Cardplayer Magazine Hand
Playing Suited Connectors in No-Limit Hold'em
By Isaac Haxton
I play high-stakes no-limit hold'em cash games online. I provide exclusive coaching videos for Card Player Pro, powered by PokerSavvy Plus. My columns will center on hands taken from my videos and will explore full-ring and six-max concepts. As a Card Player
reader, you'll have access to clips of these hands and others. In addition to the columns, you can watch videos on CardPlayer.com for a richer learning experience. In this column, we will look at a hand that demonstrates the power of semibluffing with a big draw on the flop.
The first player folded, the next open-raised to $18, the next two players called, and the cutoff called. Of these players, everyone except the first cold-caller had more than $600, and he had about $250. I decided to call from the big blind with the
. With so many callers in, unsuited high cards go way down in value, but pocket pairs, suited aces, and suited connectors go way up. I would be calling here with any suited connectors or one-gappers down to 5-4 suited and 6-4 suited.
With the pot size at $90, the flop came K
I flopped a combo gutshot-straight and flush draw, exactly the sort of flop I'm looking for in a multiway pot with suited connectors. The action was on me to start, and I had to decide whether to check or lead out. With a big draw like this on the flop and anywhere from three to 10 times the pot left to play, my goal is almost always to let other players put a bit more money into the pot before I raise all in. As this column will show, these spots tend to be very profitable, since a big draw has a very good chance of beating even a set if I do get called. David Sklansky coined the term semibluff to describe this type of play, in which you are hoping that your opponent folds to your bet, but you have a strong chance to improve to the best hand if he calls. Moving all in with a combo draw on the flop is the archetypal no-limit hold'em semibluff.
So, am I more likely to set off a chain of events that ends with me shoving by betting or by checking? In this case, checking is best. If I lead out for anything more than half the pot, a raise will probably be to $200 or more, and I will very rarely get a fold when I shove. There is also the somewhat shorter-stacked player who might just shove over my lead. Finally, I might get called in one or more places, which would probably be bad news, especially if my opponents will fold one-pair hands if a club comes on the turn but play them hard if the turn blanks. If I check, there is a good chance that there will be a bet and one or more calls, and I can make exactly the sort of shove I'm hoping to make.
I checked, the preflop raiser checked, the first caller bet $18, the next raised to $96, the next called, and the action came back to me. I moved all in for $591. Everyone folded back around to the cutoff, and he called with a set of sevens. At this point, I was about 35 percent to win and the pot was $1,386. My equity in the pot was .35 x $1,386 = $485, a loss of about $100 relative to folding.
However, I was shoving into a pot of $300, so my semibluff would show a profit if I took it down just over one-fourth of the time and was called by a set the remaining three-fourths of the time. Of course, sometimes I'll be called by hands other than a set. I'm about 45 percent against A-K or 7-6, 33 percent against an ace-high flush draw, and, the worst-case scenario, 18 percent against the K
for top pair and a higher flush draw. I will average anywhere from 33 percent to 37 percent against a reasonable calling range from one opponent. I'm ignoring the situation in which I get called by two opponents, because it will happen very rarely and the math is a bit cumbersome. If I get it in against two sets or a set and two pair, that is actually pretty good for me, but if I am up against a set and a higher flush draw, I am in really bad shape.
If I expect that my bluff wins the pot a third of the time, over three iterations of this situation, my expectation is:
Called twice: lose 2 x $100 = $200
Take it down once: win $300
This hand illustrates why semibluffing with big draws on the flop is such a powerful play. If I bluff $600 into $300 on the river, my bluff has to succeed two-thirds of the time to break even, but when I move in for the same amount on the flop with a big draw, I can "fail" more than two-thirds of the time and still show a profit!
To watch Isaac Haxton comment on and play this hand, point your browser to Card Player Pro, the complete online poker training site, at CardPlayer.com - PokerSavvy.
I was reading this article and just couldn't understand the whole equity part and math involved. I completely understand how he comes up with his equity in the pot with 35% of catching his cards. But the whole loss of 100 thing is confusing, can anyone help?