Playing Draw Hands in Texas Hold’em

By a draw, I mean a hand that could turn into something big on the last two cards but at the moment doesn’t amount to much. These hands are very tricky to play. A lot of players get busted out of tournaments on a draw when, probably, they shouldn’t be playing them. As T J Cloutier, the prolific US tournament winner, says, ‘Draws are death’.

Let’s look at a typical layout where you might consider playing
a draw.

Your Hand                   Flop

JH, 10H                       KD, 7H, 3H

If a solid player bets the pot and everyone passes to you, should you call? We’ve all done it, but the answer is no, definitely not.Your opponent is a solid player, so give him credit for a pair of kings (any pair is in front of you at this point anyway). You must hit one of nine hearts to make your flush. In other words, you are about a 4/1 underdog to make it on the next card. If a heart does come, your opponent may well stop betting, since he must fear the possibility of a flush. If it doesn’t, he will likely bet the pot again. Do you want to call again with one card to come?
What if another player called in between you and the bettor? Some players now get it into their heads that they have ‘value’ but do they? Remember that your flush draw is only jack high. If somebody is playing a higher flush draw you may end up making your hand only to find out it is second best. The same applies if there is a pair on the flop. You can make your hand and lose to a full house. There’s little sense, in my view, in committing money with a draw that you can’t be sure will win.
There are some exceptions when you might want to play your draw in a tournament.

1.    You’re short stacked. In this case, you’ve just got to put your money in and hope. If you are all in on the flop, at least you will get two cards for your money.

2.    Your opponent is short stacked. In this case, gambling with a draw isn’t so bad because you know, once your opponent is all in, it can’t cost you any more.

3.    The initial bet is very small. In a low ante game, if all the players have plenty of money, you can even call on the flop with something like this layout:

Your Hand                   Flop

10S, 8S                       9D, 6C, 4H

If a 7 comes on fourth street, you have the nuts and hopefully someone who turned another good hand such as trips on the flop will not be able to get away from the hand.
I must admit I do loosen up when it comes to the nut-flush draw. You know you’ll win if it hits (providing a pair doesn’t come) and it also has the added value that pairing the ace might win on its own.
That’s all I’ve got to say about draws. It’s boring not playing them but that’s how the top players take down the money in the big tournaments (so I’m told!). But if you want to play them, play them aggressively. Raise all-in on the flop. A draw has a lot more value with two cards to come than with one, and there’s a fair chance your opponent will be too terrified to call, but pick your spot. There’s no point in putting all your chips in with a draw against a player who only worries about what he has and pays no attention to what his opponent might have. Against these types, you’ll be called and you’ll have to hit your hand.