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How do You Play Speculative Hands?
IntroductionIn this article
- When to play speculative hands
- How to play speculative hands
Speculative hands are hands like suited connectors (78s) and small pairs (44). These hands aren't very good on their own, but you can win big pots when you hit the flop well.
This is why you only play speculative hands in the early phase of a SnG. Your stack is very large in relation to the size of the blinds, which means the ratio between possible winnings and costs of seeing the flop is very high. You can also play speculative hands in the middle phase of a tournament if the right conditions are fulfilled.
We will start by looking at the various speculative hands:
- Suited Connectors
Two cards in numerical order of the same suite.
- Off-suited Connectors
Two cards in numerical order, but not of the same suit.
- One Gap Connectors
Two cards with a single gap in the numerical sequence.
- Suited Aces
An ace with a second card of the same suit.
- Small Pocket Pairs
A small pair dealt to you.
When should you play with a speculative hand?
When you play a speculative hand, pay attention to the following:
- The price is low
The cost of seeing the flop should not make up a large portion of your chips.
- Table image
The table shouldn't be too aggressive before the flop. You don't want someone to raise behind you before you can see the flop.
- The number of opponents in the hand
The more opponents in the hand, the more likely one of them will pay you off when you do hit the flop.
You should play speculative hands in the early phase of a SnG for the most part. The blinds won't be too high and the other players will be less likely to raise before the flop.
- Previous action
There should not have been any raises in front of you.
- Post-flop skills
You need to know how to play after the flop in order to win as much as possible when you do hit. You should also know how to play a drawing hand, since you will often hit a draw on the flop when you have a speculative hand.
How do you play suited connectors?
You can basically hit the flop in one of two ways with suited connectors: straight or flush. When it comes to connectors, you have to differentiate between: JT, T9, 98, 87, 76, 65, 54, which give you the most possible outs, and AK, KQ, QJ, A2, 32, 34, which all have fewer.
Suited connectors can be played well from late position (CO, BU, SB, BB), assuming the conditions above are met. You can also play suited connectors from earlier positions now and then when you are at a very tight table.
Depending on the flop and your post-flop skills, you should proceed as follows: If you hit a complete straight or flush on the flop, try to get the most out of your opponent as you can without scaring him off. If more than two opponents are in the hand, you may have to protect against a draw for a better straight or flush.
If you hit a flush draw or straight draw, you should proceed as advised in the article on Odds and Outs - How do You Play Draws? If you hit a pair (even top pair), you shouldn't try to get all of your chips in the middle. The problem is that you will generally have a weak kicker. The exception to the rule is AKs and, at times, KQs, since you will have a pretty strong hand if you hit top pair.
The odds of being dealt suited connectors with the most possible outs is 2.1%.
Your odds of hitting on the flop are as follows:
- Completed flush: 0.84%
- Flush draw: 10.9%
- Completed straight: 1.3% (when you have the most possible outs)
- OESD: 9.6% (when you have the most possible outs)
- Two pair: 2%
How should you play off-suited connectors?
Off-suited connectors can only hit the flop in one way: the straight. You should play off-suited connectors even less often, since they are less likely to give you a strong hand on the flop. As a basic condition: You must be in late position and no one has raised in front of you.
You should also differentiate between the hands that have the most possible outs (JT, T9, 98, 87, 76, 65, 54) and those which have fewer (AK, KQ, QJ, A2, 43, 32). Once again, you should avoid going all-in if you hit top pair on the flop in the early phase of a SnG.
The odds of being dealt off-suited connectors with the most possible outs is app. 6.3%. The odds of hitting a completed straight or OESD on the flop are the same as with suited connectors.
How should you play one gap connectors?
One gap connectors are almost the same as suited connectors, but with a gap in the numerical sequence (J9, for example). Such hands should only be played from the SB in the early phase of a SnG, if at all.
Suited one gappers are, of course, stronger than off-suited one gappers, since you have a chance at hitting the flush. Once you're on the flop, you can continue as you would with (off)suited connectors.
How should you play suited aces?
Suited aces are mostly played because they can give you the best possible flush. In general, you should only play suited aces if no one has raised in front of you. You can occasionally play suited aces from early or, preferably, middle position if the table image allows.
You can fold without hesitation if you completely miss the flop. If you hit two pair, you will probably have the best hand and should play aggressively. Just be careful not to scare your opponent away with too large of a bet ( > pot size).
Be cautious if you hit top pair. The weaker your kicker, the quicker you can fold. Any kicker weaker than a jack should, in general, be considered weak.
The odds of being dealt a suited ace are ~3,5%. The odds of hitting a flush, flush draw or two pair on the flop are the same as with suited connectors. The odds of hitting top pair on the flop are ~17%.
How should you play small pocket pairs?
Small pocket pairs are almost only played for set value, meaning the chance to hit three-of-a-kind on the flop. The small pocket pairs are: 22, 33, 44, 55, 66.
When you are in the early phase of a SnG, you should try to see the flop as cheaply as possible. No raises should have been made in front of you. If a lot of pre-flop raises are being made at the table, you should avoid playing small pocket pairs from early position. You can call a raise if both you and your opponent have at least 20 * the amount in your stacks (Call20 rule).
You will have to be more careful with your small pocket pairs in the middle phase of the tournament. Smaller stacks are more likely to go all-in and bigger stacks are more likely to show aggression. You shouldn't play small pocket pairs from early position at all. You should also fold if a raise is made in front of you, or if seeing the flop will cost you more than 5% of your stack.
Small pocket pairs are very easy to play after the flop: If you don't hit three-of-a-kind, you don't invest any more chips.
The odds of being dealt a small pocket pair are 2.2%. The odds of hitting three-of-a-kind or better on the flop are 12.7%.
Pre-flop: Hero is in UTG+1 with T J
UTG folds, Hero calls t20, MP1 folds, MP2 folds, MP3 folds, CO folds, Button calls t20, SB calls t10, BB checks
Flop: (t80) 5 4 5 (4 players)
SB checks, BB checks, Hero checks, Button checks
Turn: (t80) J (4 players)
SB checks, BB checks, Hero bets t60, Button folds, SB folds, BB folds
The action has been very reserved - not many raises have been made at the table, which is why you can enter the hand from early position.
You pick up a flush draw on the flop. There is no reason to bet after two players check in front of you. The turn gives you top pair, which, in combination with your flush draw, is reason enough to bet again.
Pre-flop: (8 players) Hero is SB with 9 T
2 folds, MP1 calls t50, 2 folds, Button calls t50, Hero calls t25, BB checks.
Flop: T 2 J (t200, 4 players)
Hero checks, BB checks, MP1 bets t150, Button calls t150, Hero folds, BB folds.
You hit the T on the flop for middle pair. Not a terrible hand, but you can easily give it up after MP1 bets and the BU calls.
Pre-flop: (6 players) Hero is SB with 9 8
2 folds, CO calls t100, Button folds, Hero calls t50, BB checks.
Flop: 8 4 5 (t300, 3 players)
Hero bets t200, BB calls t200, CO folds.
Turn: 7 (t700, 2 players)
Hero bets t400, BB calls t400.
River: 6 (t1500, 2 players)
Hero bets t950, BB calls t950.
Final pot: t3400
Hero shows 9 8
BB doesn't show 5 J
You can make the occasional call from the SB with this hand, as long as your stack is large enough. The flop gives you top pair. You don't really want to see the turn card, so you bet.
Pre-flop: (7 players) Hero is Button with J K
3 folds, CO calls t20, Hero calls t20, SB calls t10, BB checks.
Flop: 5 9 Q (t80, 4 players)
SB bets t20, BB folds, CO calls t20, Hero calls t20.
Turn: J (t140, 3 players)
SB bets t20, CO calls t20, Hero calls t20.
River: K (t200, 3 players)
SB bets t20, CO folds, Hero calls t20.
Final pot: t240
SB showed Q 3
You have just 4 outs for the straight on the flop. The T isn't clean, either, since it could give an opponent a flush. You also have outs for the K, but can't know if hitting any of them will actually give you the best hand.
Calling the 20 chip raise is justifiable, but it's a borderline call and you could just as easily fold.
Then you hit middle pair on the turn. The J could, however, have given someone else a straight; your draw also loses potential. Still, you can make the call, since it's only costing you 20 chips to stay in a 180 chip pot.
Then you hit two pair on the river. The problem is that a flush could have completed, as well, and any T would now have a completed straight. There is no point in raising. There aren't any weaker hands that are going to pay you off, and there are quite a few hands that have you beat, which is why you simply call.
Pre-flop: (9 players) Hero is SB with T 8
UTG calls t20, UTG+1 folds, MP1 calls t20, 3 folds, Button calls t20, Hero calls t10, BB checks.
Flop: K T 8 (t100, 5 players)
Hero checks, BB bets t40, UTG calls t40, MP1 folds, Button calls t40, Hero raises to t240, BB folds, UTG calls t200, Button calls t200.
Turn: J (t860, 3 players)
Hero bets t320, UTG calls t320, Button folds.
River: 9 (t1500, 2 players)
Hero checks, UTG checks.
Final pot: t1500
Hero showed T 8
UTG showed K 9
T8o should only be played occasionally, even from the SB. Your two pair on the flop may very well give you the best hand among the five players.
You decide to check/raise, meaning you check and wait for an opponent to bet before you raise.
The J on the turn increases the danger of running into a straight. Putting 320 chips into a 860 chip pot is not enough in this situation.
2/3 of the pot (app. 600 chips) would have been a decent size to bet with the intent of going all-in on a safe river card. The 9, however, completes too many straights, so you simply check.
Pre-flop: (7 players) Hero is BB with 9 A
UTG calls t20, 3 folds, Button raises to t40, SB folds, Hero calls t20, UTG calls t20.
Flop: J J Q (t130, 3 players)
Hero checks, UTG checks, Button bets t20, Hero calls t20, UTG calls t20.
Turn: 3 (t190, 3 players)
Hero bets t100, 2 folds.
You call the 20 chip flop bet with good pot odds. Then you complete your flush on the turn. The only problem is that your flush won't be the best hand if another jack or queen shows up on the river. You bet a little more than half the pot to a) protect your flush, b) not scare away your opponent, and c) get the most value for your hand as you can.
When playing with speculative hands, remember:
- Only play speculative hands in the early phase of a tournament.
- Try to see the flop as cheaply as possible.
- There should not have been any raises in front of you.
- You aren't trying to hit a pair.
- You are looking to hit a flush or straight (draw), or three-of-a-kind.
- You should usually only play speculative hands from late position. You can make an exception with pocket pairs.
If you hit a strong made hand on the flop, which happens rarely enough, you should play your hand aggressively. You are much more likely to hit a draw, in which case you play according the article Odds and Outs - How do You Play Draws?
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