Beginner concepts: How to play flushes

A flush is one of the strongest hands you can make – make the most of them with our winning strategy guide

A flush is a five-card hand all of the same suit in any order. It ranks higher than a straight but lower than a full house or quads, although if all cards are in numerical order such as 5-6-7-8-9 it is the unbeatable straight flush. Flushes are powerful, pretty and one of the best ways to get paid in no-limit hold’em. Hit one of these bad boys and you’ll get sets, two-pairs and straights begrudgingly giving you chips as they making crying calls against your monster.

You can make a flush using either one or both of your hole cards, but naturally it’s much more likely you’ll make one if you hold two cards of the same suit. Flushes are ranked in order of the highest suited card that you hold. If the board is A-5-10-7-9, the player holding K-Q would beat the player holding Q-J, although the Queen high flush would have been winning on the turn.

Finding the flush

It’s very infrequent that you’ll flop the flush, so usually you’ll find yourself chasing it in one of three situations. First, you might have raised with a premium hand that also happens to be suited like A-K or A-Q. Second, you may have raised or called with suited connectors like 9-8 or 10-J, and finally you may be holding a big pair like K-K and the flop comes down containing either all spades or all clubs. Chances are you’ll have arrived at each set-up in a different way at some point and each needs to be played with different considerations in mind.
As a rule of thumb you should open-raise or re-raise with hands such as A-K or A-Q preflop and aim to get in cheaply with suited connectors. Why? The big suited cards have strength independent of being suited and needn’t necessarily rely on their flush potential to make a winning hand. Suited connectors are much more fragile and can’t stand much action before the flop, so you should only see the flop if you can get in cheaply and in late position. Your position is vital because it means you can see what everyone else is doing on the flop before you have to make a decision.

Hitting the flush

If you’re lucky enough to flop the flush you have two main considerations how to get paid, and how to make sure you protect your hand. It’s a delicate balancing act. If you have a low flush it’s important to give players drawing to the Ace or King the wrong price to call but not enough to scare them off. Play it faster in a multi-way pot but consider slow-playing against an aggressive preflop raiser. Remember that flopping the nut flush means there aren’t as many premium cards for other players to draw to. Give a free or cheap card and hope someone hits the second nut flush!
There are two ways to play a flopped flush draw: slow or fast. Play it slow by checking and calling small bets on the flop and turn. Make sure you’re not paying over the odds. The odds of hitting it on the next card are about 4/1 against, while the chance of you making your flush from flop to river is about 35%, so make sure you’re not contributing much more than that in terms of the size of the pot.
You can factor in the fact that you’ve got great implied odds (you stand to get even more chips if you do hit your hand). Unfortunately players often shut down when the board completes a flush draw. Check-calling is best when your flush is your only way to win and you’re against players that can’t lay a hand down. If you flop a flush draw with overcards or an overpair you can be a bit more ballsy.
Bet the flop or check-raise – particularly against an aggressive player. By pushing big combo draws you might take the pot down straight away, and even if called you still have plenty of outs.

Danger signs

If the board pairs, a big flashing sign reading ‘Full House’ should start flashing in your head, because your flush could now be in tatters. Did your opponent’s preflop play look like a pocket pair? Did their betting or calling on the flop look strong enough for a set or two-pair, which has now filled up? Don’t be blinded by your flush – be prepared to throw it away if the action hots up. Slow the pot down unless you have a solid handle on the way your nemesis is playing. If you’re still drawing to the flush be aware that you’re no longer chasing the nuts and check-folding may be the prudent strategy.
Of course, you will often miss your draw and at this point you need to assess whether you can push your opponent(s) off the pot. If you’ve been check-calling the whole way your bluff will be less believable. Work out what type of foe you’re up against as sometimes it can be best to cut your losses, while at other times an all-in shove-bluff will see you take down a hefty pot. Judgement is everything. And you can also fake a flush to win a pot in some situations.
You might have called a raise with 8-8with the intention of hitting a set, but missed on a flop of 2-7-A. The preflop raiser then makes a standard continuation bet and you call, thinking you may still be ahead. The turn brings the 4 to complete a potential flush. You can now use this scare card against a decent player who will think a bet means that you either have a flush or have decided to stop slow-playing a set.

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