Monday, January 17, 2005

Posted by Johnnymac 11:44 AM
It's a boring "holiday" today here at work - the NYMEX is closed and the brokers are all gone - so I figure I'll babble about connectors. My boss and I were talking about the "sweet" hand in the post I wrote below (he was there on Saturday and witnessed it), so it got me to thinking that maybe a short blog post is in order.

First, the obvious - the reason we always talk about suited connectors relative to unsuited connectors is because of the additional flush value. This extra value is a bit tricky, though, because suited connectors should be played in the hopes of making a straight, not a flush.

How does this makes sense? It took me a while to figure this out for myself, but the flush value doesn't necessarily come from the value of the highest card in your hand (ie a 7 high flush still isn't that good), but rather, it comes from the fact that it's less likely for someone else to be holding two cards of the same suit as for them to be holding one card better than yours. In other words if the board comes three of your suit and you hold two cards, your 7 high flush (for example) has a better chance of being the best flush if it's made with 2+3 cards than 1+4, because it's more likely than someone else does indeed have at least one higher card of that suit. With suited connectors you are playing for the straight, but you might get lucky and make a small flush that's still the winner. In most circumstances you should not draw for this flush, it's just nice to have, and thus suited connectors have more value than unsuited connectors. My thoughts below are on connectors in general, just remember than suited is better than unsuited.

(I hope that longwinded explanation makes sense, because it's hard a hard concept to verbalize succinctly. Reread it a couple of times if you can't follow it and if it still sucks post a comment and I'll try and do a better job.)


So that gets us to the discussion of which suited connectors to play. Remember, we are playing these cards for their value in making straights, so the higher cards aren't necessarily the best cards. Here's my list of suited connectors in their order of perceived strength (at least the way I see them), plus my thoughts. I'll go through this quick and maybe elaborate on specific Groups (ala Sklansky) in separate posts down the road.

(Also, the standard disclaimers apply - these values are presented in a vacuum - even if I say that 45s has more "value" than 9Ts, that doesn't mean you should aggressively play the ignorant end if the flop comes 678. I assume more sophistication on the part of the reader.)

AK - Duh. This isn't meant as a treatise on big slick, so I'm not going to elaborate, but really, AK's value comes more from its top-pair-top-kicker and nut-flush qualities than as its value as a connector. (If I wanted to completely honest in an academic sense, I would rank it below QJ in the list below because it there are only three ways to make a straight with it.)

JT - Any straight is the nut straight, either high end or low end.

65, 54, 76 - I like 65 and 54 because if you catch your straight in the right spot you can beat the hell out of someone overplaying an Ace on a board with all small cards. Also, if you do flop a draw it's probably going to be cheaper to see additional streets because it's less likely that someone saw the flop with middle and low cards than with face cards and thus they don't have a pair and are less likely to bet the flop. Both of these factors led to my big hand on Saturday night.

87 - If you make a straight here, even on the low end, it's likely the best hand because because other players are less likely to be in the pot with T9 or J9.

KQ and QJ - Kind of like AK - if we are talking about "connectors" and making straights, then the value comes from the number of outs, both on the top side and bottom. Unfortunately, there is less top pair value from KQ or QJ and fewer straight-draw outs on the top side for these hands. (although like JT, any straight you do make is the nut straight) TJ Cloutier and Doyle both advise against playing these hands strongly and refer to these hands in non-shorthanded play as sucker hands. I concur.

T9 and 98 If you catch the low end with these hands it is more likely that someone could have chosen to see the flop with the high end because they are face cards. Similarly, if you catch a gutshot draw you are in bad shape because your gutshot options are face cards and thus more likely to have been taken to the flop by another player. Doyle specifically speaks to this point in Super/System when he talks about why he likes playing 87 over 98.

43 and 23 - Similar to KQ and QJ, your outs with these hands are limited, but they are limited on the low side. There are two things to point out here - there are more outs towards the ignorant end of any strauight possibilites than to the nut end, and to make the nut straight you have to catch an Ace, which means that unless you also flop cards on the top end you are likely behind the guy with an Ace in his hand.

("Great," you say, "but wouldn't I still be behind if he just has Ace high?" Sure, except that if he catches that Ace you are likely going to be committed to draw, but since he now has top pair, even if you pair up on 4th or 5th streets it's not going to be enough to win the pot by accident. Ergo, value is lost relative to another suited connector hand that doesn't need an Ace to make the straight.)

2A - There are no nut-straight possibilities and any straight you make is on the ignorant end and can be beat by a higher straight. Similarly, if you catch that Ace you are still in kicker trouble and if you make two pair (like my friend on Saturday night) you are in very real danger of losing to the guy with the straight.

Thoughts? Fro is an expert at playing little cards in certain situations, so I am sure he might have something to add.

2 Comment(s):

Posted by Blogger Dr Fro, at 7:26 PM, January 17, 2005  

You are absolutely right that JT comes after AK and before KQ and QJ. However, as a practical matter all 3 hands (JT, KQ and QJ) are going to be played the same - for one big blind, but scared of a raise. Ergo, the relative ranking is a bit academic.

On the low ones, I think 67 and 56 are ahead of 45 because if the board shows 2345 or 345, you might catch a guy with the wheel betting the ignorant end of the straight. Sure, all connectors 67 and higher have the potential to catch someone else on the ignorant end, but the tendency of many players to play "Ace-anything" makes it much more likely here.

Finally, (small) part of the value in suited connectors vs connectors is that if you made the straight and there are 2 of your suit on the board, then you are holding 2 of your opponents outs. Rather than him having 9 outs to the flush, he has 7. If there are multiple callers, then the number is probably less than 7.


Posted by Blogger Johnnymac, at 7:54 AM, January 18, 2005  

I disagree with you about KQ and QJ - I usually don't play those hands at all unless I am in late position or otherwise feel that I am calling with the best hand, and unless I hit top pair or better on the flop I will usually not take it any further.

JT, on the other hand, I will often try and limp with from any position and possibly even call a small raise from late position. Part of the strength of JT is exactly the same as for 45 in that you can make a lot of money off of someone recklessly overplaying his big cards.

(I guess the same reasoning would go for QJ and KQ there simply aren't as many outs as JT.)

Also, your point about "taking away outs" as a reason for playing suited connectors (as opposed to unsuited) is an excellent one. In all cases, whether increasing your odds or taking them away from your opponent, the lesson to be taken away is that having two suited cards in your hand means you are giving yourself more chances to win and less to your opponent.


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