Don’t Play These! ; A Poker Two-Step; Nguyen Talks – You Should Listen




suited small


Pro Advice: Don’t play small suited hole cards

by Irene Edith


According to the laws of probability, you can expect to be dealt two suited hole cards almost one-quarter of the time. That is quite frequent, and includes both suited non-connectors (about 20% of the hands dealt to you), and suited connectors (about 3.5% of the hands).

Suited hole cards have a certain attraction for us – like a shining beacon in the fog. And, what’s more, two cards of the same suit in the hole are beautiful to behold.

Many, if not most poker players are inclined to see the flop with any suited starting hand – hoping to catch two of their suit on the flop.

Then, they would have a good shot at making the flush on the turn or the river, for which the odds are only 1.86-to-1 against. And, a flush is a powerful final hand, likely to win the pot.

Rank is key

One problem involves starting with two cards of the same suit. The odds against your flopping four-to-a-flush are 7.5-to-1. And you still have not made your flush. Then, even at only 1.86-to-1, the odds are still against you.

By contrast, the odds are only about 2-to-1 against pairing up one of your hole cards on the flop. That makes high cards – so-called honor cards – very desirable. This is the case whether or not suited, and whether or not connectors.

Certainly, suited connectors are somewhat more valuable than non-connectors; there is a chance they can lead to a straight – maybe even a straight flush.

But, even so, making those hands are huge long shots. Don’t count on it. The fact remains, we cannot deny the laws of probability: You are far more likely to pair up one of your hole cards on the flop, if you improve at all.

Furthermore, with two low-ranking suited hole cards, if you get lucky(?) and succeed in making the flush, a small flush can easily be beaten by an opponent holding two cards of the same suit, at least one of which is higher in rank than both of your two suited hole cards.

That can be very costly when you bet your small flush all the way to the river, only to lose to an opponent’s higher flush. He may even raise you; how can you muck a flush, even a small one!

Another similar situation is when a fourth card of your suit falls on the river. Then an opponent who happens to hold a higher-ranked card of your suit, beats you out. You will have been rivered!

Consequently, the rank of your suited hole cards is extremely important – far more so than if they are connectors. Honor cards that are suited are by far the best; the higher the better.

Position makes a difference

Realize that suited hole cards are drawing hands; invariably, they must improve to win the pot. As with all starting-hands, late position offers a big advantage (whether or not suited). You gain much valuable – even vital – information that is not available to players in earlier positions.

In a late position – preferably on the button – you will know how many opponents are staying to see the flop and whether the preflop betting has been raised. In a limit game, if only one or two opponents see the flop, you can expect a rather small pot.

Even if you do connect with the best hand, the investment may not be worth the risk. And, if the preflop betting is raised, usually you will be putting many more chips at risk than you would like.

Our advice

Play only hole cards that satisfy the Hold’em Algorithm criteria (see ad elsewhere in GT). That requires higher ranked hole cards, the earlier your betting position. Being suited adds little value.

Preferably, with a drawing hand, you would like three or more opponents staying to see the flop, and an unraised pot.

Bottom Line

Suited hole cards usually are worthy of investment only if their rank is relatively high. The higher the better!


Regard your holecards being suited as only a bonus; and use the Hold’em Algorithm in deciding whether to invest in this hand.

We invite your comments. Email to



holdem algorithm
The Two-Step is a poker concept to help you win more

by George Epstein
The Two-Step is a poker concept to help you win more. There are two steps during which you must make key decisions:

• Do your hole cards deserve investment preflop?

• Does the flop warrant continued investment in that hand?

Step 1 is relatively easy to implement. Just use the Hold’em Algorithm in my book. Superficially, Step 2 appears quite straightforward: If the flop helped your hand, consider investing further. The question here is how best to “invest further?”

While the Hold’em Algorithm (Step 1) involves a bit of simple math, the decision for Step 2 is much more complex. Let’s limit our discussion to drawing hands (“made” hands preflop are much less frequent) that were playable before the flop:

Folding on the Flop

If the flop doesn’t improve your hand, muck your hand – unless everyone checks, so you get to see the turn for free. To what extent must your hand improve to warrant betting, calling, or raising on the flop?

Below, we have listed the kind of hands that generally will be worth further investment. You might also stay to see the turn with two over cards to the board – if there are no raises in a multi-way pot.

You have six outs – the minimum we suggest to call a bet on the flop. A draw to a straight would provide at least eight outs; a flush draw, nine outs. With fewer than six outs, the chance of improving to a winning hand is not attractive; folding usually is best. Otherwise you are chasing; chasers are losers.

Flop top-pair

Starting with two non-paired hole cards, expect to pair up on the flop about one out of three times. If you started with two honor cards, catching top-pair is more likely. You may hold the best hand at this point. But, top-pair is, in fact, vulnerable.

Without an Ace in the hole, an opponent holding A-rag could overtake you when an Ace falls on the turn or river. The more small pairs and other drawing hands staying in the pot, the more likely you will lose.

With top-pair, your best play is to bet big or raise to force out those threatening hands. (Also, hope a card higher than your pair does not fall on the board.)

Flop two-pair

Certainly, two-pair on the flop is a much stronger hand than any single pair. Starting with two unpaired cards in the hole, the odds are about 50-to-1 against it. Top two-pair on the board is preferred over any other two-pair.

An opponent making a small pair on the flop, could catch a set on the turn or river. But, he can’t beat you if he mucked his hand preflop, in response to your raise – in conjunction with the Esther Bluff. (An ounce of prevention…)

Flop a big hand

Suppose you are lucky and catch trips (odds are about 75-to-1 against, according to Tom Green’s Texas Hold’em Poker Textbook; or better on the flop. As long as the board is not threatening (e.g., no flush or straight draws likely at this point), you are heavily favored to win this pot; make it as big as possible.

BUY NOW! Texas Hold ‘Em Poker Textbook

It’s even possible you might flop a straight or better – even a full-house. Rare indeed, but so beautiful to behold! Now, your goal is to build as big a pot as possible – especially if you hold the nuts.

Try to keep opponents in the hand. Perhaps one of your opponents will catch a strong hand – second to yours, of course. He has no idea what you have in the hole. Let him do the betting for you – until you raise him on the river.

Use every trick in your bag: slow-play; trap your opponents; check-raise – whatever will help you build the pot. In so doing, consider your opponent’s playing traits.

“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Contact George at



scotty nguyen14
Scotty Nguyen Talks About Colluding In Cash Games, Why He Thinks Many Young Poker Players Disrespect The Game

‘Prince Of Poker’ Says A Lot Cash Games Full Of Bankroll Sharing, Cheating


by Brian Pempus


Five-time bracelet winner Scotty Nguyen needs little introduction—baby.

Though he plays little poker these days, the 51-year-old is still a threat at the tables inside the Rio Convention Center. So far at the 2014 WSOP, Nguyen has accumulated two cashes, which brought his lifetime total to 45. On Saturday, Nguyen was making a deep run in a $5,000 pot-limit Omaha event. A sixth career bracelet was on his mind as the field kept shrinking.

Card Player had the chance to speak with the 1998 main event champion about how he’s feeling this summer, why he now spends the majority of his time away from poker, as well as why his love for the game persists after more than two decades in action.

Brian Pempus: How is your Series going so far?

Scotty Nguyen: Good, good. You know, when you don’t play much, you don’t get burnt out. Every time you play, you enjoy it. That’s what I have been doing. This is my sixth event of the summer.

BP: Does this help you stay focused?

SN: You know, baby, they have so many events. The bottom line is the main event. You want to come to that event and make sure you are ready—love the game and aren’t burnt out and talking about bad beats all the time. You always hear poker players talking about it. I don’t talk about it. I just go home. I don’t hang around. I go spend time with my wife and my kid. If I want to say something, I say something with them. Or my close friend, James, baby.

BP: How does it feel to be here after so many years? There are a lot of new faces every year. How do you feel about the new wave of players every year? Do you feel as time goes on you recognize fewer and fewer people here?

SN: It’s just like school. You never stop learning. You know, poker is just like that. I have learned from all the great players like Johnny Chan, Doyle Brunson—Stu Ungar is my idol. You know, now, some young players make some move and then you go like, ‘Wow, how did they make that kind of move?’ I learn from the young players. Don’t get mad at them. You want to continue to try to do this kind of job, you can’t hate anybody. You have to love the game and don’t hate anyone. That’s how you make it, baby. If you hate the game and hate the players, you aren’t going to make it [in poker].

BP: Do you feel like the older guys around here have an edge in terms of experience?

SN: I don’t know about them, but Scotty still has it, baby (laughs).

BP: Do you feel like when you are deep in an event, that’s really when you have an advantage because you have been there so many times?

SN: Yes, that helps a lot too. You know how to maintain your chip stack. I laid down so many pretty hands today, but pretty doesn’t pay the bills, baby. When you win a pot that pays the bills…let the chips come to you. So, just play one hand at a time. You don’t have to win hand after hand. You need to win one hand an hour, especially in pot-limit and no-limit. One is all I need. They need five or six (laughs).

BP: These days, what’s more important to you—the glory of winning or the prize money?

SN: Both, baby. You know, glory, money, every event is unbelievable. The prize is unbelievable. The bracelet, fame, I want to show people that I still have it.

BP: I know Mike Matusow got into some trouble recently for some of his behavior at a table. What do you think about that? Do you think it’s OK for the WSOP to give you a penalty for certain outbursts?

SN: You know, baby, right now every event is from like 500 people and up. If everyone does the same thing as Mike, it doesn’t do any good for poker. But, you know, for Mike, that’s his style. You got to learn to accept it. I accept whatever character is at the table. Some are loud, some are quiet, some like to yell and cuss—you got to learn to accept them. It doesn’t bother me anymore. But now if every hand someone stands up when they put a beat on you, and slam the table and are like, ‘Yeah!’—that’s disrespect right there. You can be happy on the inside, but you don’t need to slam the table and jump up and down. You should play the game with class.

BP: Do you think the etiquette at the table has gotten worse over time?

SN: Yes, there is a lot more disrespect these days than in the old days. In the old days you respect the [older players], you respect good players. Before I played I looked up to a lot of players. To this day, I still always respect them. These days, the young kids don’t dress right, they don’t talk right—the way they eat at the table, it’s just like ghetto. You would never catch me eat at the table. Eat before you play, or wait until the break. You don’t have to be all over at the table and touch your cards at the same time.

BP: These days, when you aren’t playing the WSOP, what are you up to?

SN: You know, most of the time I hang around with my family or travel around with my best friend James and his girl Lilly. They are good people. I just hang out with them and take vacations. Other than that, I don’t play much poker really.

BP: You don’t play cash games at all?

SN: Very little. I know everybody and I hear so many stories about cash game players. They play with the same money—the same bankroll. It has just turned me off. It’s not like the old days where you come out, you put your hours in, you try to make a few dollars and take care of your family. They just don’t do things like the way they are supposed to be done. I play sometimes, but only when I know absolutely there is no same bankroll in there…but honestly baby, I try not to think about it. When you don’t think about it, because you know what you have…if I have aces, I don’t care if you set me up or sandwich me in between. Go for it baby. I really don’t care, but those places should never allow people like that. Cheaters should not be allowed to come around. In every game, you will find something. I won’t say names, but almost every game. You always have people like that around, because we have so many poker players these days. They work together, they stay together and they travel together. You have to look out for yourself, because you can’t stop something like that when you have no proof.


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