Understanding draws and the chances of making a hand from a draw with cards to come, is a basic poker skill and an important advanced strategy consideration. Why? Because poker is a game you take the long term view about if you want to make money. It’s not just the hand you are playing right now, or the game you are playing today, but the percentage chance of winning a hand with a draw if you play it over and over again. Sure, you can make that hero call and win the hand from behind, but keep doing that in the long run and you will be losing. Work out the pot odds on your draw and if they are in your favor, even if you lose this hand, in the long run you will be a winner. This is an important part of learning how to play poker step by step.
What is a Draw?
A draw refers to a hand which needs one more card to be complete. If you have AhKh in your hand and the board is Qh2s3h then you have a flush draw, because one more heart will give you a flush. This is in contrast to a made hand like 3s3c on the same board (three of a kind). Let’s review the main draws.
A gut-shot is a weak one card rank straight draw. For example, if you have Ts9c and the board is 7c6h5d then you have a gut-shot draw to the eight. You also have a much weaker draw to a pair of tens or a pair of nines, which may or may not be winning cards depending on what your opponent is holding.. Hitting the eight would definitely be good because it makes you the nuts. The odds of hitting a gut-shot is pretty low. You have a 16.5% chance of winning by the river and an 8.5% chance of hitting your straight on the turn. Generally, you should avoid calling on a gut-shot because the chances of improving on the turn are so low, but it might be alright to semi-bluff with this hand once in a while if you are heads up and think your opponent is weak. Alternatively, if you think your opponent is trying to buy it, you could float with a gut-shot, intending to bet the turn and take it down unimproved if they check the turn. But usually the best play is just to fold. Being aggressive is always the best approach to poker, but you have to assess your opponent and if they are acting strong and you don’t have anything at all, you might be better to give the hand up.
2 : Open-ended and double gut-shot.
These eight out straight draws are much more powerful than simple gut-shots, and can sometimes be profitable if you are getting the right price. If you have Ts9s and the board is 8s7d2c then you have a premium open-ended draw, with eight clean outs to the nuts. JhTh on a board of AhKs8d7c is an example of a double gut-shot, and here again all eight of your outs are to the nuts. A word of caution, if the board presents a flush draw, such as Tc9c2s when you are holding QhJh, then your straight draw is much weaker, because the Kc and 8c complete your hand but also might make someone a flush. Likewise, you must be careful with a hand like 5s6s on board of 7d8h2c because if you hit the nine it might give someone else a higher straight. The probability of hitting an eight out straight draw on the turn is 17% and 31.50% by the turn and the river, but if someone has a flush draw or three of a kind then this will cut into your winning chances because they will sometimes improve to a superior hand at the same time that you make your straight.
3 : Flush draws.
Flush draws typically have nine outs to hit and are generally quite strong although you must be careful about drawing to baby flushes, and you should seldom draw to a flush if the board is already paired, as it is much easier to lose in that scenario to a full house. The chance of hitting a flush on the turn is 19% and 35% over the turn and river combined. As a dominating draw, flush draws, especially nut flush draws, generally favour multi-way action, where you get a better price to hit your hand and have the potential to get paid off by multiple opponents as well. While flush draws can be quite profitable, be careful about paying too much to hit your draw, as you are still a significant (4:1) underdog against hitting a flush over one street, and as with any draw be careful about calling if there are players left to act who might raise.
4 : Flush draw and over-cards.
In the right scenario, a flush draw and over-cards can be a powerful hand, as with fifteen outs in total you are a powerful favourite. Since most of the time in NLHE one pair is a strong hand, this particular combo draw can be a great spot to gamble. Of course, you can also run into a set or a hand like pocket aces, which is part of the danger of drawing to one pair, so situational awareness of your opponent’s strength is a crucial factor in deciding how aggressively to play this hand. In the best case scenario, with all of your outs live, you have a 31.9% chance of turning either top pair or a flush, and a 54.1% chance of hitting one of your outs over two streets. This can be a great semi-bluffing opportunity on the flop, where either your opponent folds and you take the pot, or you get the money in as a slight favourite against say top pair. And even if you do run into a stronger hand than you expected, at least you have the flush draw to fall back on.
5 Flush draw and gut-shot.
Combo draws like a flush draw and a gut-shot are great to play aggressively, both because of their robust equity and in order to create a more aggressive image for yourself at the table. The only caveat here is that you want to make sure you don’t get the money in against a higher flush draw, so generally this sort of hand does not want to stack off if there is multi-way action, especially if your flush draw is low. But if nobody seems especially interested in the pot, this is a great hand to raise and potentially take the money down right away or take a coin flip against a strong one pair hand. These are also good candidates for semi-bluffing, if everyone is checking. With 12 outs your chance of improving by the turn is 25.5% and over two streets 45.0%. But unlike the flush draw and over-cards, your secondary draw is to a straight, not one pair, so this sort of combo draw’s equity does not suffer much when running into a strong made hand like two pair or a set.
6 Flush draw and open-ended.
This mega draw has fifteen clean outs, and can go toe to toe with a hand as strong as a set any day. Just like the flush draw and over-cards you will have a 31.9% chance of improving by the turn, and a 54.1% chance of improving by the river, but again this combo draw will do much better against strong made hands like AA, two pair, or a set. Because you have such high equity, semi-bluffing with extremely strong draws like this is essentially a free-roll, either you can take down the pot immediately, or you can play for stacks and often still be a modest favourite. The key is that your fortunes are not tied to any particular action on the part of your opponent, like they would be if you were bluffing or value-betting, with a large semi-bluff raise with this strong of a draw you are generally in a win/win situation. Just be cautious about multi-way situations where someone could be on a higher flush draw than you, potentially killing a lot of your outs.
Poker Hands and Outs; An Easy To Read Chart on Outs And Percentages On the Turn And The River.
|Hand||Outs||% To Hit On The Turn||% To Hit On The Turn and River|
|Open-ended / Double Gutshot||8||17.00%||31.50%|
|Flush Draw + Gutshot||12||25.50%||45.00%|
|Flush Draw + Overcards||15||31.90%||54.10%|
|Flush Draw + Open-ended||15||31.90%||54.10%|
You are on your way to learning how to play poker step by step. By understanding your outs and the percentage you get on your draw, you will know whether to call a bet or not. By calling or not according to your percentage chance of winning you will make money in the long run. Sure, playing by gut feel for whether you might win a hand or not is great and you will get it right occasionally.Try to remember the easy layout of the odds and percentages in the chart above and your game will improve immediately. Good Luck and see you on Final Table!