Poker is about winning the most chips, not most hands

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In order to “win better,” our primary goal is to win more money – rather than just more hands. What’s your thought on playing suited hole cards?

There are poker players – foolish souls – who just love suited cards in the hole. They are so beautiful to behold! Give these foolhardy players two suited hole cards and they’ll pay almost anything to see the flop with them – no matter their rank.

Sure, if you stay to see the flop every time in that situation, you are bound to make more flushes than if you were more discriminating. Most of those made flushes would win the pot. Trouble is you would also lose more hands when your flush does not develop; or, if you do make the flush and lose to a bigger flush.

The net result is winning more hands but losing more chips (money)! That is hardly what you want – at least if your goal is to win more money.

Rank is key

You can expect to be dealt two suited hole cards about 24 percent of the time. That includes both suited connectors – about 3.5% of the hands dealt to you; and suited non-connectors – about 20% of your hands. It stands to reason any hole cards that occur so frequently cannot be very valuable – unless they are also of high rank.

Some suited connectors and even suited non-connectors can be quite desirable starting hands, but only if they are high in rank. Why so? If your non-paired hole cards, suited or otherwise, improve on the flop, it is much more likely one of them will pair up; you can expect that to occur fairly often – about one out of three times.

Suited connectors are somewhat more valuable than non-connectors. There is, of course, a chance they can lead to a straight – maybe even a straight flush. But, even so, making those hands are huge long shots.

Example: Starting with two suited cards, the odds against flopping four-to-a-flush are 7.5-to-1. And, then, you still would need to catch another of your suit on the turn or the river. As you can see, it’s much more likely you will pair one of your hole cards. That’s why the rank of your hole cards is so much more important than whether they are suited.

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Conclusion: Usually it is not wise to invest your chips in small suited hole cards, even if they are connectors. Of course, you can never know what will flop. Miracles do happen!

Position important

Suited hole cards are drawing hands that usually must improve to win the pot. Late position offers a big advantage. In general, in a late position, you will know how many opponents are staying to see the flop and whether the preflop betting has been raised.

In a limit game, with only one or two opponents seeing the flop, you can expect a rather small pot. Even if you do connect with the best hand, the investment will hardly be worth the risk. And, if the preflop betting is raised, your investment usually will be much higher than you would like.

Conclusion: Play only hole cards that satisfy the Hold’em Algorithm criteria. That requires higher ranked hole cards, the earlier your betting position. Being suited adds little value. Preferably, with a drawing hand, you would like three or more opponents staying to see the flop, in an unraised pot.

If your suited hole cards improve to a four-flush on the flop: While the odds are much against it, occasionally your suited cards will connect to a four-flush on the flop. Now you have 9 outs; so, using the 4-2 Rule, you can expect to make your flush 1 out of 3 times. Staying to see the turn and, perhaps, the river now would make good sense. The advantage of high-ranking cards is all the more important in case an opponent also stayed in with two hole cards of the same suit.

Suggestion: Look at your hole cards being suited as only a bonus, and use the Hold’em Algorithm in deciding whether to invest in this hand.

“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Contact George at [email protected].

About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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