Raw equity is often over-valued in poker. The raw equity of a hand is its chance to win at a showdown vs. our opponent’s range when there are no other factors at play. For example, 76 suited (76s) vs. our opponents UTG opening range looks something like this:
Hypothetically if neither player could act after this point in the hand, the UTG player would win around 65% of the time, and 76s would only win around 35% of the time.
But there are other components to how good a hand is, not just a hand’s raw equity. Equity Realization and playability of your hands are vital in poker. More playable hands will realize (get to showdown the winner) their raw equity more often. This considers other factors at play post-flop, namely the ability to flop a straight or flush (hit a strong hand) or if you decide to turn your hand into a bluff.
So, 76s would be a very playable hand, one that is likely to realize all its preflop equity post-flop. If we were to look at a hand such as K9 offsuit (K9o) in this situation:
As can be seen from the above example, K9o has more raw equity preflop against our opponents’ range than the 76s, so why isn’t it as good? This is the idea of playability. Many events can happen in a hand of poker; some of the easier hands to play are hands that have good draws.
Equity Realization and Playability
If we flop a flush draw or a straight draw with our smaller suited and connected hand, then we immediately have a highly playable hand that is much more likely to realize its equity. We have outs to improve when we have a draw, and we understand that while we don’t have the strongest hand currently, we can play our draws aggressively, and any flush or straight completing the hand will give us the winner.
The issue with a hand such as K9o is that if we hit a second pair or even top pair (with a mediocre kicker), this can be hard for us to play. We could be hugely behind in the hand or already be ahead. It’s difficult for us to work out as our opponent can easily have stronger hands a fair amount of the time. Because of this, we’re vulnerable to getting bluffed off the hand on the river (or conversely paying someone off light!)
In other words, K9o is not as playable as a suited and connected hand, as it’s unlikely to hit any good straight or flush draws while the pairs that it does flop are weak. This means it is harder to play and less likely to realize its equity post-flop.
Suited and connected combinations such as 76s are highly playable and are likely to realize all their equity post-flop. The more closely connected a combination is, the more equity it will realize with two suited cards and their ability to hit flushes, realizing more equity still.
It’s important to combine these two factors, the extra playability of connectedness and the extra playability from suitedness and play those suited and connected combinations.
Another benefit of suited and connected cards is that they come with some great implied odds. Implied odds simply refer to the total amount of money you could win if you hit one of your outs, and your opponent is likely to put in another bet (and possibly call a raise), or you can bet yourself and be called.
While smaller suited and connected hands are unlikely to hit a strong top-pair type hand, we do not expect to win the hand by simply having a single pair. One thing we can have, as mentioned earlier, is straights and flushes. When you do hit one of these draws on the river, especially when your opponent has a strong, made hand, you’ll be able to extract a ton of value from him and take advantage of the extra implied odds that these smaller suited connected hands can have.