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Playing Draws, Part 5

14/02/2019 by Steve Blay
Hand Analysis

From Vietnam to Vegas front cover

In the previous article we began to talk about playing draws in position. We decided that we would rather just call with draws when we’re in position, rather than raise with them. By doing so, we keep the stacks as deep as possible, and that allows us more creative tactics on the turn and river.

The only other thing I’ll say about playing draws in position is, always consider your opponent before deciding to bet or raise as a semi-bluff. Your opponent’s personality type should weigh heavily on that decision.

For example, suppose you raise pre-flop, and get 3-bet by the big blind, who is a loose but very passive player. You have not seen him 3-bet even once this session, so you put him on a range of AA-JJ, AKs. Now, the flop is three low cards, and you flop a draw of some kind. He bets. Well, don’t raise with your draw, because you have virtually no fold equity against a guy like this! A loose player is clearly not folding AA-JJ on a low flop, and he’s probably not even folding AKs. You’ll just have to make your draw. So you’re just going to have to play it “old school” and base your decision strictly on the pot odds and implied odds you estimate. Players nowadays have gotten in the habit of never wanting to fold flush draws on the flop. But in this case, if the implied odds don’t indicate a call, just fold. Don’t worry, you’ll get his money soon enough. Patience is a virtue, as my mother says!

Now, a special word about tournaments. In tournaments, sometimes the player out of position is actually at an advantage! How can that be so? If you play MTTs you know that sometimes the player out-of-position can turn the tables on the in-position player by being the first one to have the opportunity to shove on a given street. Has that ever happened to you? It’s late in a tournament and you’re starting to get short stacked. You flop a straight draw and are ready to get your stack in, when your opponent does it first! Now that just crushes your plans, because you know you can shove with just a straight draw, but you can’t call with a straight draw.

In technical terms, we say that the power of being in position was less important in this case than the power of the first-in vigorish – a term coined by Dan Harrington – which the first player utilized by going all-in. The in-position player (you) might have loved to have made that same play himself (all-in; say, with a draw). But now, facing an all-in for his tournament life, he’s forced to fold to avoid a big confrontation, which could potentially knock him out, and regardless, hurts both him and his opponent in a tournament. For more information on why you’re compelled to avoid big confrontations in a tournament, read about the Independent Chip Model (ICM) in my book with Qui Nguyen, From Vietnam to Vegas; How I Won the WSOP Main Event.

The practical application is that late in a tournament, there is more to consider, and being in position with your draws isn’t as valuable as it might seem. Sometimes you’re at a stack size which mandates you get your chips in with a draw, and if that’s the case, you certainly don’t want to delay doing that, and give your opponent the chance to do it first. And that often trumps any advice I gave about delaying your semi-bluffs when in position in order to keep the SPRs as high as possible.

As one example, suppose late in an MTT, I flop a straight draw, in position. My opponent bets and I have just about enough chips for a raise all-in. I’m certainly not calling here – I’m either folding or getting my stack in. If I shove, I put tremendous pressure on my opponent (assuming he has a stack size similar to mine, and we are both trying to survive). Whereas, in a cash game with deep stacks, I would certainly just call, and utilize my position on the turn.

In the final segment of this series on playing draws, I’m going to talk briefly about backdoor draws, and how they can greatly affect your decision making process, even though backdoor draws don’t “get there” very often.