Playing Draws – What Are Your Options?
Playing Draws – What Are Your Options?
Playing draws is one of the toughest parts of playing No Limit Holdem poker. The question often arises in a player's head as to what they should do. Do I raise? Do I just call? Do I fold? In poker, there is almost never one certain and definite answer, but there are some things that you should be evaluating. This article is going to look at draws from three perspectives, folding, calling, and raising. Hopefully from reading this and implementing it into your game, you'll come to learn it's better to raise than call with a draw.
When should you fold a draw?
Make no mistake about it, folding a draw is an option. Too many players get wrapped up with the potential beauty of their hand and end up losing a ton of chips (maybe even all of them) in the process. There are times that you should fold rather than call or raise. Let's look at some examples of situations that call for a fold.
#1 – Your opponent has made a large bet and you have no folding equity – there are times where you can make a raise with a draw when your opponent has made a large bet in hopes of getting your opponent to fold, but if you have no folding equity then that option is removed. For example, let's say that you and your opponent both started the hand with 40,000 in chips and the blinds are 500/1,000. You called a raise on the button with 10-9 suited and the flop comes J-8-4 rainbow. Your opponent checks to you and you take a stab at the pot by betting 5,000. Your opponent comes over the top of you for 20,000. They've committed over half their stack and thus your folding equity is gone. This is a time where you should toss the draw.
#2 – It is a multi-way pot and you have the non nut draw – this happens all the time. You've probably been on the bad end of this one. It's difficult to fold the non nut draw in a multi-way pot because the potential for winning all those sucker's chip is too enticing. However, the odds that someone else has a bigger draw and yours will be no good is often too high. Think about it this way, if there is a bet on a Q-8-4 two club board and there are two callers besides yourself, the odds that three players are playing sets or pairs is unlikely. The baby flush that you might hit will be no good and you're better off saving your chips now rather than finding out later.
#3 – The potential payoff is minimal – one of the advantages of playing a draw is that if you hit, you can often win a big pot. What if you are up against a smart player that will not pay you off if you improve? Is the draw worthwhile then? Sometimes it is not and you're better off not taking the chance. For example, let's say you are up against a player that you know will fold if the flush card comes but is not going to fold if it doesn't come. There is no chance you can move the player off the hand with a raise, so you know that you will be facing not just the bet on the flop, but one on the turn as well. If they bet 3,000 into a 4,000 pot on the flop and 8,000 into a 10,000 pot on the turn that is 11,000 in chips you are going to be risking in order to win a 26,000 pot. That's just over 2:1 and there aren't many draws that are just over 2:1 to hit with one card to come. A lot of times a justification can be made for a call because of the implied value of the hand, but here there is no implied value so a fold on the turn is the better play.
#4 – A large bet on a paired board – this one is self explanatory. Don't draw when there's a chance even if you hit your flush that it won't be good. I'm not saying always fold these, but you're probably better off raising to see if your opponent likes the board than to call. More on that in a bit.
#5 – Your draw sucks – another self explanatory one. Don't make the mistake of drawing to the stupid end of hands. For example, you have pocket 6's and the flop comes 7-8-9. Even if you hit your straight, it might not be good. Save the chips and fold.
There are other situations of course where you should fold draws, but these are the ones that pop right to mind when you are thinking about playing draws.
Being a calling station with draws. Good or bad?
The best poker players win through aggression. Calling in general is bad in principle because it only allows you one way to win the pot and that is by having the best hand. We'll get more into raising with draws and why this is the preferred method in a bit. However, just because aggression is usually the best way to go, this doesn't mean that you should never call with a draw. There are certain situations that will arise over the course of a game where calling is correct. Let's look at a few of them.
#1 – you are heads up and have position on your opponent. This is a good time to call with a draw for one reason only. Having position will give you options of how to play the hand on the turn. If the draw doesn't arrive on the turn, you can make a decision on how to proceed based upon what your opponent does. If they check, you can either take the free card or make a bet if you think that they are weak and will fold. If they happen to call your steal attempt, then if the draw does hit, it's a perfect situation for you.
#2 – it's a multi-way pot and the likelihood of a raise succeeding is minimal. While many people will think of raises as being “pot sweeteners” it's more correct to look at them as being “pot winners” - if your raise will not win the pot, and all you have is a draw, then you should think twice about making that type of play. For example, you have J-10 of clubs and the flop comes K-Q-6 rainbow. There were five people that saw the flop and before the action gets to you there has been a bet and two calls. The probability of a raise succeeding here is slim. Of course if the flop was K-Q-6 with two clubs then you probably wouldn't really care, but that's not the situation here.
#3 – the bet is large but the implied value is high. A lot of poker experts will say that you should never chase a draw when you aren't being given the right price, but this is a lot like those people that say you should fold small pocket pairs for a 5 big blind pre-flop bet when the stacks are 100 big blinds deep. If there is the potential to win a huge pot, there are times where calling can be the correct play. In this example, you start the hand with 120,000 in chips and your opponent has 150,000 in chips. The two of you are among the chip leaders in the tournament and the blinds are only 600/1,200. You raised pre-flop with 9-8 suited and were called by the other player who was in the big blind. The flop comes J-7-4 with two of your suit giving you a gut shot to go along with your flush draw. Your opponent leads out for a bet of 10,000 into the 8,000 pot. Clearly you're not getting the right price to call here and this probably isn't a good situation to be raising with since you're in comfortable chip position and this is the one player who can stack you. However, this isn't an automatic fold either, especially if you look at it in terms of calling 10,000 to win over 100,000. If you think that you will win your opponent's entire stack if you hit your hand, then a call is the correct play here. However, don't make the mistake of calling another huge bet on the turn. Take one shot and be done with it.
Be Aggressive – It's What Wins Chips
There’s no reason to spend a lot of time delving into why aggression is the optimal play for playing draws. If you've read through the above material, it should be apparent. Let's explain the two key principles for why raising with draws is key. The reasoning is eerily similar to why you want to be aggressive with a hand like A-K.