Back to the Drawing Board

Take some time to reflect on 2017. Do you remember anything that you put on hold that has potential to be huge next year? What does it feel like when you daydream about realizing it’s potential? I hope it feels tingly and warm because this is the exact feeling that Poker players get when they pick up a Draw.   

A Draw occurs when our hand is incomplete and must improve to fully realize its value without the need to bluff. For example, if we’re holding 5-6 and the Flop shows A-3-4, then we have an Open-Ended Straight Draw because we can improve to a Straight on either end with a 2 or 7. Similarly, if we’re holding Jc-10c and the Flop shows Ah-2c-3c, then we have a Flush Draw because we can improve to a Flush with an additional club.

Be ready to fight the tingly feeling when you Flop a Draw because the odds are not in your favor to make your hand. The best Draws, like Open-Ended Straight Draws and Flush Draws, are only about 30% to hit on the Turn or River.

The Poker Model’s strategies will show you how to keep the Pot as small as possible in an effort to see if you make your hand when holding a Draw. We can still win huge Pots after we make our hand, which is why building the Pot along the way is unnecessary. We are minimizing risk while leaving the potential to make a big hand on the table. In today’s example, we have big Draw opportunities and must be mindful of how we choose to get to the River.

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I’m in middle position of an 8-handed table with blinds and antes at $50/$250/$500. I have about 77 big blinds in my stack holding 8h-10h. All other players have over 30 big blinds except moneyhunting, who has about 11 big blinds. Stacks of over 30 big blinds have enough chips to 3-bet me if I open-raise, while the short stack of 11 big blinds must move all-in to make a raise on top of my open-raise.  

8-10 suited is a hand that gets players excited because of the Straight and Flush possibilities post-Flop. Most players make the mistake of calling large pre-Flop raises and 3-bets just to see a Flop with this type of hand. At The Poker Model, 8-10 suited is a qualifying hand simply because it is 2 cards over 7. If the action folds to me, I’d make my min-raise because I’m holding 2 cards over 7 and have over 25 big blinds in my stack. I do not expect to improve because the odds are not in my favor as described above. If a player in front of me raises, then I will fold. Remember that my call behind range is 2-2 – Q-Q, K-J+, and A-10 – A-Q. With A-A, K-K, and A-K I would 3-bet.

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The action folds to me and I make the min-raise. If a player to my left 3-bets or moves all-in, then I will most likely fold. I would not fold in this situation if I had over 50 big blinds and wanted to get tricky. Making a play is fine with a big stack because I’m not putting my tournament at risk. I may also win a Pot by showing strength or lose a Pot and help my table image for when I do get a big hand later. For example, if I’ve made two 4-bets in a row and pick up A-A on the next hand, I’m more likely to get action.

Remember that because I have over 50 big blinds, I am able to get tricky. For example, if the action folded to holdemholden and he decides to make a 3-bet to $2500, then I’d have the option to 4-bet bluff to $6000 in an attempt to make him fold. It’s also advisable to make an easy fold to the 3-bet and wait for a better spot. Just because we have enough chips to move away from our basic code, it does not mean that we have to.

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The three players including the short stack to my left fold and the Small Blind calls. I have a fairly standard set up at this point. The action has folded to me, I’ve made a min-raise, and the players with position on me have folded giving me power to act last post-Flop. The Small Blind has called and we are waiting on the Big Blind. If the Big Blind calls, then we expect both players to check, giving us the option to make a standard continuation bet. If the Big Blind folds, then we expect the Small Blind to check, giving us the option to make a standard continuation bet. Recall that a continuation bet will be made if we either have a hand that we are willing to move all-in with (like Two Pair or better) or have a hand with little value (like 3rd pair or worse). We will not make a continuation bet with mediocre hands (like Draws and Middle to Over Pairs). The previous plays are standard in situations where stack sizes are medium to large. With smaller stacks, there is a slightly different set of rules that will be covered in a different post.  

If the Big Blind 3-bets, then we’d most likely fold because our hand is not good enough to play for value. As described above, we have the option to not fold and attempt a tricky play with a worse hand because we have over 50 big blinds. Two tricky plays can be executed if the Big Blind 3-bets:

  • 4-bet the Big Blind’s 3-bet in an effort to get both players to fold
  • Call the 3-bet and raise the expected continuation bet on a missed Flop from the Big Blind

We won’t be going into more detail on these plays today, but feel free to ask questions in the comment section. Err on the side of folding to a 3-bet in this situation, even with over 50 big blinds if you are not fully grasping the concept.

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The Big Blind calls as well and the Flop comes As-7d-9h. A great first question to ask on every Flop is, “What do I have?” In this case, I’ve flopped an Open-Ended Straight Draw because I have 10-8 and the board has A-7-9 so I need a J or 6 to complete my hand. At the current moment, I have ten high with the potential to make a Straight. My goal in this situation is to cheaply find out if the 6 or J comes on the Turn or River. I’m not interested in building value until I make my hand because the odds are so low that I will.  

The Pot is $3400 and I have 77 big blinds. Any large bet from an opponent here typically means that they already have a hand and want to force out any Draws. Because we know that a large bet is ⅔ of the Pot or more, we are able to make clear choices on whether to stay in the hand or not. Simply put, if we have a lot of chips, then we can call bigger bets with a Draw. If we have fewer chips, then we can only call smaller bets. Do not call bets with a Draw that will put you below 20 big blinds. Keeping at least 20 big blinds in our stack after any hand is important to keep us in the tournament and have a good enough all-in amount. We’ll need to balance both of the above to determine whether to call an opponent’s bet or not.

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Both players check and the action is on me. If we had flopped a big hand, like 6-7-9 giving us a Straight or Ah-7h-9h giving us a Flush, then we would be betting here in an effort to build the Pot or potentially get raised. But we didn’t. We flopped a hand that is all but worthless at the current moment with potential to drastically improve later. If we had flopped a worthless hand with no potential to improve later, then we would make a standard continuation bet in an effort to win the Pot right now.

We’re going to make a check here and see a free card. In this deeper stack situation, The Poker Model sees this check as a discounted way to realize the value of our hand. Many players think that they must bet in this situation (called a semi-bluff) to build the Pot or push other players out, but what if they are raised? Now they have put themselves in an expensive situation to see the next card. The Poker Model gets there for free. Like most of our strategies, we’re putting greater weight on minimizing risk and staying alive in a tournament than building huge Pots and being forced to bluff if the Draw is missed. We are willing to look for huge value on the River when we do make our hand, instead of forcing it with a Draw. With this style, we may miss out on winning a few small Pots because we checked, but in order to win a big Pot with little risk, the Draw must be made whole at some point in the hand any way.

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I check and the Turn is the Ah. This is an interesting card for me because I now have my original Open-Ended Straight Draw (7-8-9-10) with a Flush Draw (8h-9h-10h-Ah). I must be a bit wary that the Ah paired the board giving my opponents the ability to have a Full House, which beats both a Straight and a Flush. While the odds of a Full House in this spot are low, we should be aware that it’s possible and take big bets from our opponents seriously. Also, I must be aware that if I make it to the River and hit either a Straight or a Flush, that my opponent may have improved to a Full House with the very same card! A-6 comes to mind as a hand can accomplish this with a 6 on the River. Again, the odds are very low here but be wary if your value bet gets raised. All things considered, we’ll most likely be calling a small to medium sized bet to see if we make our Draw on the River.

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The Small Blind checks and the Big Blind makes a medium sized bet of $1700. At this point in the hand, it’s not terribly important what my opponents have. I’m either going to hit my Draw and play the River or I’m going to miss my Draw and fold. Keep in mind that with two Aces on the board it’s less likely that my opponents have one of them. This makes anyone who has a 9 in their hand confident that it may be best with the highest pair under the Ace. So there is a slight chance that a 10 on the River will give me the best hand. I’m going to call the bet because I have well over 20 big blinds and it is medium-sized.

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I call and the Small Blind calls. The 4d comes on the River. “I had every out in the deck and can never hit anything!” an amatuer would say with no understanding that the odds were only 30% in the first place. Even worse is the amatuer that misses their Draw and bluffs away their entire stack on the River. We’re not going to do either. We did a good job of keeping the Pot small, understand that it’s unlikely that we’ll hit, and will easily fold or check when the action comes to us.

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Both players check to me and I check behind, exposing everyone’s final hands. A pair of 7s wins the Pot. Yes, I probably could have won by making a big bet on the River, but nothing is guaranteed. It’s quite possible that a pair of 7s will call me on the River in that spot. Also interesting is that one player had Qh-Jh. This means that if another heart came on the River that I’d be losing to a higher Flush! When all of the cards are flipped over, a measly Pair of 7s ends up winning the Pot, who would have thought that an 8 or 10 would have also given me the best hand?

It’s understandable why flopping a Draw gives players that warm fuzzy feeling, but we’re asking you to keep your emotions in check. A flopped Draw is nothing more than a broken hand. Try to keep your cool in these situations and enjoy the times when you finally do make a hand. Remember that you can always regroup and sketch out a new drawing on the next hand.

Brett

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