Drawing hands: understanding how to play poker hands with potential

Drawing hands: understanding how to play poker hands with potential

If you play Texas Hold ‘em poker, there will be many opportunities for drawing hands. A drawing hand is one that does not appear to be a winning hand from the outset but has the potential to develop into the nuts - an unbeatable hand. Learning how to play these starting hands that have real potential is a vital weapon to have in your arsenal. As a novice player, it can be quite daunting holding onto drawing hands, especially if you are playing at an aggressive table where opponents like to bet and re-raise regularly. This article will help you play drawing hands efficiently, guarding against huge losses while giving yourself the best possible chance of raking in a monster pot.

Common Drawing Hands to Consider

The most typical drawing hands that you will face are flush draws and straight draws. These are the hands that still require another card on the turn or river to complete a flush or straight. Professional poker player Isabelle Mercier has recently started a series of articles offering guidance on how to extract the most value out of poker hands with potential, i.e., those that are drawing hands for flushes, straights or small pairs. Mercier believes the best way to maximise the value from hands with potential is to keep as many players in the hand as possible to guarantee some action if you succeed in making your drawing hand.

Of course, there will be times when you don’t have the luxury of inducing multiple opponents into a pot. If you are playing heads-up with a drawing hand, it’s a good idea to play them aggressively, regardless of the position. It doesn’t matter whether you make the first bet or raise, by demonstrating aggression, you will often force your opponent to muck marginal hands.

It’s on the turn card where drawing hands can either be money drains or profitable positions for players. In a heads-up hand with one other player, if you miss your draw on the turn card and your opponent has made a bet, you could try to fire a second barrel and raise them to demonstrate strength. Alternatively, you may wish to see the river cheaply and check behind to minimise losses should the river card fail to complete your set, flush or straight. Being the aggressor and firing that second barrel can often yield positive results and back opponents into a corner. However, if you do it too often, good players will soon spot when you’re bluffing.

Using ‘Outs’ to Influence Bet Sizes

As you develop your Texas Hold ‘em strategies, you’ll want to make sure that your equity in a pot is relative to the percentage chance of winning it with your drawing hand - known as poker mathematics. For instance, if you have a flush draw on the flop, there are nine potential cards still in the deck that could complete your flush on the turn. With 47 cards remaining in the deck at this stage, that means there is a 9-in-47 chance of it featuring - roughly equating to 4:1. Meaning, statistically, for every four times you won’t make the flush, you will one time. If you are being asked to bet $10 into a pot that’s already worth $50, you’re getting 5:1 on your bet, which is better odds than the chances of you landing the flush on the turn. If you can keep making bets with drawing hands that have the pot odds in your favour, you’ll stand a much better chance of being a long-term winner.

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