Playing Suited Connectors & Gapers
by Chad Holloway of Predictem.com
I am a big proponent of playing suited-connectors (I.e. 6s-7s) and suited-gapers (I.e. 5h-8h) in the hopes of flopping a monster and taking down a large pot. Daniel Negreanu and Huck Seed are two famous professional poker players who incorporate suited-connector play into their games, and done correctly it can be a powerful addition to your poker arsenal as well; however, played incorrectly, it can cost you a lot of money or be your downfall in tournament play.
The first step in playing suited-connectors and gapers is to recognize the actual strength of your hand and what your ideal flop would be. For instance, a hand like 6c-7c is among the best hands to crack pocket aces (22.87% when it does not share a suit with either of the aces, and 21.72% when it does), but since it will do so only about one in five times, you must look for a superb flop (either two pairs, trips, a straight or flush draw, or better) to continue playing your hand. If you do not hit the flop hard, and flopping a pair certainly doesn't count, you must be willing to abandon the hand immediately. That is the beauty of playing suited-connectors and gapers; you either invest a little pre-flop in the hopes of hitting the flop and winning a large pot by surprising your opponent, or completely miss the flop and throw away the hand before committing any more chips.
Now that you have seen a flop, what should you do? Of course if you missed the flop you have already sent your hand to the muck (assuming your opponent has bet), but if you are asking yourself this question you must have gotten a piece of it.
Recently I became involved in a suited-connector hand where I held the 10s-8s against the Kc-Kh and paid $15 pre-flop in a $1-$2 No Limit Hold-em game, which only made me a 21.11% favorite compared to my opponent's 78.55% chance of winning. Luckily for me, the flop came down 7s-8s-3h, at which point I became a favorite over any over-pair (56.26% vs. 43.74%) even though I didn't even have a made hand yet! Since this was a dangerous flop for my opponent's pocket kings, he set me all-in. Why did I insta-call without a made-hand? Quite simply, because the flop was so favorable to my hand. When choosing to play the10s-8s pre-flop, I was basically committing myself to one of two plays, abandoning the hand if I missed or playing it to the end if I hit. With this in mind, I couldn't really hope for a better flop for my hand; after all, any six or ten would give me a straight, any spade would give me a flush, and the six and ten of spades would give me a straight flush! I ended up hitting a spade on the turn at which point my opponent was drawing dead (although my chances of winning would have only dropped to 34.09% vs. 65.91% on the river if the turn card was a useless card such as the 2c).
Now playing suited-connectors and gapers doesn't usually work out so nicely. In fact, there are a lot of pitfalls you will encounter and must be prepared for. For example, when playing a hand like 4h-5h, you will often flop numerous straight draws. A draw to the nut straight, such as drawing to a 2-3-10 board, is good to your hand, while a drawing to a weak straight on a board of 6-7-10 is not. It is important to recognize what straight you will have if you are to make it. Will it be the nut draw? Will it be the low-end straight? How many other possible straights could there be? If you find that your straight-draw isn't among the best possibilities when fulfilled, it is not a good idea to chase down a loser. The same can be said regarding flushes. It is hard to abandon a hand like 4h-5h when the flop brings two more hearts, but it is essential not to over-play your hand as there is a good chance of a higher flush draw among your opponents.
Every once in awhile you will flop a monster with your suited-connectors and gapers. In the past few months I have flopped trips, straights, flushes, full-houses, and even a straight flush; however, I have also played my suited-connectors and gapers cautiously and with great discipline. By doing so, I minimize my chances of losing a large amount but maximize my money-making opportunities when I eventually do hit the flop. By carefully considering and implementing suited-connector and gaper play, you can add a whole new dimension to your game and make yourself a threat to you opponents by showing them you can play a wide-range of hands!
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