Overall, players love to play suited cards. Picture this scenario: You are sitting in the big blind. As each player folds his or her hand, a player in late position raises four times your big blind bet. After everyone else folds, you look down to see Qh-9h. Wow, suited cards!
What do you do? Let's assume that you decide to call.
Your world just got a lot more complicated after the flop brings Ac-10h-3h -- a flush draw! Now what do you do? You have about a 1 in 3 chance of hitting the flush. Consequently, you end up calling bet after bet, down to the river. If you don't catch the flush, you have to fold, losing valuable tournament chips. Or even worse, you do catch the flush and your opponent has a higher flush. All the while you keep saying to yourself, "But they were suited!"
Does this scenario sound familiar? It happens to a lot of players. Some people just love to play suited cards. And in certain situations, I do too. However, let's review some "flush" statistics if your hole cards are suited:
• You have a 10.9 percent chance of flopping a flush draw
• You have only a 0.84 percent chance (or about 1 out of 120) of flopping a flush.
• You have an overall 6.4 percent chance of making a flush by the river.
These are not the best odds in the world. Yet people still love to play suited cards.
Therefore, to avoid these agonizing postflop situations, you should ask yourself the following questions preflop:
1. Will I be heads-up or in a multiplayer pot? For premium pairs, it is definitely better to play heads-up. But for suited cards, it is better to be multiway to get the best value for your money.
2. What position will I be in? Of course, the later the position, the better. Position is power in no-limit hold 'em.
3. Would I have played this hand if the cards were unsuited? T.J. Cloutier says that if you wouldn't play them unsuited, why are you playing them suited? Suited cards add very little additional value, only about 3 percent. Additionally, the higher your cards, the more likely you will have overcards after the flop, giving you additional outs.
So let's answer these questions with the above scenario:
2. Early position.
3. Maybe, but probably not.
In this case, I would have folded preflop.
Let's take this analysis one step further. Players love to play suited connectors even more. They have seen the pros on television catch amazing flops to bust out a player with aces. However, everyone understands the "suited" part of the phrase, but what about the "connectors" part? Playing suited connectors gives you the potential of catching not only a flush draw, but also a straight draw. Now, if you catch the straight, it can be very powerful, especially if you get the nut straight. However, if you catch the flush, it can be dangerous because another player could have a higher flush to beat you. Although suited connectors can be profitable, they can also be very dangerous.
Let's review the following scenario:
You are sitting in mid-position and look down to see 9c-8c. The pot has been raised four times the big blind by a player in early position. You decide to call the bet, as everyone else folds. As you anxiously await the flop, it comes down Td-7d-5h. This gives you an open-ended straight draw. Of course, it also could give your opponent a possible flush draw if he's holding two diamonds. Your opponent bets three-quarters of the pot. Although your flush possibility shriveled up, you decide to call with your remaining straight draw.
Does this scenario sound familiar? It happens all the time, because suited connectors give you the option of connecting on both a flush and straight draw.
So let's answer the questions with the above scenario:
2. In middle position.
3. Possibly, but probably not
Once again, I would have probably folded preflop.
Now, let's go over a better overall case scenario: You are on the button and see Qh-Jh. After two middle-position players limp in, you decide to limp as well. After the small blind calls and big blind checks, we have a five-handed flop. The dealer reveals Jc-7h-2h.
Now this flop has potential! In addition to the flush draw, you have caught the top pair. Although you do not have the best kicker, it is still an overcard. Additionally, you're in late position, waiting to see what the other players will do.
Now, which scenario would you rather be in?
So let's answer the questions with this scenario:
2. Late position.
Since you answered two of the questions positively and one with a maybe, you would probably play this hand.
Overall, some people love suited cards and some people swear by them (pun intended). Of course, you will sometimes hit the miracle flush on the flop (remember less than 1 percent chance). Or better yet, the runner-runner flush (only 4.2 percent chance) would beat out a set of aces. However, these hands are few and far between. Of course, if you hit the flush, you are likely to take a large pot. But you don't want to rely only on the flush to win the hand. Therefore, give yourself the optimal chance to win by entering the pot with as many outs as you can.
And, maybe next time when someone asks you why you folded a hand you will say, "They were only suited!"
Bernard Lee is a contributing writer for the ESPN Poker Club and is the weekly poker columnist for the Boston Herald. He also hosts Boston's only poker radio show, "The Bernard Lee Poker Show," on Tuesdays from 6-7 p.m. (replayed Fridays from 10-11 p.m.) on 1510 AM, The Zone. For questions or comments, e-mail Lee at BernardLeePoker@hotmail.com.