little excited. It’s a given in poker – suited connectors have almost magical properties.
When the Flop hits us – e.g. Ah 2d 3d when we’re holding 4d 5d – it’s one of the most satisfying parts of the game, and flopping a crafty looking, often ‘hidden’ draw is always a buzz. For (ideally) a modest pre-flop investment we get the potential to win big pots, especially against the many unsuspecting players who are also unwilling to let go of big pairs, for example. Meanwhile, if the Flop misses us completely, we can easily withdraw from the battle and avoid trouble situations that often arise when playing with hands like K J.
However, we can turn around a well-known saying to describe the pitfalls of suited connectors in that ‘every silver lining has a cloud’ – as much as these are indeed promising starting hands that should also be relatively easy (or ‘less difficult’) to play, we shouldn’t assume that all suited connectors are the same. Some have better/worse prospects than others.
Going back to 5 4 suited, this hand will hit pretty big around 1 in 20 times and flop a juicy draw as often as 1 in 5 times. It’s when we consider the significance – or, more accurately, the lack of significance – of hitting a pair that suggests there is a difference between these low-ranked suited connectors and something like J T suited. The former will give us top pair 1% of the time and either second or third pair on more than a quarter of Flops. Given that likelihood of the Turn and River bringing higher cards, the anyway rare time we do flop top pair is rendered practically irrelevant, while we’re never going to commit when holding an already low second or third pair.
In contrast, the higher-ranked J T suited is a considerably more potent weapon. Added to the weight of when we connect well with the Flop is the strength we have when finding a pair. In fact, the numbers are actually meaningful: as far as hitting the top pair is concerned, this will happen around 15% of the time, while roughly 1 in 7 Flops will give us a second/third pair. The higher the ranking of our suited connectors, then, the (much) better we’re placed to win a pot when hitting a pair. Many players place all suited connectors in the same category, but the reality is that there are simply more strings to our bow with high(er) holdings than low(er) ones.
Furthermore, the difference is by no means limited to how hands perform when pairing up. There’s a distinction to be made when considering draws, too. Crucially, J T suited can flop a draw with overcards, thus giving us vital additional options via the Turn and River, which can bring an all-important J or T that could carry off the pot. The same cannot be said of 5 4 suited, of course. Draws are promising, but the bonus equity afforded us by our hand’s ability to improve can’t be underestimated!
And the advantages of higher-suited connectors don’t end there, because we need to factor in what happens when the Flop misses us. While it’s true that low-suited connectors are easy to fold when the Flop doesn’t help, that’s nevertheless another pot that we won’t win. With a higher-ranked holding, on the other hand, we can miss the Flop but, in those cases when we have overcards, still find ourselves with a decent – and justifiable – shot at the pot thanks to the possibility of finding what can easily be a winning pair on future streets. Note that this additional hand strength can make even gutshot draws a viable prospect.
Hopefully, this article will have served to dispel the commonly held myth that ALL suited connectors are the same. They do offer great potential, but the bigger the cards, the more power and equity they bring.
Have fun at the tables!