Poker just because you have a draw does not mean that you have to play it

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Playing Draws

My number one rule regarding draws is this: just because you have a draw does not mean that you have to play it. In many instances, draws are unprofitable. There are three main reasons why you should approach draws with caution. First and most obviously, draws don?t get there very often. We all know that a flush draw gets there about 35% of the time. What always has to be kept in mind, though, is that the flush hits on the turn only 19% of the time. A flush that hits on the turn is usually more profitable than one that hits on the river. Moreover, we will often be priced out of the draw on the turn, forcing us to fold before we can see the river. The second reason to be cautious with draws is that you often won?t get paid off when you hit. Most flops miss your opponent(s). There?s a psychological tendency to assume that our opponent has a monster and that we?ll get paid off huge if we hit our draw. This tendency relates to the mind?s deep urge to gamble ? we change our view of any given situation to assure a continuation of action.

The third reason for caution is that sometimes you will hit your draw and it won?t be good. For this reason, always be more inclined to play a draw when it is the nut draw. Flush over flush situations are relatively common. If you are drawing to a straight on a straight-heavy board (basically, any board with a ten and another card close by), be cautious if you don?t have the nut draw. On a QT4 board, J-9 should be played with caution. If you call an opponents bet and a king comes on the turn, it?s quite possible that your opponent has something like AJ (meaning he?s hit the nuts on a gutshot and will be paid off with your whole stack). I?ve often semi-bluffed with gutshot straight draws and lost my whole stack when I hit because I was drawing to less than the nuts. A few weeks ago, I raised the flop with 7-T on a board of 4d8dJc, and busted out to QdTd when a 9c hit on the turn. If you are going to get cute with draws, you have to pick your spots carefully. In Omaha, the first thing that one is taught is to not draw to straights or flushes when the board is paired. The holdem player is generally advised to follow this rule as well. If you hit a flush on a paired board in holdem, there are not many hands worse than a flush that will pay you off with big money. Your opponent will be very aware that there is full house and flush potential on the board. If he has A5, on a 5d5hTd board and a Kd comes on the turn, he will be checking and calling, not raising. It?s become increasingly fashionable to play draws as semi-bluffs. Some players have reached the absolute extreme נthey push all their money in on the flop any time they flop a straight or flush draw. I certainly don?t mind playing draws aggressively, but you don?t want to stick all your money in on a draw unless there?s a high probability that your opponents will fold. There are two things that I think about when trying to determine if I?m willing to pot-commit myself on a draw. Assume that the stack sizes are such that you considering whether you should move all-in on the flop with a draw. The first thing to consider is: what is your pot equity if your all-in is called? The key inputs here are usually: 1) what is the probability that your opponent has a set, given that he calls, and 2) what is the probability that you have live overcards, given that your opponent calls?

The second thing to consider is the probability that your opponent will fold when you move in. The essential thing to consider here is whether your raise is credible. That is, does your opponent believe that you would have made the same raise with a big, non-drawing hand? Your opponent will only fold a made hand if he believes that you are the type of player to move in with big hands. More to the point, he?ll be especially hesitant to call you if he knows that you are the type to move in with monsters that will have him buried if he calls (sets for instance). If you are the type of player who will move in with big hands such as two pair or an overpair, but not with huge hands such as a set, your opponent will be much more inclined to call you. If you?re opponent has, say, top pair with top kicker, and you move in on him, he will be hesitant to call you if you?re the type of player who sometimes moves in with a set, because he knows that sometimes a call will be severely punished (note that he?s a 98-2 dog to a set). If you always slowplay sets, then your opponent will feel that he can never truly get hurt by calling נhe will sometimes be an underdog when he calls, but he will never be disastrously far behind. An advanced play that often works well is playing a draw that you don?t have. Say I call on the button with 6d7d and the flop comes 4s5sQd. I?ll often play the straight draw with the intention of representing the flush if it hits. If this is your plan, then you have to be prepared to bet the turn if a card like Js comes off, even though it means that occasionally you?ll be giving up your free card (when an overaggressive player re-raises you without a flush). The tactics of playing draws that you don?t have often makes gutshots profitable. If you have 7d8d, and the flop comes 5s6sQd, you usually shouldn?t call a flop bet unless you plan to bluff many of the times that you miss your gutshot. This flop presents a good opportunity to call with the intention of strongly represent a spade flush if a third spade hits.

To win truly huge pots, you have to surprise your opponents with hands that they think it?s impossible for you to be holding. Suppose that in the example above, the flop had instead been 6s4sQd. You call a big flop bet with 7d8d, intending to represent a spade if it hits. Unbeknownst to you, your opponent has a monster (a set of queens). If the turn comes a 5d, you can expect to stack your opponent, even if he is extremely deep. After you?re decided to semi-bluff with a draw, one common dilemma that is often faced is deciding whether your raise should be an all-in raise. A related problem is deciding whether to bet or push after your opponent has checked the flop. In general, I?m of the belief that if your bet or raise is a high percentage of your chips, such that it?s fairly clear to your opponent that you?re pot committing yourself, then you are better off pushing all-in.


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