Drawing hands

Mr Cool gets to the bottom of some of the game’s trickiest concepts

What do you need to think about when playing drawing hands?

You have to take a lot of factors into account, such as stack sizes, your position in a tournament, and the players on the table. Once you’ve got all those circumstances calculated it should present you with several ways you should or shouldn’t play it.

Personally I like to raise with suited connectors, especially when I’ve got position, for two reasons. Firstly, if you get re-raised by someone out of position and you have enough to call, you can hit this hand and it’s well disguised.

I will often raise with something like 4-5 suited and if the flop comes 4-5-9 and the other bloke has a pair of Jacks, Queens or Kings, they’re dead. Nine times out of 10 you’ve got them for all their money, or at least a large chunk of it. Secondly, if you miss your hand you can either fold to a bet [for a minimal loss] or decide that their bet is risky because the flop is dangerous, so you flat-raise them back. Make out like you’ve flopped a monster. You’ve got position, so use it.

How should you play a flopped straight flush draw?

If you flop a straight flush draw you don’t want to knock the opposition off the pot, you want to suck them in. A good way to do that is to flat-raise. It’s as effective as making them pass because it’s a really scary bet. They’ll feel like they are getting sucked into calling but at the same time it’s so easy for them to think, ‘He’s only flat-raised me, I must call, there’s value.’

The chances are they won’t hit a card that will improve their hand and they’ll fold to another bet. You’ve got so many outs that you should play them as fast as you think the other guy will stand for, because although you haven’t hit your hand yet, you do actually want them in the pot. There’s no point checking it all the way until you actually hit the straight or flush, because when you do you won’t get paid.

How should you play a monster draw in a heads-up pot out of position?

It depends on the aggression of the player in the pot. If I raised pre-flop, they re-raised and I called, only to flop an open-ended straight flush draw, I’m definitely going to check, because the odds are that he’s going to bet the flop. I’ll then re-raise and probably make him pass.

If I’ve raised pre-flop and he just called, I’m going to bet. Say I’ve got 6-7 and the flop is 4-5-10; in this spot I’m going to make out like I’m pulling a move so if he’s got a big pair that he was trying to trap me with, he’ll go over the top. I’m then in a lovely position. I don’t mind my money going in with 15 outs (nine for the flush and six for the straight – remember that two of your straight cards are counted as outs to your flush).

How should you play A-K suited when the action is checked to you on the button on a 10-Q-4 board in a multi-way pot?

These are the kind of flops you have to be really careful with. As a general rule I don’t like to bluff on flops that have 10-J, 9-J, 10-Q or J-Q in, because if you’ve got a couple of callers there’s no way this flop has missed everyone. It’s just impossible that kind of flop hasn’t helped someone. People are going to call you with all kinds of hands, so a position bet is not going to get rid of everybody.

In this spot I don’t mind checking, and if someone bets before me I’m not even going to call. If everybody checks I’ll take the free card and hope to hit my gutshot. If you’re playing against tricky players then you should definitely check in this spot, because if you hit you’re going to get paid off. On the other hand, if you bet your draw, they could easily re-raise with nothing and you’ll have to pass.

How can you spot when someone is playing a drawing hand?

The usual tell is them betting out, you calling, the draw not coming, and then they stop betting. Players often bet drawing hands a lot bigger than they’d bet made hands. It might seem strange, but it’s a fact. People are more likely to bet the pot with a drawing hand and half to three-quarters of the pot with a made hand. They think that they’re on a good thing with two cards to come and they want to get rid of anyone who’s caught a little bit of the flop.

Players frequently do this when they have the nut flush draw because they think if their flush comes they’ve definitely won the hand, so they want to get their money in and see both cards. But by simply flat-calling their bet you’re only letting them see one card, at which point [if they’ve missed] they have to check and you have the option of taking the pot away from them.

How should you play the nut flush draw from the big blind against one late position limper?

I’d check-raise from that position, because 50 percent to 80 percent of the time I’m going to win it with the check-raise. If I do get a caller and the flush comes, I’ll check and then let him bet. If he decides to check behind me on the flop he’s taking away my chance to re-raise but if the flush does come [on the turn] and I come out betting, he’s never going to take me for the nut flush because he’d think that I would have bet the draw on the flop.

How much should you bet when your draw hits on the river?

You have to try and make the decision in your final bet as to whether it looks like you’re value betting the nut flush or trying to represent it. Obviously you want to sell the opposite message to what you’re actually doing. Sometimes an overbet looks more like a steal than an actual hand so I’m tempted to bet more when I’ve actually got it than when I haven’t. It may sound a bit strange but it makes sense.

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