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Poker Strategy for Draws

When you flop four to a straight or a flush, what do you do? These situations are extremely common, so understanding when to bet, when to call, and when to fold is one of the smartest moves you can make to level up your poker game.

Whether your facing a bet on the turn with your gutshot or holding a busted draw on the river, knowing how to approach these situations from both an exploitative and game theory optimal point of view will help you win more chips.

Photo: SportsKhabri

Pot Odds, Equity, and Making the Call

At the most basic level, deciding to call down a bet and continue with a draw comes down to pot odds and how many outs you have. Start by figuring out the ratio of how many chips you have to put into the pot to how many chips are in the pot that you could win.

So, for example, if there are 10 chips in the pot and your opponent makes a half-pot bet of 5 chips, then your pot odds are 3 to 1. That means if you can win 33% of the time—or in other words, you have 33% equity—then it’s a profitable call.

Figuring out your equity starts with counting your outs. A gutshot will have at most 4 outs, for instance, an open-ender can have up to 8, and a flush draw could be 9. Then divide those outs by the remaining cards. The result is what percentage of equity you have, or how often you're expected to win the pot.

If you have better equity than the pot-odds you’re being offered, then the call is a no-brainer!

Another small caveat to this concept is implied odds. Even if you’re not getting the right pot odds to call, it can sometimes still be profitable to call if you know that you’re going to be able to get paid off if you do make your hand. Drawing against a maniac, for instance, can be a great move if you’re confident that you can win their whole stack on the river.

Forcing the Fold

Whether you’re making a semi-bluff where you use your equity to pad a bluff on the flop or turn, or you’re holding a busted draw on the river, getting aggressive and making a big bet can be a good play.

If you can put your opponent on a weakish hand, such as a single pair, then they’re probably not going to be able to stand up to a big bet on the river. People can get pretty nitty when you go all-in, and if you can’t win at showdown, then you should be more inclined to put in the bluff.

Unless they’re willing to hero call you, then you can scoop up a pot that you would otherwise forfeit. That’s what we call value.


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