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Playing Draws, part 4

07/02/2019 by Steve Blay

Before I start into the fourth part of my six-part series on playing draws, let’s recap what we’ve learned so far. In the first three segments we talked about playing draws out of position, and found out that:

  1. Some draws are meant to be played aggressively (e.g., check-raise with them). Some draws are meant to be played passively (e.g., check-call with them). It is not correct to randomly choose one of these approaches!
  2. When playing a draw aggressively, we want to choose the line (and bet sizing) that will maximize our fold equity.
  3. If we plan to check-raise with a draw, and our opponent is a good player, we need to be careful to make sure we have enough legitimate value check-raising hands in our range as well. Otherwise, our opponent will sniff out our semi-bluff and punish us.

In these next three articles we’ll be talking about playing draws in position. What we’ll find out is that playing a draw in position is not too different than playing a draw out-of-position, except that we will semi-bluff less often. I’ll explain why.
Let’s jump right in and say we called a pre-flop raise with a suited connector on the button. We flop a flush draw, and the original raiser c-bets on the flop. Do we raise him with our draw? Just call and try to get there on the turn? Fold?

While the techniques we learned in “playing draws out of position” will still serve as a good guideline here, there is one big difference. Playing in position is a big asset in NL hold’em. As more and more chips go into the pot, the power of being in position is reduced. At first that may seem backwards – “but why wouldn’t I want to play a big pot in position?” True, playing a big pot in position is great, but in order to successfully cash in on our being in position, we need some chips left in our stack. Hopefully it makes sense that once we’re all-in, being in position has NO VALUE any more. As we get closer to being all-in, the stack-to-pot ratio (SPR) decreases, and the player out of position is not at a big disadvantage any more.

So, all other things being equal, don’t raise as often with your draws when you’re in position. That defeats the whole power of having position on someone. Sometimes a flop raise can get you a free card on the turn, but that play doesn’t work as often as it used to.

Therefore, with some of the draws with which we would have check-raised on the flop if we were out of position, we’re instead just going to call with them in position. We might make our draw on the turn (great), but even if not, since we’re in position, we have some options open to us. We don’t want to bloat the pot and potentially limit our options on the turn and river.

Let’s take a concrete example. We’ll use 8 7since we talked about it in the last chapter. We called a pre-flop raise with it, from the button. The flop is something like Q24. We flop a flush draw. Our opponent c-bets the flop, but this time we just CALL. (Remember, out of position, we would have check-raised).

Now, the 5comes on the turn, and our opponent checks to us. Great! Although we missed our draw, we decide to bet because:

  1. He showed weakness,
  2. We have no showdown value currently
  3. We even picked up a gutshot as well.

So we bet the turn, and he folds. Notice how well this tactic worked. We minimized our risk by delaying our semi-bluff by one street, had a chance to make our draw, and still won the pot when we missed.

As a second example, let’s take the same board cards and action, but this time, what if we have KJinstead? I still would just call on the flop, but I feel very differently about this hand on the turn if the same 5comes. This hand is much more likely to pick up some showdown value on the river. No, we’re not going to show down King-high! But because our opponent checked the turn, I’m assuming (most of the time) he doesn’t have a Queen. So, it’s highly likely that we have 6 outs (3 kings and 3 jacks) that will make us a pair that should win the showdown.

So, with KJ, I would just check the turn through. I have as many as 15 outs – 9 outs to my flush, and 6 outs to make a good pair. And, if I miss all of those, I can still decide to bluff on the river (and I most likely will!) See how we are maximizing our positional power?

Remember, in both these cases above, we simply CALLED the flop c-bet, to maximize our power of position on the later streets.

So, that’s the main difference with playing draws in position as opposed to out of position. You can still use the principles from my “draws in position” articles to guide you in general. (And, you can practice playing your draws from in and out of position in the new “Combat Trainer” on my website Advanced Poker Training.)

I’m going to stop here for now, but in the next article we’ll look at how our opponent’s personality type factors into this, and we’ll talk about a special case for tournaments.