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backdoor flush and straight draw

5 Tips for Playing Backdoor Flush & Straight Draws

Backdoor draws play a significant role in the range construction process.

If you don’t regularly consider backdoor draws when making decisions at the table, this short list of tips is for you.

As you’re about to learn, backdoor draws aren’t valuable just because of their additional equity to hit a strong hand. Backdoor draws are also valuable because you will, on average, reach the river more often when you have one, which gives you more playability and allows you to realize more equity.

Before we cover tips for playing backdoor draws, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page.

What is a Backdoor Draw?

The term backdoor refers to a hand requiring consecutive cards on the turn and river to become a strong made hand. Also known as “runner-runner”.

Example: If you’re holding K J on a flop of A♣ 7 2♠, you have a backdoor flush draw because two consecutive hearts on the turn and river would give you a flush. You also have a backdoor straight draw, as you could hit two consecutive cards (a queen and a ten) to make a straight.

1. Be more inclined to bet when your non-made hand has a backdoor flush draw

If you have an unpaired hand with a backdoor flush draw, you should heavily consider betting (if you have the betting initiative). This is especially true when you have position over your opponent.

Betting with these backdoor flush draws is profitable because you can use them as bluffs on the turn in a couple of situations:

  • When the turn gives you a flush draw. You’ve picked up a lot more equity, so you should usually keep up your aggression with a double barrel. On top of that, you may also improve to a flush on the river and win a juicy pot.
  • When a lot of draws complete. Betting on super scary cards that complete the direct draws may make your opponent over-fold. These opponents often think something like “all of the semi-bluffs got there, so it’s unlikely he’s bluffing.”

2. Backdoor flush draws can make a hand worth folding become a hand worth calling

Suppose you open from the button and bet on the flop with 86 on T♠ 7♠ 3 heads up versus the big blind. Now suppose the big blind puts in a decent-sized check-raise.

In this situation, the best play with a naked gutshot (like 8 6) is likely to fold. But if you had a backdoor flush draw to go with your gutshot (like 8 6), you should probably call.

There are two reasons these backdoor flush draw hands are more valuable:

  1. Backdoor flush draw hands have a little extra equity (~4%) than their non-backdoor flush draw counterparts.
  2. You get a playability boost from being able to turn a flush draw, which allows you to realize more equity and get into more good bluffing spots.

These reasons will not always be enough to change the correct decision, but they can tip the scales in close spots. And yes, decisions in poker are often times that close.

ace two suited backdoor plus overcard

Ace-highs often go from folding hands to calling/raising hands when they have a backdoor flush draw.

3. Double backdoor draws (straight and flush) perform well as check-raise bluffs

You typically want to use stronger draws such as open-enders, flush draws, and straight draws when going for check-raise bluffs (because those hands perform better in big pots). However, on some boards there just aren’t enough of those strong draws to build an adequate bluffing range.

This is where double backdoor hands come in handy.

Double backdoor hands have awesome playability on the turn and can improve to very disguised hands on the river, allowing you to win substantial pots. Plus, you won’t be surrendering much equity if you are forced to fold after your check-raise is met by a 3-bet.

Here are some examples:

  • T♣ 8♣ on K♣ 6♠ 4
  • 6 4 on J 8♣ 3
  • K♠ 5♠ on 9♠ 4 2♣

Depending on the specifics of the situation, these hands are all great check-raise bluff candidates.

Note: Avoid trying these check-raises on boards that are disadvantageous for your range, such as A-K-Q. Read this article to learn more boards on which you should avoid check-raising.

4. Float on the flop with backdoor plus overcard hands in blind vs blind battles

When playing in the big blind against the small blind in a heads-up single raised pot, you will need to defend the majority of your range against a c-bet.

Unless you start calling with these non-made, backdoor plus overcard of hands, you will not reach the desired defense frequency and your opponent’s bluffs (of which he has a lot because the ranges are wide) will be basically printing money. An example is Q 4 on T♣ 9 2♠.

You don’t need to hit your overcard or backdoor draw to win. You will see that you will frequently be able to steal the pot on the turn or river, or even win at showdown when the action checks down.

Learn more about floating here.

5. Don’t overdo it

Backdoor draws are cool and all, but be careful not to go overboard with them.

Just because backdoor hands have some cool properties doesn’t mean that you should mindlessly start calling and raising every time you have one.

For example, building off of the previous tips, say you defend the big blind with 9♣ 5♣ against a small blind open. The flop comes K T♣ 6 and your opponent bets 66% of the pot. Despite having multiple backdoor draws, this is not a hand with which to call.

The reasons may be intuitive to you, but it may help to see them listed out:

  • Your pair outs are super weak. Turning a pair won’t enable you to call another bet or value bet yourself
  • 9-high with no direct draw is low in your range. There are a lot of better hands with which you can call (direct draws, pairs, stronger backdoor draws) and you’ll still defend with enough of your range.
  • Your pot odds are not so good. Maybe you could call versus a literal min bet, but calling any amount more than that is ambitious barring a read.

On the other hand, stronger double backdoor hands — ones with an overcard to middle pair, like Q♣ 8♣ — are reasonable hands with which to call in the K T♣ 6 example above.

Final Thoughts on Backdoor Draws

If you take these tips to heart you will find the correct spots to squeeze out that little bit of extra profit out of your backdoor flush and straight draws:

  1. Be more inclined to bet when you have a non-made hand with a backdoor flush draw.
  2. Backdoor flush draws can make a hand worth folding into a hand worth calling.
  3. Use double backdoor draws as check-raise bluffs.
  4. Float on the flop with backdoor plus overcard hands in blind vs blind pots.
  5. Don’t overdo it.

That’s all for this one! If you have any questions or feedback, please let me know in the comment section below and I’ll do my best to answer.

To test your skills, check out “3 Tips for Winning with Gutshot Straight Draws“.

Good luck at the tables!

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About the Author
Dan B.

Dan B.

Online grinder aspiring to reach the highest stakes and crush the toughest games. I'm available for quick strategy questions and hourly coaching -- reach out to me at [email protected].

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