When Should I Play Suited Connectors?

Introduction to Suited Connectors

Two cards in sequential order of the same suited are suited connectors. They are appealing on the eye and have great value under the right circumstances. Many a professional’s have suited connectors as their favourite hand in Texas Hold’em. Many cash game players will attest to suited connectors being their most profitable hand group. Pull up the stats on your poker software. Are they making you lots of money? If not, this article should help you understand when to play them.

When Not To Play Suited Connectors

Short stacks

This is not the time to play the 56 suited. You want big cards that fare well in pre flop confrontations. These types of hands will do poorly against hands the likely hand ranges you will face. Let’s look at 4d 5d. It is about 41% against an Ace King and 22% against a pair of 9s. Not scenarios that work well for the 4-5 suited. The same is true if your opponent has a short stack, you can’t play the suited connector for full value.

Out of Position

Suited Connectors are difficult to play effectively out of position. The fact is, you cannot control the betting how you wish when you first to act. If you flop a draw or a low pair, how do you proceed? It’s tricky isn’t it? It’s hard to get the full value when you do hit too so be careful playing these hands out of position. Against a weak table you can pull it off but not on the tougher tables.

Against The Best Players

Calibre of opponent is always a consideration at the table when you are entering a pot. Whilst suited connectors are a joy to win big pots with, sometimes you need to tighten up and play premium hands. If there is an amazing player at your table who can hand read well and difficult to extract value from then playing the suited connector to one of his raises might not be wise.

How to Play Suited Connectors

The key to playing suited connectors is to get in cheap and break your opponents. Play them multi-way and in position. Try to make your hand before investing lots of money or chips.

When You Can Play Suited Connectors

Deep Stack Poker

They are great when stacks are deep and you can crack a big pair or top pair top kicker hand that your opponent is overplaying. This is where implied odds are brilliant. You can afford to call a 2.2bb raise if you know you can win 125 bbs.

In Position

Position is the best isn’t it? You can get away with playing hands you just wouldn’t if you were having to act first all hand. This is true for suited connectors too. I will happily call a raise on the button with 8s 9s against a tight player, knowing their range and able to get value or take it away later in the hand. This is why you can play suited connectors in position, because you have more opportunities to bluff or semi bluff later in the hand.

Multiway

They play best when there’s lots of players involved. You are not playing this hand for top pair. You are aiming to hit strong hands and get paid from players overplaying top pair type hands. That’s why you shouldn’t mind facing several opponents with these hands.

Poker Out of Position Sucks Doesn’t it?

Playing poker out of position can feel like your playing blind folded or in the dark, not knowing what your opponent will do!

Introduction to Poker Out of Position

The majority of poker enthusiasts have heard playing poker out of position is worse than in position, but they don’t truly understand the reasons why.  Why is it such a bad idea to play pots out of position? Why can’t I win as much playing out of position? This article will look at three reasons why playing poker out of position sucks.

Lack of Information

Poker is a game of information; you’re trying to find out what your opponents have while hide the hand you have. You’re trying to gain information throughout a hand intuitively so you can make the best decisions possible. The truth is, when you are out of position, you lack information on your opponents. You are always acting before them and don’t know what they are going to do. You are left with two main options, check and play carefully or bet into the unknown. Neither are great options, you’re either inflating the pot at times you don’t want to or playing passively.

It’s Difficult to Pot Control Effectively

As discussed in a previous article, pot control is very important to the expert poker player. They want to play poker on their terms, manage pot size how they want, relative to their hand strength, opponent and position. This is a challenging task to say the least when you’re playing pots out of position.

How can you control the pot when you’re the first to act? Bet and they can raise, check and they can bet still. When you’re in position, you are closing the action on each round of betting. This is better as it affords you the opportunity to check back, call, bet or re raise at your discretion.

Hard to Maximise Value

Another problem with playing poker out of position is the times you make your hand and want to get value; you will find it is hard to get the maximum. You’ll often find your opponent is just calling you, checking back or folding. You may make a turn call on a draw, hit your hand and then the dilemma comes on the river. Are you going to bet into your opponent? If so, how much is right to value bet? Are you going to try and check raise? Woe when your opponent checks back and you get nothing.

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Conclusion

There are times when you have to play out of position in poker, perhaps your hand is strong or you’re getting great pot odds against a weak player. But don’t look to play too many pots when you are learning as you will find it very difficult. Even the best of players doesn’t enjoy it and recognise most of their profits come from playing poker in position. Don’t handicap yourself playing pots out of position with questionable hands.

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Ace King – Everything You Need to Know

Introduction to Ace King

Known as “Big Slick”, Ace King is one of the strongest hands in Texas Holdem. This is a hand that many a player are unsure how to play, with most players prone to overplaying it. Whilst Ace King is unquestionably a premium starting hand, the context of the situation will determine its relative strength.

Ace King Maths

Looking at the maths, you are far more likely to be dealt Ace king then pocket aces or pocket kings. There are are more combinations of this hand than aces or kings. Ace king suited is better than an off suit ace king, represented by the fact that suited achieves 5-7% better equity than its off suit counterparts.

It’s also worth pointing out at that if your opponent has pocket aces or kings than you are a big underdog (unsurprisingly) with approximately 6% chance against aces and 30% against kings.

Context is Everything with Ace King


The situation should guide the way you play big slick. If stacks are shallow, its an amazing hand and you want to get your chips in with it. Tournament players will rarely fold A-K late in a tournament as stack sizes are rarely deep enough to warrant it. They understand that they are only doing badly against aces or kings.

Tournament players will happily take a coin flip, if necessary. Whilst this is a reasonable proposition when stacks are shallow or you are facing aggressive opponents, it’s not always the best mentality. This is particularly true if you consider yourself the best player at the table.

Slow Structured Tournaments

In an expensive and slow structured tournament, ace king’s value for committing you’re your stack before drops significantly. You are more likely to be up against kings or aces when strong players commit their tournament life. Obviously, this is player dependent but the reality is, strong tournament players are not committing their entire stacks lightly early in deep stack events (there are exceptions).

Early in a Tournament


If it’s early in a tournament or you are facing a tight player opening from early position, consider a more prudent approach to playing. Most beginner players see A-K and want to re raise regardless of the situation. This is a foolish way to play. Not only are you disregarding position, stack sizes, opponent and the value of deception, you are also giving away information to your opponents . You’re saying “I always re raise with ace king”.

Flat calling raises with A-K, particularly in heads up pots can be no bad thing. In situations when your opponent is dominated before the flop and would otherwise fold, you can often extract a lot of value.

Final Thoughts on Big Slick

Ultimately your ability and confidence in playing post flop poker will guide how you intend to play ace king. A strong and experienced player can vary his style and adopt flat calls and 3 bets as he sees fit. A novice should be more inclined to play straightforward poker, particularly at low stakes.

With under 75 BBs in a tournament against an opponent who isn’t a nit – you can safely commit your stack. It’s best if you you are getting the last bet in. If it’s more than 75 BBs and the player is tight or there are multiple raises, throw it away and move on to the next hand.

I hope you found this article on Ace King useful. If you are keen to learn more about how it can be played in tournaments or cash games, feel free to email us at info@texasholdemquestions.com.

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Poker Squeeze

What is the Poker Squeeze?

A phrase given to a pre flop play in Texas Holdem where a player will re-raise over an initial raise and one or more pre-flop calls. It is usually with the intention of picking the pot up before the flop without showdown. When executed properly, the poker squeeze is one of greatest pre-flop plays. It’s a move we regularly offer in our poker training too.

History of the Squeeze Play

Twenty years ago, the squeeze was not even a play as such. A few of the best players probably did it without giving it the name but it was seldom used. Then Dan Harrington brought out his tournament books and with it, a revolutionary concept. Tight aggressive players found a new weapon to use and exploit opposition with.

However, poker is an evolving game with trends and once this strategy was being used all the time, winning players started taking note and with it, a shift in mentality. No longer could the squeeze play be used with impunity as you were likely to get 4 bet by a competent and thinking player. Or they would flat call an open with AA/KK from an aggressive player, hoping you would squeeze.

The pendulum has swung back again though and it is not a move mentioned too often. It’s used less than the aftermath of its revelation to the poker world. It’s a brilliant move to use but only if the ingredients are there and you don’t over use it.

When is the Right Time to Squeeze?

The squeeze play loosely rests on the assumption that the open raiser is unlikely to be holding a premium hand. The theory being that a flat caller is also unlikely to be super strong, otherwise, they surely would have re-raised themselves. Whilst this is logical you need certain factors to be on your side for the squeeze to be successful. Please consider the factors below before squeezing.

Stack Sizes

It baffles me when poker players try a squeeze and are priced in, disregarding stack sizes. Have a close look at the stack sizes when you are considering a squeeze. It’s possible that a flat caller is setting a trap when short stacked.

Your Table Image & Reputation

If you have a reputation for creative 4 bets and tricky aggressive moves then it far less likely to work. You must have a solid table image at the time of making a squeeze. Your squeeze has to be credible i.e. your opponents need to believe that you are likely holding a premium hand.

Calibre of Opponent

If your opponent has shown no inclinations to fold before the flop, do not consider squeezing. Whilst your logic that they are weak pre flop could be true, it does not mean they will fold. You can still squeeze if you wish but be prepared to play a big pot!

Position

As always, position is important. It’s better to be squeezing in position than out of position obviously. You prefer to play the hand in position for the rest of the hand if you get called. It’s not essential to be in position when squeezing though. After all, the intention is to pick it up pre flop. However, it is another factor to consider.

Hand Strength

There’s no use turning very playable hands and positive scenarios into wasteful ones by squeezing. If you are holding a suited connector or a little pair in position, multi-way, then it’s best to play the pot and try to get value. A squeeze is usually better to do with a hand of little value or good blockers, e.g. Ace Three.

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Under the Gun is No Fun

What does under the gun mean in poker?

Don’t worry it doesn’t mean there’s a rifle above your head. Under the gun is a phrase in poker referred to the position when acting first before the flop in Texas Holdem. From a strategic point of view, it is the worst position to be in as you have the least information available at that point. You have 8 players to act behind you before the potential to see the flop. For this reason, it is usually identified as a position that requires playing fewer and stronger hands. Even the loosest of of loose aggressive (LAG) players know that it is unprofitable to play a wide range of hands from under the gun.

under the gun
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Why do I need to play tighter from under the gun?

It is not just about having less information before the flop. One must remember that Texas Holdem is played across multiple rounds of betting. By playing from under the gun, you will often be the first to act on each street or between players. This makes it very challenging to play hands and pot control how you wish. Look at the example hand below to illustrate this.
 

Example Hand from Under the Gun

You decide to raise from under the gun with:

You are called by 1 player in mid position (loose), a tight aggressive player on the button and the big blind too. Everyone has deep stacks.

The flop comes:


The big blind checks. What do you do? You are in a tricky position as you have 2 people behind you but you also have 2nd pair and a good kicker. Betting and check- deciding both seem reasonable but what about the turn and river too? What is your plan? You are prone to getting bluffed out as your hand can’t take much resistance and you can’t expect to value bet with impunity.

Unless you make a very strong hand that is easy to play or you are heads up against one of the blinds, it is not an appealing option to be playing weak or medium strength hands from under the gun. This is only desirable if you can paly post flop excellently and have a weak table.

Final Thoughts

Strong players are opening their range of raising hands when in early position. They have correctly read that players will fold reasonable hands when facing an open raise. There is also deception in open raising the suited connectors and suited aces from early position. A word of caution of to you though. This is only profitable to the most experienced of players who are confident in awkward post flop scenarios. Playing a wide range of hands from under the gun will place you in tricky scenarios that can cost you chips.

So, next time you have K-T or A-8 under the gun, think twice!

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Battle of the Blinds – Tips to Win

Battle of the Blinds Introduction

People don’t talk about blind battles much and I don’t know why? Every round you have a decision to play from these positions and a reasonable amount of the time it’s just the two of you.

How many times does it fold to the small blind and you pray he will give you a walk? Or you’re in the small blind and dreading raising but do it anyway?

Let’s start with some reasonable assumptions about how our most players play in battle of the blinds.

  1. People always assume you are stealing in blind battles.
  2. Players generally try to bluff more in the blinds both pre and post flop.
  3. Your opponents don’t like to fold a pair heads up in blind battles.

Now we have some basic facts and assumptions, we can adjust our strategy accordingly.

Playing From The Small Blind


As people often think we will be stealing; we need to be more straightforward. Our strategy for playing in the small blind is obviously to win the pot…But what is the best way to accomplish this?

I suggest playing the strong hands for value by raising and betting. We should be more cautious and try to show down our weak showdown hands like Ace or King high by checking and bluff catching.

As weak as it sounds, with weak hands, we should only complete the big blind. We can then make probe bets after the flop; hoping our opponent has missed. This is a realistic way of winning the pot. The big blind will respect the fact we have not just tried to steal pre flop and often just fold post flop.

It is not in our interest to raise and inflate the pot from the small blind with junk hands. The only time this is profitable is if the opponent is very tight or disinterested and likely to fold. The majority of players will defend wide from the big blind. Therefore, we need to be more careful as they suspect we are stealing the blinds.

Playing From The Big Blind


We will be in position throughout the hand so we should defend wide either by calling pre-flop raises or putting in a 3 bet pre-flop ourselves. Both strategies work very well as we have 2 things working for us before the flop is even dealt. We are the pre-flop aggressor and we have position. When we have strong hands, we also have the mathematical edge on our side too.

In the big blind, you should intend on playing as many hands against the small blind as possible. They will often be raising pre-flop just to steal with no consideration on how they will play post flop. In fact, many of these pre-flop raisers will give up on the flop and an even greater give up when called with a continuation bet. This is an effective strategy to countering both strong and weak players.

I hope this article has made you think about the battle of the blinds more. If you use the tips in this post, you should fare better in the future.

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Top 5 Overrated Poker Hands

Overrated Poker Hands

Poker players love to play as many hands as they can get away with. They do this despite evidence showing that certain hands are costing them money. In this article, I’m going to highlight the five most commonly overrated poker hands in Texas Hold’em. That doesn’t mean they won’t have value though. It just means people tend to overplay them at micro and low stakes games online.

Ace Queen Offsuit

This is a hand even professionals often get into trouble. When was the last time you watched poker after dark or WSOP and you saw someone fold this pre-flop? What TV doesn’t show is the hours of patience some players will employ. In position or first in it’s a great hand. But, if you’re up against a tight player who’s raised under the gun or re raised your early position open, this is easy fold, contrary to what you often see. Even those who profess to say this is an easy fold in the above scenario end up stubbornly calling down.

Mid pocket pairs

These pesky middle pairs often get players into trouble. Players often call a 3 bet pretending in their heads they will “get away” when they don’t flop a set. They then hang on to the river when there’s one or two overcards. This can be very costly!

Mid pocket pairs work well against LAGs and in position but are often overplayed against solid players and regs, particularly in full ring games.

Ace Rag

An obvious one here, the old ace rag. If you’re in the blinds and you flop top pair, remember the kicker with your top pair and who you’re facing. Likewise, if you’re in a position and calling a raise with this just because your opponent is active. What do you hope to hit or are you just trying to take away later? If so, why does it matter that you have an ace?

A disclaimer here for suited aces though. I love them hands and they can make you a lot of money in cash games.

Small Suited Connectors

The number of players who see Phil Ivey play these hands profitably and think they can too is staggering. Use common sense, these “numbers” are the lowest in the deck. A single pair is rarely enough to win and hard to get shown down. So, you’re hoping for three of a kind/two pairs and straights when you play these hands. Let’s not forget the higher cards have just as good a chance of making these hands and more likely to win too.

Queen Jack Offsuit

This is a trappy hand for many. You hit top pair and you have a reasonable kicker right? But if you’ve called a raise or opened and caught your top pair, how good is it when facing resistance? Neither kicker is great in a raised pot, are they? Hands that play against queen jack often have them dominated.

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