It’s always nice to look down at your hole cards and see they are the same suit. Being dealt two cards of the same suit happens quite frequently – almost 1 out of 4 hands.
Suited hole cards are so appealing, and it certainly adds to the value of your hand; but just how much? How often do you see players paying to see the flop with any two suited cards? In low-limit games, some will even call a raised bet cold. Are they making a mistake?
Odds and consequences: Starting with two unpaired suited hole cards, there are several ways your hand could improve on the flop. Of course, it would be great if you flopped three more of your suit for the flush; but that’s over a 100-to-1 longshot. For that matter, you can expect to catch two more cards of your suit only about 1 out of 9 times.
That’s still a longshot but could be worth the try. Once you have four-to-the-flush, with two shots (the turn and the river) to connect, then the card odds are less than 2-to-1 against you. With two or more opponents in the pot, you enjoy a Positive Expectancy.
The more chips going into the pot in that case, the more you stand to win. Even if you fail to connect on the turn, you are still getting decent card odds, about 4-1, against making your flush on the river. And, as long as the pot odds are more than 4-1, you would be correct in calling a bet to see the river.
With unpaired hole cards, the odds are about 2-1 you will not improve your hand on the flop. If your hand does improve, more likely it will be to pair one of your hole cards. That will happen 1 out of 3 times. That’s a strong argument for playing only high cards even if they are suited. At least one should be an A, K, or Q.
Hi-Lo hands (one high card and the other a small card) are too easily dominated. (Reference: Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision; see ad in GT.) If you happen to flop a match to your high card, another player who also holds the same high card, most likely has you outkicked.
That could be very costly for you as you bet or call all the way to the river only to lose because of your low kicker. Suited connectors have value primarily because they offer two cards in sequence, open at both ends, with the potential of making a straight. (Of course, a straight flush would be even better!)
Suited connectors are quite rare; expect it only 3.6% of the hands dealt to you. (Reference: Texas Hold’em Poker Textbook by Tom Green; [email protected]).
Defining A-rag: We all know many players love an Ace in the hole, and will stay to see the flop with “Any-Ace,” even an Ace with a small card (7 or lower) – an A-rag. That’s a poor investment. On the other hand, you could make an exception if they are suited.
A-rag suited is playable if the situation meets the criteria of our Hold’em Caveat – a multi-way pot with no raises. Then you are hoping to catch two more cards of your suit to make four-to-the-nut flush. Better yet, of course, would be to flop three of your suit; but that’s such a huge longshot!
Bottom Line: As you can readily perceive, being suited adds relatively little value to your hole cards – perhaps a few percentage points. Much more important is the rank of your hole cards. (Being connected would add still more value.)
It would be a mistake to invest to see the flop based only on the fact your hole cards are suited. We do make an exception when you have A-rag suited – subject to the Hold’em Caveat. We recommend you use the Hold’em Algorithm (reference above) to make that decision.
“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].