The world's leading poker book publisher

Playing Draws, part 3

14/12/2018 by Steve Blay

In my previous article, we took a look at which draws should be played passively, and which should be played a little more aggressively. Specifically, we decided that we want to play more passively with draws that have inherent showdown potential (even when they miss). In contrast, we’ll play more aggressively with draws that have no showdown value at the moment.

I’m going to start with one exception to that rule. It’s what I call a MEGA-MONSTER draw (did I just coin a new term?). For example, suppose you have KQ and the flop is JT4. Now this draw really has it all. You have a royal flush draw and two overcards. You could have as many as 21 outs against a player with just one pair, making this more like a PLO wrap than a typical Hold’em draw. You block many of the overpairs in your opponent’s range. If you try out the Advanced Poker Training Odds Calculator, you’ll see that you’re even a 53% favorite over a player with top two-pair!

In fact, this hand is so strong that it isn’t technically even a draw in my book, so I wouldn’t use the methods I’ve discussed so far to decide how to play it. It’s a super strong value betting hand that should be played as such. In other words, put it in your value betting range, and play it like you’d play a flopped set of fours for example, because it’s that strong.

Now that we’ve gotten past that one exception, I want to get down to the real key to everything. If you can get this right, you will be a winner at poker. You will be in the top tier of all poker players. Get this wrong, and you will always struggle.

When thinking about check-raising with a draw, you need to be considering whether you are playing against a good player. If your opponent is a bad player, what I’m about to say doesn’t apply so much, because they aren’t thinking very deeply.

But against a good player, your semi-bluff check-raising range must always be balanced by value hands. If you don’t have a balanced range, your deep-thinking opponents (like me) are going to see through your charade right away, and take advantage of you.

This is best understood by example. You raise with T9 from middle position. Steve Blay is on the button and 3-bets you. Your worst nightmare. But the stacks are pretty deep, so you decide to call and take a shot at stacking me. Here’s your hand, and the flop: (T9) K22

After reading my articles, you decide to go for a check-raise because you flopped a draw without a lot of showdown value. So you check to me, I bet, and you check-raise.

But there’s a big problem with this. What is it? Pause here and think about it for a moment.

The problem is, what actual value check-raises do you have here in your range? What are you really representing, other than a flush draw?

• A-A or K-K? Nope. Steve has A-A and K-K in his range, you don’t, because you almost surely would have 4-bet them.
• Ace-King? Hmmmmm…maybe? Although I doubt it. Again, Steve is more likely to have A-K. You probably would have 4-bet A-K pre-flop as well. And even if you didn’t, would you really want to check-raise with it? Why not check-call? Why not keep Steve’s range as wide as possible and let him bet again on the turn, poker bully that he is.
• Trip deuces? There are two combos of A-2s that you could possibly have, IF you called a 3-bet with them.
• Quad deuces? Ok maybe, again assuming you actually played deuces for a 3-bet, AND decided to check-raise instead of trapping with them.

The bottom line is, at most I give you credit for a couple combos of value hands, so if you’re bluffing all your flush draws, you’re probably bluffing WAY too many combos. Steamin’ Steve is going to sniff this out immediately, and jam on you with his, say, pocket jacks. Then you’re going to be faced with the unenviable situation of having to fold out all that equity (and lose a big chunk of your stack), or call off all the rest of your money as a 2-to-1 dog.

One final thing to say about this: Almost all bad situations that players get into (like the one above) can be traced back to a pre-flop mistake. Here, let’s look at the decision to play 10-9s for a 3-bet out of position. It’s going to be very hard to make a profit off of that. So what should you have done, folded it? Well, maybe…but before you do that, let’s think about your 4-betting range a little.

You are certainly 4-betting hands like A-A, K-K, Q-Q, A-Ks, and probably A-Ko here. At every decision point in every hand, we need to be balancing our range. Yes, even when 4-betting. We ideally want to 4-bet with a polarized range with good board coverage so that our opponent (Steve) can’t pigeonhole us based on the flop texture.

So (you’ve probably figured out where this is heading)… 10-9s is a PERFECT hand to add to our pre-flop 4-betting range to polarize our range and balance out all those big cards. But I’ve probably gone on way too long already. We’ll talk more about that another day…see you next time!