My longtime friend, the late Cowboy Wolford, once worked as a host for a California casino, and played a lot of $4/$8 limit hold’em with the regulars. Accustomed to playing no-limit games, it was quite an adjustment for him.
“Straights are what wins in limit,” he confided. Seems he seldom entered a pot unless he held a high pair, and the locals were killing him kindly with their straight draws.
A lot of players believe J-10 suited is the holy grail of connectors, but they forget that even a hand like Q-6 offsuit has a higher card in it. And if you flop either a jack or a 10 as top pair, you don’t have a good kicker, do you?
Though J-10 is attractive, it has definite liabilities. You must play it carefully under the right conditions, such as when you’re in late position in a multiway, unraised pot, or when you’re defending the big blind for a single bet.
If the pot has been raised and called before it gets to you, you are a definite underdog; being suited doesn’t increase its value enough to justify calling a raise. The real strength of J-10 is the 10. You can’t make a straight without a 10 or a 5, so the power of J-10 is the number of straights you can make with it.
Beware playing J-10 in tournaments because it can cost you dearly. Suppose you call a pre-flop bet and you flop some possibilities. You call a bet on the flop, and the turn comes with blanks. Now what?
“I’ve already lost two bets before the flop and a bet on the flop,” you might think, “and now it’ll cost me a double bet on the turn. But I’ve got so much money in the pot already, I’m gonna continue.” That’s the dilemma hands like J-10 can put you in. Take your loss and move on to the next hand.
How about 8-7 suited? It’s not a hand you can profitably play in early to middle position, but if you’re in late position and a few limpers are in the pot, that’s a different story – now you have position with at least two callers in front of you. But still, you have to get a perfect flop to a hand that’s only eight-high.
The higher your connectors, the better off you are. The danger in playing small suited connectors is they often make the weak end of the straight. If you have 5-4 suited, for example, the only time you can make the nut straight is when A-2-3, 2-3-6, or 3-6-7 are on the board. If the flop comes 8-7-6, you can be in a world of hurt with the “idiot” end of the straight.
A flush is not what you’re hoping to make if your small connectors are suited. Let’s say you flop a flush. Any player who has a single higher card in your suit can make a bigger flush on the turn or river if a fourth suited card hits the board, and most of them will call to see fourth street. If the fourth flush card comes on the turn, be cautious in deciding whether to continue with the hand.
You can defend your big blind with small connectors in multiway pots, and you can call from the small blind when it costs you only half a bet more to see the flop. If you’re in very late position, you might play 8-7, 6-5, or 5-4 for a single bet when at least two other people are in the pot and you don’t think either of the blinds will raise.