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Holdem: Preflop Hand Categories (Part II - Suited Cards)
- Holdem: Preflop Hand Categories (Part I - Pocket Pairs)
- Holdem: Preflop Hand Categories (Part III - Offsuit Cards)
Big Suited Broadway (AKs-ATs, KQs, and KJs).
These are very strong hands. They often make top pair with a strong kicker, usually enough to win. Being suited, they also sometimes make a big flush, capable of winning a massive pot against many opponents. They play well against many or few opponents. They shine in both passive and aggressive games.
If the pot is unraised, you should usually raise with any of these hands. If the game is tight, it may be better to limp from early position to lure opponents with weaker hands into the pot.
With a raise in front of you, be careful with AJs, ATs, KQs, and KJs. You may be dominated by the raiser. Call only if the raiser will raise with many hands, or if there are already several others in the pot. With AKs and AQs, you can play against a tight raiser. In fact, you should usually reraise with AKs.
A note about tight raisers: Any tight raiser requires a high-quality hand to raise. Some are aware opposition, however. Such a player will loosen his raising requirements as his position improves, especially if he is first to enter the pot. If you have AJs, for instance, and a position-aware, tight raiser raises from under the gun, you should fold unless you expect a multiway pot. But if the same player raises, first to enter the pot, from late position, you should usually reraise with AJs. His range of possible hands is much broader from late position.
Other tight raisers do not adjust their range of hands with position. These players tend to be weak and passive and raise only with the very best hands (perhaps only pocket aces through queens). Against such a player you should fold AJs when he raises, no matter his position. His raise almost always indicates a monster hand, so avoid him.
Little Suited Broadway (QJs, KTs, QTs, and JTs).
These hands are strong against opponents with weak hands. They make top pair with a decent kicker, a good hand if not dominated. Top pair with these hands is not nearly as strong as top pair with the big suited Broadways, though. For instance, if the flop comes ten high, and you hold king-ten suited, three overcards can come to beat your pair. To compensate somewhat for this weakness, they make straights more often than the big suited Broadways. Again, they can also make big flushes and win large pots.
Because their straight potential is strengthened, but their top pair potential weakened, these hands arc better multiway. If your opponents are willing to play weak hands, frequently the case in small stakes games, the little suited Broadways are quite profitable even from out of position.
If the pot is unraised, you should limp with these hands from early or middle position. You would like to encourage loose limpers behind you. From late position, you can raise no matter how many limpers there are. Because of its flush potential, your hand plays well in a large pot. To play against a raise however, you must be sure the pot will be multiway.
Suited Aces (A9s-A2s).
Suited aces are good hands in loose games. They have decent high card strength (the ace) and can make the nut flush. They, especially A7s and below, play best in a loose and passive game.
In a loose game, they make much more money when they make the nut flush. Notwithstanding their high card strength, the smaller suited aces are fundamentally speculative hands, deriving much of their value from their flush-making ability.
Despite what many players think, the size of the kicker is important. A9s is a much better hand than A2s. First, a pair of nines is far more likely to win a showdown than a pair of deuces.
Second, a nine is often enough to win a kicker war, while a deuce obviously never is. Many loose games feature players who play any ace, suited or not, no matter the circumstances. If an ace flops, opponents will often have hands like A6 (offsuit). In that circumstance, a bigger kicker is the difference between winning and "chopping" (or losing).
Some players also mistakenly conclude that A5s-A2s are better than A9s-A6s because they can make a wheel. While the wheel possibility is useful, it generally does not overcome the high card strength of the latter hands. A6s and A5s run closely in strength (the wheel potential is worth slightly more than one pip of high card strength), but otherwise the bigger hands are better.
If the game is passive, you can play any of these hands from any position in an unraised pot. In a somewhat aggressive game, play only A9s and A8s from up front, but fold even these if the pots are frequently going to three bets or more. From middle position or later, limp in with these hands if the pot is still unraised. From late position, consider raising with A9s or A8s after limpers if your opponents are loose. Usually fold all these hands, however, if it is raised in front of you. Cold-calling raises with these hands in short-handed pots is a common and costly mistake.
Suited Kings (K9s-K2s).
These are weak, speculative hands. They have marginal high card strength: As long as you are not dominated (a common problem with these hands), a pair of kings will win many pots.
They are significantly weaker than suited aces, though, mainly because a pair of aces is stronger than a pair of kings. They require loose and passive conditions to be profitable. Again, a higher kicker makes these hands more valuable; K9s is a fairly strong hand, while in most circumstances K2s is unprofitable.
In a loose and passive game, you can limp in with K9s from early position (but not with K8s or less). Otherwise, fold all of these hands from up front. From the button, you can limp with most of these hands if two or three weak and loose players have limped in front of you. Never cold-call a raise with any of these hands.
Suited Connectors (T9s-54s, J9s-64s, Q9s-96s, Q8s, and J7s).
These are all speculative hands with little high card strength. They feature the ability to make flushes and many straights. These hands play best in loose and passive games. Passive play by your opponents after the flop is particularly crucial for the weaker of these hands (87s-54s, T8s-64s, J8s-96s, Q8s, and J7s). You will often flop weak draws: a gutshot straight draw, middle or bottom pair, or a backdoor flush draw. With these hands, aggressive opponents will often bet and raise, knocking you out of the pot.
Against passive opponents, you will get free or cheap cards, giving you more chances to get lucky. You also need to be able to see the flop for one bet. With a few exceptions, you cannot overcome your preflop disadvantage if you must pay two or more bets to see the flop.
Fold all of these hands in early position unless the game is very passive. When that is the case (preflop raises on ten or fewer percent of hands), limp in with only the strongest of these hands (T9s and J9s) from up front. In middle position, limp with the top fifty percent of these hands if the pot will be multiway and a raise unlikely. You can usually play any of these hands for one bet on the button. Fold if the pot has been raised in front of you unless there are many players already in, and you have one of the stronger hands of this category.
Junk Suited Hands (Any Suited Hand Not Yet Mentioned).
Any suited hand not mentioned so far is too weak, even for one bet on the button, to play profitably. Unless you are in the blinds, fold them every time. Playing junk suited hands is an extremely common error, among the most common in small stakes games. These hands simply do not win enough.