Same Hand, Different Game Vol. X: Gapped Connectors

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In poker, sometimes the hand you hold has differing capabilities depending upon the game that you’re playing. What would be a great hand in one form of poker will, in essence, be total junk in another discipline of the game. In this continuing series of articles, we’ll examine particular hands and what strategies a player should put in place because the same hand isn’t always the best in different games.

Gapped Connectors – Useful Only On Rare Occasions

When you look into your hole cards and find a gapped connector – either a “one gapper” such as K-J or 10-8, or a “two gapper” such as Q-9 or 9-6 (or lower, in both cases) – most of the time you’re going to look to shoot these cards into the muck. There will be times, however, when you will get a chance to play cards such as these, more than likely when a pot is limped around to you in the blinds. Therefore, it is important to have the knowledge of how to play them when you get that chance.

More often than not, you’re going to be able to play these gapped connectors in a cash game, as in a tournament it is likely that there has been some raising which will give you the opportunity to dump your cards. The problem with the gapped connectors, however, is that you have to hit the board perfectly to be able to go on with your hand. Not knowing when to let go of the gapped connectors will make your stay at the tables a short one, while hitting your gapped connector will normally allow you to pull a nice pot because opponents may not be able to put you on that range of hands.

Texas Hold’em

The gapped connectors, especially the larger one gappers (A-Q, K-J and Q-10), are something that you can potentially take a look at a flop with. When you start going lower than this (J-9, 10-8 and on down), then the dangers escalate due to the factor that you have kicker issues. For example, say you have 10-8 on the button and call a preflop raise to see a 10-x-x flop. While you have top pair, your eight kicker is not going to be able to beat much, especially when a preflop raise may have also hit the ten with a better kicker.

The two gappers have problems from the start. Even if it is K-10, for example, you still have that pesky kicker issue to deal with. When you start going lower than that (10-7, 9-6, etc.), then you have to have the “Goldilocks” situation come up to be able to move on.

What you are looking for with both of the gapped connector situations is that perfect flop that either gives you a shot at the pot with an open ended straight draw or, going further, a flopped straight outright. For example, say you have the Q-10 and the flop comes J-9-8; you have the nuts at this point and will probably get a great deal of action from opponents who have flopped top pair/top kicker (A-J) or have hit a set. If you have the 10-7 with the same flop, you’re going to get much the same action.

Failing that, the possibility of hitting the gapper for two pair isn’t such a bad option. For example, say you have a (10-8) and strike with a 10-8-x flop. This is a nice situation to occur, but beware of someone who has hit the x card for a set or has a hand such as (A-10) and strikes the Ace, otherwise you will be the one who ships the chips. When this occurs, you definitely are hoping for one of your four outs to come on the turn or river to make a boat, which would potentially lock up a hand for you. Without that, the two pair may be good enough to win, though.

Here’s the danger of the gapped connectors:  you have achieved perhaps the full potential of your hand if any of the above situations occur. Although you might have a redraw at a small flush (if your gapper is suited) or could hit one of those four outs for improvement, you still face the pitfalls of the turn and river taking the hand away from you. Tread carefully even if you hit the nuts on the flop with the gapped connectors but, if someone decides to push on you, you will have to take the stand and fade any potential problems.

Omaha Hold’em

The excitement gets even better when you’re playing gapped connectors in Omaha, simply because you are more than likely going to have the odds to chase any potential straight draws that may be out there. You have to be mindful, however, of when to let those draws go and when to move full steam ahead.

For example, let’s look at a full out gapped connector situation. Say you have A-Q-10-8 (preferably double suited) and see a flop of J-9-x. You have draws at the straight available and, if you’re fortunate, also have a good flush opportunity. Remember, though, you have probably maxed out your hand; opponents who have a bigger hand (such as a A-K-x-x) that potentially could hit a bigger straight than you or opponents who have hit a set or two pair and are looking for that boat will ride to the river with you, potentially costing a huge chunk of chips if they come home.

When you look at Hi/Lo, then the whole gamut of gapped connectors come into play. Not only are the bigger one gappers in play, but you can also see the A-3 or 4-2 come into action as players seek that low hand. Most of the time, put these one and two gappers into the muck as the potential for a decimated chip stack outweigh the overall positives.

Razz

In Razz, you can comfortably send the bigger one and two gappers such as (K-J) x and (Q-10) y into the muck because you, of course, are looking to build the best low hand. When you get into the situation of the lower gappers, however, you might want to take a look at playing them.

One gappers such as (2-4) 6 and (A-3) 5, for example, are very strong starting hands in the world of Razz. Even if you have the two gappers such as (A-4) 7 or even (2-5) 8, you have a potential winner if all goes right. With these hands, however, you do not want to get into a bidding war. If you are raised, simply make the call and move on to the next street. This allows you to keep the price of the chase low and, if you are able to pull some magic from the deck, make a solid low hand to win a pot.

Seven Card Stud

The gapped connector situation is a little more difficult in Seven Card simply because you are building your own hand rather than depending on a set of community cards to create your hand. Starting with one or two gappers in Seven Card will require that you hit your cards to fill the gaps and, if you have lost a few of those completing cards in your opponent’s up cards, then you have to review the situation quickly to determine if continuing on is worth the cost.

With this in mind, the larger one gappers such as (A-Q) 10 and (K-J) 9 lose a little of their luster if you see your fillers already in the muck or in other opponents’ up cards. The two gappers (Q-9) 6 and (K-10) 7 become even more problematic, perhaps to the point of not even entering the pot with.

In Hi/Lo, there are similarities with Omaha but, once again, you have to remember you are building your own hand. Making a straight that gets beat by another straight, baby flush or boat isn’t going to earn you any chips; additionally, making the low with a (A-3) 5-6-8, for example, is only going to earn at the most a half-pot or, worse yet, a quarter of the pot or nothing. For the most part, send these to the muck unless you see a distinct opportunity for making the straight or building a flush.

Summary

The one and two gapped connectors can be a useful hand IF everything breaks the right way over the remainder of that particular board. How big (or small, depending on the game) your connector is should guide you as to your approach in playing them. Do not get married to them, however, and be vigilant in looking for those possibilities that could crush your gapped connector, otherwise you will be sending your chips to an opponent.

In the next part of this series, we will examine all the card combinations that we have reviewed over the span of these ten articles, but we will take a look at them in a different context. The difference between cash games and tournaments can have an effect on how (and when) you play the same hand and, if played correctly, can be a tremendous boost to your bankroll.

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Earl Burton is a veteran journalist in the poker industry, having covered the game since 2004. He has played the game much longer, however, starting out playing in family games at a very early age. He has covered tournaments across the United States, including the World Poker Tour, the World Series of Poker and various charitable events. Earl’s background includes writing for some of the top poker news sites in the industry as well as other poker media outlets that include Poker Player Newspaper and Canadian Poker Player Magazine. Earl keeps an unblinking eye on the poker world, offering coverage of news from the industry, tournament action, player interviews, strategy and his opinions on the game. Whenever possible, Earl will also step to the tables to demonstrate that there’s more than just writing talent behind his poker game!

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