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Playing Draws on the Flop in No-Limit Texas Holdem

9 June 2009, By:
How do you proceed when you have flopped a straight or flush draw? We'll go through the basic ideas.

When the flop comes in no limit Texas holdem, players usually have one of three different kinds of hand:

  • An empty hand
    They missed the flop completely.
  • A made hand
    They hit something on the flop - top pair, two pair, trips or better.
  • A drawing hand
    They didn't make a hand, but their hand might improve to a strong hand on the next card.

If there is betting action on the flop, the standard match-up is a made hand going up against a drawing hand. For example, a top pair top kicker vs. an open ended straight draw.

How do you proceed here if it's you having the drawing hand on the flop in no-limit Texas Holdem? Here are a few pointers.

Check the Pot Odds

The first thing you have to do when you have a drawing hand is to compare the pot odds with your winning odds.

The typical drawing hands in holdem are straight draws and flush draws. They typically have 8 and 9 outs, respectively. This means that there are eight or nine unseen cards in the deck that would (probably) give you the winning hand if they come on the board.

With eight or nine outs, the odds against you hitting the draw about 4-to-1 on the next card, and 2-to-1 if you can see two cards. Those are called your winning odds.

By comparing the pot odds with the winning odds you see if your draw have a positive expectation or not. If you get pot odds of 10-to-1, calling is easy. If the pot odds are worse than your winning odds, the call cannot be motivated by the pot odds alone.

If you want to keep playing in this spot, you have to find some added value, or some other ways to win the pot, for example that you have position on your opponent or that you may pull off a bluff.

Value of Position

IF you're in late position, acting after your opponent, there are other ways to pick up the pot than by hitting your straight or flush. Or, at least, you may get to see two cards for the price of one, which changes your winning odds as described above.

If you're in last position with a straight or flush draw and the opponent doesn't bet, or bets very small, this opens up some opportunities for you. His play signals weakness and you may be able take down the pot right away by putting in a decent bet.

Or, if you bet and the opponent calls, he's very likely to check again on the turn. Then you may either try a second bluff, for example if you think he's on some kind of draw too.

Or you may check behind, and thereby get to see a second card "for the price of one". This is called getting a free card. The possibility to get a free card should be in your mind already on the flop, since it affects your winning odds (from 4-to-1 to 2-to-1 if you have a flush draw).

Consider Bluffing

We've mentioned some opportunities for bluffing, or semi-bluffing, above. Of course you may also choose a pure bluff, without the side thought of getting a free card or hitting your drawing hand.

If you're in early position and the opponent raised before the flop, you need to realize he'll miss the flop most of the time even if he has a premium hand. If you come out betting at the pot here, many times he'll have a hard time staying in the hand.

You're betting on the event that he missed the flop.

Of, if you're in late position and the pre-flop raiser makes a bet on the flop, it's very often a continuation bet, which means he's just using his pre-flop initiative to pressure you, knowing that you haven't hit anything most of the time.

A re-raise in this case can often win you the pot right there, even if you have nothing but a draw.

Then, of course, the opponent may also have one or two cards up his sleeve, and things might get really interesting. It's called poker.

/Charlie River

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