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February 22nd, 2010
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Poker Lesson: Making the Connection
Author: Isaac Baron
When you’re playing ABC poker, you always want to start with premium hole cards. Hands such as pocket Aces or A-K suited are solid, no-nonsense cards and it’s reasonably easy to figure out whether or not you have the best hand. Once you’ve mastered these basic starting hands, it’s time to widen your range. This means learning to obtain maximum value from hands such as 9-8s or 6-5s, otherwise known as ‘medium suited connectors’.
When holding medium suited connectors, most beginners are either scared or overconfident. Both attitudes lead to leaks in their game. To play these cards correctly, approach them with a balance of caution and confidence.
The first thing I consider is position. I like to play suited connectors as often as possible (assuming my opponent isn’t severely short-stacked and looking to get all-in versus anything) but it’s a better play in position. You won’t make many huge hands with these cards – expect to make second or third pair often – so position gives you more information, enabling you to make better decisions.
I want to see a cheap flop with as many players involved as possible – the more the merrier. This is a key factor in my decision to play or fold. 8-7s doesn’t hold up in a battle against K-K – you’re a roughly 4 to 1 underdog and you won’t take the pot down often enough to justify calling. However, when there are more people in the hand, there is more money in the pot. If you can cheaply see a flop in a multi-way hand, your potential payback outweighs your odds of not winning the hand.
Moreover, the possibility of hitting the nuts and getting a huge payout from a weaker hand increases with more players in the hand. You’ll also increase the chances of facing a weak player. This is an edge you should always look for, especially when you’re holding medium suited connectors. Weak or novice players often find it difficult to lay down their cards when they make a hand. So, when you’ve got the nuts, they will pay you off big time.
Playing medium suited connectors properly requires a level of sophistication and the ability to make good reads. When you’re comfortable putting your opponent on a narrow range of hands, and good enough to be right most of the time, then you’re ready to start playing these cards more aggressively and more often. I play suited connectors a lot, especially against opponents who put in too much money with hands like top pair or over-pairs.
As I said before: play with a mixture of caution and confidence. If you have position, use the information to decide whether or not you have a strong hand. The worst case scenario is hitting a small to medium flush and losing to a bigger flush. I see a lot of people losing value because they’re scared of this. Don’t be scared – if you’re just playing medium suited connectors in the hope of flopping the nuts, never making plays or making light call-downs, you’re not going to show very much profit.
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