These two groups of hands are normally considered 2nd tier, but are often included in late position and blinds ranges so they need to be covered.
I advise readers to refer to previous articles Suited Broadways and Suited Connectors for comparison.
Offsuit Broadways (excluding AKo and AQo, which were covered in Big Aces article) represent 7.24% of all starting hand combinations.
This is three times as many hands as their suited counterparts, which is important to note because including these hands in a range significantly impacts the size of the range and the opponents will notice this fact quickly (= less fold equity, more aggression from opponents). The 3:1 ratio applies to any other offsuit / suited hand.
Hand strength = Offsuit Broadways have decent raw equity, but in cash games they are best suited for playing / winning small pots because in many situations they end up with a medium strength holding (usually some kind of TP / MP).
Speculative value = The only nutted holdings are nut straights (which are dominated on flush draw / flushed boards by their suited counterparts) and full houses / quads.
Since these nutted hands are fairly uncommon, loss of fold equity that follows from range size expansion, combined with the need to keep pots small, makes the hands themselves borderline. One card flushes are generally problematic due to domination issue and inability to get paid much by lower one card flushes (reading opponents and precise bet sizing is critical for value extraction).
Lack of decent backdoor flush possibilities hurts the profitability of OOP continuation betting. With a suited Broadway on a rainbow board we pick up valuable flush draws on the turn 20% of the time, while with an offsuit hand on a two tone board, we only get a weak one card FD when the opponent may have the flush or a better FD.
Position = All offsuit Broadways are best played in position (CO or BTN vs blinds, BB vs SB) but can be played OOP (BB vs BTN situations) against wide ranges. They are often optimally played conservatively because they are decent bluff catchers, which dislike big pots.
Previous action in the hand = These hands need to be folded against heavy preflop action due to severe domination issues. Ideal scenarios are late position blind stealing and blind defense against weak ranges.
Suited gappers (J9s-64s) represent only 1.81% of all starting hand combinations.
They are speculative hands that differ from suited connectors in 2 ways:
- They make one less two-card straight (three instead of four)
- Those straights are less likely to be anticipated / dominated, meaning on average they pay off slightly more
Hand strength = Suited gapers are weak in raw equity.
Speculative value = Slightly worse than suited connectors, but suited gappers still have decent ability to make strong hands by the river. They have to be careful when they make flushes due to domination issues.
Position = Good hands in position, ideally played in CO / BTN. They can be used in the blinds but this is not optimal (unless it is BB vs SB).
Previous action in the hand = They can overcall (raiser + callers) in position and even in the blinds if there are 2+ callers. Should be open folded against raise + 3bet (or squeeze). Good hands for blind stealing from CO / BTN.
In order to better explain the difference between connectors and gappers, we can compare 98s and 97s.
98s makes four straights:
- Board QJT(xx): 98s is on the bottom end and needs to be very careful of AK. K9s is possible but highly unlikely except vs BTN / blinds.
- Board JT(xx)7: 98s can get value from sets, JTs, OESDs, pair + gutshot (T9s, 87s) and nut gutshot hands. There are problems if one of remaining cards is Q, K or A (because of cooler threat from nut straights). If the board pairs then FH / quads are possible but this applies to all straights.
- Board T(xx)76: 98s is safe from coolers and can extract value from lesser hands
- Board (xx)765: 98s is coolering 43s and can extract value from lesser hands
The main issue is that cautious players will often take 98s into account and will be vary of paying off too much (sizing!).
97s makes three straights:
- Board JT(x)8(x): 97s can get value from many made hands (sets, JTs) and drawing hands (pair + OESD, nut gutshots) while the opponents can reasonably assume we have a similar type of holding.
- Board T(x)8(x)6: 97s is obviously a threat, but there are many hands that have equity here and will pay off (our bet sizing and aggression of opponents are important factors).
- Board (x)8(x)65: 97s is safe from coolers and can extract value from sets / 65s / draws.
Overall suited gapers are weaker than connectors but can be used to balance ranges when necessary (small increase to range sizes does not impact fold equity that much). They appear less often in typical ranges, so payoff is slightly greater, which helps mitigate lesser speculative value.
This is the last Hand Quality article, next up is how to construct ranges with these hand groups, and that is where the fun really starts ☺