How often do you see a player like Daniel Negreanu raising with a hand like 10-7 suited and hear about the value of suited connectors and speculative hands? The problem with this, however, is most players don't understand how to play these hands correctly and it leads to a huge chip leak.
What players often do with hands like 10-8 suited is make one of two mistakes. First, they will either check/call, call, or fold. They play the hand passively, hitting a draw and calling bets on the flop and turn only to fold on the river. If they do improve their hand, their opponent knows they were drawing and doesn’t pay off the player and thus they don't receive any value for their hand other than the money already in the pot.
If you want to play speculative hands passively, you are better off folding pre-flop!
Another mistake players make is to overvalue their value. Do not play hands like 9-8 suited looking to flop a pair of 8s; play for trips, straights, flushes... not a weak top pair. However, you'll always see players going broke with a marginal hand because they overvalued it.
If you are thinking of playing a speculative hand, it is important that you know what kind of flops you are looking for. If you get the kind of flop you want, you must be willing to play the hand aggressively. Let's look at an example hand:
A player limps in position with . What kind of flop are they looking for? A flush draw? Trips? Two pair? The miracle straight? That is about it. Not much to pick from, is there?
The flop comes 9-4-3 with two of your suit. You have a pair and a flush draw. This is the kind of flop you play this hand for. If you are going to play A-3 suited, this is exactly the type of flop you want.
When one of your opponents fires out a pot sized bet. What do you do?
You need to first think about what hands will put you in bad shape. There are two... pocket 9s and pocket 4s. Nines can probably be eliminated as they probably would have raised pre-flop. This leaves you with one hand that has you in terrible shape. It's important not to think that your opponent always has the nuts in every hand. It's not probable, so eliminate that negative thought process. Even if he does have a set of 4s, you're only a 2.3:1 dog so it is not as if you are drawing dead.
Their likely holdings are probably more along the lines of a small pair or a hand like A-9. All of these hands you are in a race against. However, if you move all in you might win it right there. Your opponent will most often fold a hand like A-9 or pocket 7s. The only hand that will definitely call you is the aforementioned set or a big over pair and you're a favorite against most over pairs except for aces.
If you are thinking about playing a speculative hand, think about the types of flops you want; if you get this flop, play it fast and hard. If you aren't willing to do so, save yourself the chips and the trouble and fold pre-flop. The proper play of these hands can not only save you chips but can help you accumulate them as well.
The Main Holdem Strategy Index: The Great Game of Holdem
Note: Reading one strategy article should help you ramp up your game, even if it only leads to the thinking that you are going to have to work at poker to get it to pay off, keep reading and studying - don't stop at one. Poker is a game and anyone can play it, but playing it well requires more than a chip and a chair. PokerWorks’ Strategy Section is updating frequently and our informative articles can help you cash on a regular basis. We recommend “Introduction to the Gap Concept” next.