Drawing Hands

written by: John

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Drawing hands such as straights and flushes can be difficult for many players to play. Often times, players will just see that they have a draw to a bigger hand and stop at nothing to try to get there.

This is obviously a fast way to deplete your stack, if not your entire bankroll. Several factors need to be considered to ensure that when you are drawing to a better hand, that you are doing so in the most profitable manner possible.

Understand Odds & Draws

The most critical aspect to drawing to better hands is to understand odds. You've probably heard the phrase "getting the right price" or something along those lines. This is referring to getting good pot odds in relation to your odds of drawing to the hand you're chasing.

For example, say you had two flush cards in your hand and there are two on the flop. If you count your outs, you know there are approximately 9 more cards left in the deck that can improve your hand. Using the 2/4 rule, you know that you will improve to your flush 18% of the time by the turn and 36% of the time by the river. 

Once you know how likely you are to make your hand, you then need to determine if you are getting the correct odds to draw and make your hand. This can be done in one of two ways:

• Convert your pot odds into a percentage. Compare your pot odds percentage to the percentage that you will improve and only draw if your pot odds are smaller. For example, you know you will improve 18% of the time to a flush from the flop to the turn. To draw to your hand profitably, your pot odds will need to be less than 18% (17% or less) or better than 4 to 1 odds (4.5 to 1 to be exact).

• Take your pot odds and compare that to your odds of drawing to your hand (before converting either to a percentage). 9 outs will give you odds of approximately 9/38 or 4.2 to 1. If your pot odds (the fraction) are bigger than your odds of improving, then you can profitably chase your hand. For example, if your pot odds were 4 to 1, you could not correctly draw to your hand. However, if you were given 4.5 to 1 odds (as mentioned above) you could go ahead and draw to your hand.

Knowing how to figure out your outs, odds and pot odds is an important skill that you need to posses in order to become a profitable poker player. It will prevent you from paying too much for your draws and becoming a losing player as a result over the long run.

Implied Odds

Implied odds are an assumption that your opponent will pay you off should you hit your hand. If you feel that you have implied odds, then you can draw with incorrect odds knowing that they'll be made up for in the long run.

Set mining is a perfect example of implied odds in action. As we all know, a pocket pair will flop trips about 1 in every 8 times. This means that you should be getting at least 9 to 1 in pot odds to continue in a hand with a small pair. However, trips are often a disguised hand and a hand that will be paid off by over pairs, two pairs and premium pocket pairs. So you will often have "implied odds" and can draw incorrectly knowing that in the long run the stacks you take will more than pay for you set mining incorrectly.

Keep in mind, however, that implied odds are not an excuse to draw with incorrect odds. You need to be sure that your opponent has a deep enough stack to make up for your lack of odds and that this opponent will pay you off more often than not if you make your hand. Using implied odds as an excuse to draw incorrectly will only cost you money.

Reverse Implied Odds - Drawing with the Non-Nuts

Reverse implied odds are the opposite of implied odds. You draw to a better hand with incorrect odds only to lose money to a similar, yet better hand.

One example of reverse implied odds would be to play a hand such as 87 suited. This hand can get you into some trouble if you're not careful. Say the flop is T-J-2 rainbow; while a 9 will definitely give you a straight, it will give you the bottom end of the straight. If an opponent had Q8 or KQ, you are still beaten and all along you were drawing dead or drawing with reverse implied odds.

The same idea will apply to flushes as well. You may hit your flush draw on the turn with 87 suited, but it very well could've given someone else a better flush draw. Not being careful and drawing solely for a flush or bottom end of a straight will prove to be costly in the long run - be sure to watch out for these reverse implied odds situations.