Armani grey three-quarter suit jacket: $700
Joseph Abboud wool charcoal stripe: $595
Hugo Boss three-button black suit (my favorite): $495
Being suited before the flop, in the eyes of an amateur: Priceless
Before the flop: 24 percent
Before the flop, you'll be dealt suited cards 24 percent of the time. Yes, about one out of four hands, you'll get that "Oooh, I might flop a flush" feeling, and be tempted to play your suited hole cards. But before getting your money into the pot, think for a second: How valuable can being suited be if it happens nearly one out of four hands? At a 10-handed table, more than two players at the table are likely to be suited on any particular deal. Short answer: The suits of the cards aren't nearly as important as the ranks of the cards. Overestimating the value of being suited is a common weakness among novice and amateur players.
After the flop: 10.9 percent
If you're playing suited cards, you'll flop a flush draw about 10.9 percent of the time, or just about one out of nine hands. Many novice players have no problem committing their entire stack to the pot after flopping a flush draw. In truth, this is usually not a good play. They'll only complete the flush about 35 percent of the time by the river. If playing a flush draw against a set, the flush draw will only win the pot about 25 percent of the time. In short, this is usually a bad proposition.
Opponents that play no-limit hold'em well will inevitably make a big enough bet after the flop to make chasing the flush draw a bad play. Great players recognize when an opponent is on a flush draw. A sign I normally look for is the "quick call" -- when an opponent calls my pot-sized bet quickly, I put them on the flush draw. If they had a good or decent hand, they'd have to give raising some thought. If they had a moderate-strength or bad hand, they'd have to give folding some thought. But with a draw, the call for most players of average ability is nearly automatic -- and quick.
Runner-runner: 4.2 percent
If you're suited, you'll flop exactly one of your suit 41.60 percent of the time. Chasing a flush now can get very expensive: you'll only make a flush by the river, the old "runner-runner" play, about 4.2 percent of the time (one out of 23 times). Having an extra 4.2 percent chance to win is nice, but shouldn't really affect much of your decision making after the flop.
Miracle flop: 0.84 percent
When playing suited cards before the flop, most players far overestimate their chances of flopping a flush. I've asked hundreds of people what they believe their chances of flopping a flush are, and in my estimation, the "average" answer is about 3 percent. Some people even believe that they'll flop a flush about 5 percent of the time. This is way off. In actuality, you'll only flop a flush in one out of 121 suited hands. This is extraordinarily rare.
The problem with flopping a flush, of course, is that even when you're fortunate enough to do so, it is nearly impossible to get significant action with the hand. Opponents freeze up and refuse to commit chips to the pot when the board comes with three cards of the same suit. If they do commit chips to the pot, very often they'll be drawing to the nut flush (which they'll make about 27 percent of the time) or a set (which will fill up about 33 percent of the time).
So generally speaking, to have enough money to afford a nice wool pinstripe custom-tailored Hugo Boss suit, avoid overvaluing being suited. Pay more attention to the ranks of the cards and your position and your results are sure to improve. Overplaying suited hands is a great way to turn a flush bankroll into a trip to the ATM.
Phil Gordon is a World Poker Tour champion, host of Bravo's "Celebrity Poker Showdown," and plays online exclusively at FullTiltPoker. Phil Gordon's educational poker DVD, "Final Table Poker", is available at ExpertInsight.net and his new "Little Green Book" is available now.