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How to Play Drawing Hands

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It usually happens in poker Texas hold’em that you get a hand with the potential to become a monster hand but you are one card short to complete it. This is what we call a ‘drawing hand’ since you engage in a draw in order to get a particular card or kind of card.

This is a difficult hand to play particularly when you have to face bets and raises and you need to decide if you want to call or not. This article will help you learn how to play drawing hands and will give you tips to decide if you should fold or call when you face a bet.

Flush draws and straight draws

Flush draws and straight draws are the most frequent drawing hands. Every time you play a drawing hand you have to asses what probability you have of completing the hand with the next card that comes up and the ‘outs’ you have will help you do it.

What are outs?

When we talk about ‘outs’ we refer to the card that completes your hand. For example, suppose you have a diamond flush draw, in this case the ‘out’ is any diamond card. The more outs you have, the more chances you’ll have of completing your hand with the next card that comes out. The out is any card in the deck that will help you complete your hand.

If you have a diamond draw or any kind of flush draw you have 9 outs because you’ll have two diamonds in your hand and there will be another two diamonds on the flop. Since there are thirteen diamonds in the deck, there will be nine diamonds left in the deck for you to hit.

You can calculate your odds of completing a straight draw in a similar way. However, you should take into account that there are two different types of straight draws: the inside straight draw and the open-ended straight draw. When you are playing an open-ended straight draw any card on the straight ends will help you complete your hand.

Example of different straight draws

Suppose you are holding 7Heart 8Clover plus community cards A 5Heart 6Diamond , which means you need a 4 or a 9 to complete your draw. If you had an inside straight draw then you’ll need a card that fits in the middle of the straight in order to complete your hand. For example, suppose your hand is 7Heart 8cClover and the board shows ASpades 5Heart 4Diamond . In this case you need a 6 in order to complete your straight.

An inside straight draw is more difficult to complete since it has one out, as opposed to an open-ended straight draw that has two outs.

When you have an open-ended straight draw you have 8 outs (four 4s and four 9s) but when you hold an inside straight draw you have 4 outs (four 6s) and as a result you have more chances of completing an open-ended straight draw with the next card that comes up than an inside straight draw.

Working with the number of 'outs'

As you know, the more outs you have the better chances you get of completing your hand. The real value of this numbers has to do with the particular odds of winning a hand calculation, which means you can use the odds to decide if you should call a size bet or not to complete your hand.

Making calculations is not as hard as it sounds and we’ll see how to do it next in the article.

Knowing when to call or fold

You can calculate your chances of winning a poker Hold’em hand using the number of outs and comparing them with the number of cards left in the deck that you don’t want. For example, if you have a flash draw on the flop, it means you have nine outs to try to complete your hand on the turn. Since there are 47 cards left on the deck and only nine of them complete your hand, this means there are another 38 cards that are not useful to you.

  • 52 cards minus put hole cards and the flop cards (a total of 5) =47.
  • 9 cards of the same suit you need to complete your hand.
  • 38 cards are of a suit that will not help you make a flush.

Converting these figures into a ratio gives you 38:9, that is the cards that are not useful to you against the cards that you need. If you simplify the ratio you get 4:1, which means that for every four times you don’t make your hand on the turn, you’ll complete it one time.

Now you know that you have 4:1 odds of completing your hand and taking down the pot and you can use these figures to decide if you should call or raise. Comparing the size of the bet with the size of the pot will give you your pot odds.

Using the odds when facing a bet

Suppose your opponent bets $20 and makes the pot $100. This means that you have to call $20 in order to win $100, but, should you?

The ratio between the bet and the pot is 100:20 and simplified 5:1. This means that you are getting better odds from the pot (4:1) than from the cards because you win more for the number of times you make your hand and as a result you should call.

In general, when the pot odds are better than the odds of completing your hand, you should call because it will be profitable in the long term.

The odds and probabilities you get will constantly change depending on the kind of draw you have and on how much money your opponents bets on the pot. Although at first sight it may seem to be boring or difficult to understand, using this system is quite easy, especially if you use it regularly.

If you feel that learning how to calculate the odds at poker is not worth the effort, think about how nice it feels when you know whether you should call or fold a draw, because you will always be sure about your decision.

In this article you learned how to play draws passively in order to see the next cards as cheaply as possible but if you want to learn about profitable ways to play drawing hands, read the article about playing drawing hands in an aggressive way.

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