Playing Draws

Playing Draws 0001

Playing draws is something many people seem to have difficulties with. As a result, I've decided to let you in on how I play my draws.

First of all I would like to mention that I'm quite an aggressive player. I like having the initiative in the hand. This is simply because by calling, you can only win if you have the best hand, while by betting (or raising), you still have the chance that your opponent will fold his hand and you pick up the pot (for the rest of the article I will be referring to this folding as FE, which stands for Fold Equity; the chance that your opponent will fold a hand). If I would have to describe my drawing game, I would sum it up like this:

With initiative or not at all.

One of the biggest mistakes that is made preflop, in my opinion, is the hand selection. A hand like {k-Diamonds}{j-Spades} might look very nice, but is usually just an easy fold. Because people tend to play too many of these hands (non suited broadway cards), they often end up in situations where they flop a bad or reasonable draw (like a gutshot or OESD), and then don't have a clue about how to play this hand in a profitable manner. As a beginner, you should therefore try and avoid these kinds of hands. A hand like {7-Hearts}{8-Hearts}7h8h is much easier to play than these broadway hands, because you know exactly where you stand, and there's only a small chance that another player is holding some of your outs, or hits a better straight than you when you do hit.

That's it for preflop play for now. I now want to talk about the different kinds of draws and the different ways to play these draws as good as possible. In my opinion, there are 3 types of draws. These three categories are very different from each other and should therefore be treated differently.

The first category is relatively simple; the bad draw. This includes draws like gutshots ({10-Spades}{j-Diamonds} on a {7-Hearts}{8-Clubs}x board) or the idiot end of an OESD, on a board where the chances for a higher straight are very high ({7-Clubs}{8-Clubs} on a {9-Hearts}{10-Diamonds}x board). The only thing you need to do with these kinds of draws is fold them! The chances of you hitting are small, or the chance that you are holding the best hand when you hit is small, or your hand becomes so obvious when you hit that these situations are rarely profitable. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule, like when your opponent only bets a very small amount (giving you perfect odds to call), or your opponent is such a donk that you will get paid off anyway, but in general you muck these hands as fast as possible.

The second category of draws are the reasonable and good draws, like and OESD on the right side of the board or a (nut) flushdraw. These are the most difficult hands to play, as there are many factors that determine how you should play your draw. The most important factor is (strangely enough for some I think) not so much your own hand, but...your opponent. It's not like I will always check/raise my OESD's and always bet out my flushdraws. This purely depends on my opponent. As with the different dra categories, there are also 3 categories of players, in my opinion.

Against the really bad players I usually (against my nature) decide to play very passive and just call my draws. I do this in order to keep the pot small, and because these type of players almost never fold a hand (top pair can often be enough to call and all-in with). Therefore, I have no FE with these players (one of the most important reason to bet/raise), but I'm likely to get paid off anyway if I hit.

The second category of players are those you can play reasonable poker, but aren't really the kinds of players you need to be scared of. These players do realise that, if I'm just passively calling the flop and the turn and then a flush hits on the river, after which I fire out a bet, I was probably on a draw and hit my flush. Against these types of players it is important to vary between two different aspects and combine them (pot control and deception), so that your opponent won't automatically put you on a draw, but at the same time you don't let the pot get too big. One way I like to do this is by check/calling the flop and then betting the turn (if I'm out of position). This line is absolutely not common for a draw and not many players will put you on a draw if you pay your hand like this. What you should do though is keep the turn bet low, maybe slightly more than half the pot. Many opponents don't really know whether to see this as strength or weakness, and will just call you to see what happens on the river. By playing this way you now have your hand disguised and you get to see a cheap river. What you also need to think about though is that, if your opponent raise on the turn after you bet, you can almost never call this raise. This is one of the risks you take. There are more ways of combining these factors, so try a couple of different lines and see which one you prefer. Many players go for the raise on the flop and the free card on the turn, but since so many players do this with draws, it doesn't really add of the deception of your hand.

The third and last category are the good players at the table who you respect and who (hopefully) respect you as well. If I hit a draw against these sorts of players I play them very aggressively. These players are able to fold an overpair or toppair, which gives you quite a bit of FE, which again increases your expected value (EV) of this playing style. These players know that when you simply call abet on a drawy board, you're most likely on the draw, so that's not the best thing to do. The best lines against these kinds of players are Bet/Call flop and Bet out turn (out of position) or Bet/Raise flop, Bet turn (in position) in order to show as much strength as possible. By playing this way, your opponent will never put you on a draw, and if your opponent does happen to have a hand that is good enough to go "all the way" with (which won't happen often with these players if they don't have any information on you), you get completely paid off when you hit. But the best aspect about playing against these sorts of players is your FE. These players are able to fold so many hands that you can really exploit that. Do make sure not to do this too often though, and that if you reached one showdown, you change your lines again in order to stay unpredictable. If he knows how you played your draw in the last hand, do the same thing the next time you have a monster. You do this because your FE becomes a lot smaller after your opponents saw how aggressive you play your draws.

Now the last category of draws, the combodraws, the best draws there are, fror example a OESD or gutshot, together with a flushdraw. With these types of draws it is important that you try and get as much money in the pot as soon as possible. The only exception would be against very bad players (category 1 players). Against these players, we have a far greater EV if we just call and bet out once we hit. Against all the other players, we just want to move all-in as soon as possible. The reason for this is because these draws are exactly as strong as a made hand from our opponents on the flop. If you flop and OESD+flushdraw, you're ahead against an overpair. What I usually do against the category 2 players is just shove. We are ahead against almost any hand he could have, and because this opponent will still fold his hand every now and then, this move is definitely +EV. This is because we are almost always 50-50 or better to win the pot, but we also pick up some chips when our opponent folds. The reason I do this is because once you reach the turn, your chances of winning have decreased considerably. With these sorts of hands you want to see the turn and the river card. Shoving on the flop can obviously only be done if the pot has reached a reasonable size by then, so that you still win something if everyone folds. Examples of this are pots that get re-raised preflop, or a preflop raise and a C-bet on the flop. There is no point in throwing $25 into a pot of $1, because the money you win if all your opponents fold is almost not worth the effort.

Now that we have discussed the different types of draws, there is one more thing we need to discuss about playing draws; playing draws in a multiway pot. Essential for my decision here is the strength of my draw. A nut flushdraw is, for example, many times better than the idiot end of a straight draw, which I'm sure you know. The point I'm trying to make is that, when players next to you are likely to also be on a draw, the strength of your draw is essential to your decision (in contrast to what I said earlier where your opponent is more important than your hand). If we are sitting on a relatively weak draw, like a flush draw without an Ace, or the idiot end of a straight draw, we want to get rid of all the other draws. On the other hand, if we are sitting on a nice draw (Ax with the nut flushdraw), we have absolutely no problem with another flushdraw calling as well. These are the hands that are really going to pay us off if we hit (and your opponent with the same, weaker draw hits as well). Another advantage of calling in a multiway pot instead of raising is that, if a player behind you happens to raise, you can easily call the raise if all the other players in front of you did so as well, giving you great odds.

Just to quickly sum that up: In multiway pots we raise our weak draws and call our strong draws (probably the exact opposite of what you expected). I hope this article was helpful and that you learned something about how to play your draws. Success at the tables!

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