No Limit Cash: Rag Ace or Suited Connectors?

Published by AngusD on

No Limit Cash: Rag Ace or Suited Connectors?

Which starting hands do we like to see in No Limit cash games? This might seem like an obvious, simplistic question but, other than the big pairs, it is far from clear which hands serve us best in terms of how easy/difficult it is to play them.

Of course even the magical AA can be an awkward animal and lead us into serious trouble (particularly against two or three opponents), but let’s take as an example a couple of very common holdings that crop up often enough to merit thinking about before we sit down to play.

For example, which hand would we choose between A8 off-suit and 89 suited? The former is, not surprisingly, a considerable favourite against the latter in a heads-up race (around 65%-35%, in fact), but taking practical considerations into account there is an argument for opting for 89 suited as our representative in a pot over what is potentially a rather problematic Ace.

First, suited connectors like this bring with them the prospect of juicy semi-bluff equity when we connect with flops (or are able to reach turns) that give us strong draws, so that we can be aggressive on a flop such as Q67, and really go to town after flopping a pair and turning a straight draw.

Consider also that when we do hit a flop containing a 9 or 8 we are unlikely to be dominated by someone else with one of those cards, and the betting will anyway provide useful information. The same cannot be said if we were holding A8 and the flop brings an ace. We could be ahead against another rag ace, but chances are the opposition has a superior kicker, and this element of doubt is something we should be trying to keep to an absolute minimum in NL. What would compound the problem here is if we had entered the pot with our A8 and subsequently found ourselves hitting a pair, yet being out of position against a lone opponent with possibly three lots of betting ahead of us.

I’m certainly not advocating dumping a holding like A8 off-suit, nor going too far too often with 89 suited and so on, rather that we should appreciate the situations we are likely to find ourselves in, particularly regarding the trouble an ace can land us in without a top kicker, and the (sometimes disguised) stack-winning potential of suited connectors.

Good luck at the tables!

Angus Dunnington (AngusD)
32Red Poker Ambassador

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