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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Drawing to Straights and Flushes in Texas Hold'em

19 February 2006

What kind of hand does it take to win the average Texas Hold'em pot? Actually, Hold'em is not a "big hand" game. More times than not, one high pair will be enough to take down the money.

Still and all, there are lots of times when a straight or a flush pops up. Some of them fall right on the flop, and some get "back doored" at the river. Straights and flushes tend to win bigger pots than say, a pair of kings. But should you always play your hand out whenever you've got a shot at a straight or a flush? The answer is: sometimes yes, and sometimes no.

First, let's suppose you come into the pot with a hand like:

A/10 of spades

and the flop is:

3-4-K w/ two spades

Here of course, you've got a very playable hand. You flopped a 4-flush and you've got an overcard to the board (the ace). If you go all the way to the river, you'll make the flush 35% of the time and hit the ace 12% of the time. Even if you miss on the turn, you'll make either the flush or a pair of aces one time out of four, right at the river. This is a hand to go full steam ahead with.

Often, though, your draw isn't very good at all. This time, let's say you've got:

10/J of hearts

and the flop comes:

5-7-A w/ one heart

You have no pairs, no overcards and a "back door" flush draw. Here, you'll make that flush only 1 time out of 24 if you go all the way. You don't even want to pair your 10 or jack because somebody probably already has aces. This hand is an easy and mandatory fold.

Now let's look at some trickier stuff. Say you've got that same 10/J of hearts when the flop is:

2-9-Q w/ two clubs

This time you flopped an open end straight draw, but there are two clubs out there and an overcard to your hand. Normally when you flop an open-ender, you've got eight "outs" – that is, eight cards that will win the pot for you. Here, you still have eight straight cards, but two of them (the 8 and king of clubs) could make somebody else a flush.

Anybody who has a queen will be pumping the pot, so playing onward won't be cheap. Still, the fact of the matter is that flushes are not that common in Hold'em.

If the game is "limit Hold'em", you can certainly call one bet on the flop to try for your straight. But if a club comes on the turn (other than the 8 or the king) and there's any action, it's time to give it up. If the king or 8 of clubs does come, you'll just have to go all the way and hope your straight is good. If neither your straight nor a club comes on the turn and the pot contains at least five bets already, you can go all the way to the river and see what you make.

If the game is "no limit" and somebody bets any more than about a third of the pot on the flop, you just won't be getting good enough pot odds and should fold.

Here's one more drawing hand dilemma. Say you've got:

Q/10

and the flop comes down:

4-9-K of mixed suits

You've flopped a "gutshot" straight draw. There's an old proverb in poker that says you shouldn't draw to inside straights. But in poker, you can never say "never", and you can never say "always".

If it's a "limit" game and there are at least four players in, you'll be getting good enough pot odds to call one bet on the flop to try to spike the inside jack. If you miss there, give your hand up on the turn. But if the game is "no limit", you won't be able to call any "sizable" bet, and will normally have to fold on the flop.

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

> More Books By Fred Renzey

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

Blackjack Bluebook II

> More Books By Fred Renzey