Not all flush draws are the same.
This may seem like an obvious point, but it is one that draws attention to a more fundamental concept: different flush draw spots demand different strategies.
We’re about to take a look at 3 example hands in which our Hero holds a flush draw. Each of these were reviewed by Doug Polk after being submitted to the private Upswing Lab group.
But before we get into Doug’s specific advice, let’s go over the factors that set flush draws apart from one another.
What separates our flush draws?
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach you can take with flush draws; instead, we need to consider a selection of factors that will influence our strategy. These include:
- Rank of flush draw
From the nut flush draw to the lowest possible flush draw, these hands vary in strength and have different strategic requirements.
Example: A♦ K♦ is a lot stronger than 3♦ 2♦ on J♦–T♦–6♣
- Board texture
It is possible to have a multi-faceted hand which has additional components to go with a flush draw – such as a pair or a straight draw. These differences also impact the way that such hands should be played.
Example: 5♠ 4♠ is a marginal draw on K♥-T♠-9♠, but a monster hand on 6♠-4♥-3♠
Ranges can interact with the board texture post-flop in a variety of ways, and it’s crucial we keep this in mind when deciding how to play our flush draws.
There will be boards which are neutral for our range, some that heavily favor our range, and some which are disadvantageous for our range. This interaction will also shape our post-flop decision-making.
Example: 9♠ 7♠ is a massive draw on Q♠-J♥-T♠, but we probably shouldn’t fast-play it unless we have AK in our range.
We should also be mindful of how our position (being in position versus out of position) impacts the way that we should play our hand.
Having a positional advantage ultimately gives us more flexibility with how we can play our flush draws, where we are able to take passive lines in certain spots and more aggressive lines in others due to the benefit of closing the action on each street.
Example: It would be reasonable to check-raise as a semi-bluff with 9♦ 7♦ on Q♦-8♦-3♥ when out of position, but we’d almost certainly call when facing a bet in position.
Note: Many players make the mistake of playing all flush draws the same way. DON’T be one of those players. Get our free guide 20 Rules for Playing Flush Draws now by entering your name and email below.
Alright, time for the hands and Doug’s analysis.
Hand #1: Showdown value matters
This hand was played by Lab member Mantas S.
10NL 6-Max Zoom on PokerStars. 125.4bb Effective Stacks
Hero is dealt A♠ 4♥ in the BB
folds to sb. SB raises to 3bb. Hero calls.
Flop (6bb): 5♠ Q♣ 8♠
SB checks. Hero checks.
Turn (6bb): 7♠
SB checks. Hero bets 6bb. SB calls.
River (18bb): Q♦
SB checks. Hero bets 23bb. SB calls
SB wins the pot with 9♥ 9♠
Doug Polk’s Thoughts
This hand demonstrates a good general rule we should use when selecting our semi-bluffs.
We want to pick those flush draws which have the least showdown value first to put into our betting range, keeping the nut flush draw (NFD) in our checking range since it has some showdown value. A benefit of playing our NFD in this way is that it also strengthens our checking range with hands which can connect strongly with the board by the river.
For this reason, I’d advise checking A♠ 4♥ on the turn in this spot, with the plan of checking down on brick rivers. Just because we pick up equity on the turn, it doesn’t mean that we should always be compelled to bet it.
Since we are in the big blind here facing an open from the small blind, ranges are going to be wide and we will have many worse hands that make better bluffs.
Going by the the BB calling range vs SB RFI range recommended by the Upswing Lab, you can get a clearer idea of just how many worse hands we have that we should prioritize bluffing with:
Not only do we have worse A-highs to bluff with (the ones without the NFD), we also have plenty of Kx hands – particularly our many off-suit combos which will turn a straight draw (K6o & K4o) or flush draw with the K♠ (K3o-KJo). If we start betting with a hand like A♠ 4♥ given our overall range and how our bluffs should be distributed, we will likely find ourselves betting this turn too often.
Also, being in position further incentivises us to check, as we are acting last on the turn and can choose to freely realize our equity. Since we have a gutshot to go along with our flush draw, we have some extra playability across rivers and can more often call if our opponent takes a stab.
Note: Want to learn how to win more hands (and money) with your flush draws? Learn the 20 Rules for Playing Flush Draws used by Doug Polk and Ryan Fee to separate themselves from the average poker player. Enter your email below to download the rules.
Hand #2: When to play aggressively with a low flush draw
This hand was submitted by Upswing Lab member Will G.
50NL 6-Max on the Winning Poker Network. 41.28bb Effective Stacks.
Hero is dealt 8♦ 5♦ in the CO
2 folds. Hero raises to 3bb. btn folds. SB calls. bb folds.
Flop (7bb): K♦ J♠ 2♦
SB checks. Hero checks.
Turn (7bb): Q♦
SB bets 4.5bb. Hero raises to 13.5bb. SB calls.
River (34bb): 8♥
SB checks. Hero bets 26bb. SB calls and is all-in.
SB wins the pot with A♦ T♦
Doug Polk’s Thoughts
This type of flush draw is perfect to start betting with on the flop. Since 8-high has no showdown value, 8♦ 5♦ makes perfect sense to put into our flop c-betting range as a bluff since it still carries a lot of equity versus our opponent’s range.
We also have a range advantage on this board because we can have all of the strong Kx hands (AKs/AKo) and sets (KK/JJ) as the pre-flop raiser. Our opponent is very unlikely to have such hands as the pre-flop caller. This will help us generate more fold-equity when we start taking an aggressive line with our weaker flush draws.
As played, we should not have a raising range versus this probe bet (or lead) and just call instead. This is because it is hard for us to have many value hands that we want to be raising here, and having a raising range will make it much more difficult to balance your calling range with hands that are sufficiently strong.
Getting it all-in on the river is completely standard – we have a two-card flush on a non-paired board versus an opponent that began the hand with 41bb.
Hand #3: Check-raising with the nut flush draw
This hand was posted by Upswing Lab member Hula.
5NL Zoom 6-Max on PokerStars. 173bb Effective Stacks.
Hero is dealt A♠ 4♥ in the SB
4 folds. Hero raises to 3bb. BB calls.
Flop (6bb): K♦ J♠ 8♠
Hero checks. BB bets 3bb. Hero calls.
Turn (12bb): T♠
Hero checks. BB bets 11.6bb. Hero raises to 34bb. BB calls.
River (80bb): 8♣
Hero bets 38bb.
Doug Polk’s Thoughts
This is a really well-played hand on your part.
When we check/call with our backdoor nut flush draw on the flop, we will need to be prepared to play aggressively on turns that bring a spade. Check/raising is definitely the best option with this type of flush draw on the turn.
Since we block the nut flush, we can check-raise and barrel with no chance of being snapped off by the Ace-high flush. An important point to note – we need to make sure that we mix in some flushes with our turn raise to effectively balance this range with our bluffs.
Calling on the turn is an unattractive option when out of position. If we call and hit our flush (or don’t), it will be tough to extract value (or bluff) because our opponent can check back on the river.
On the river, your bet and its sizing make a lot of sense. We don’t want to use a large, polarizing sizing since we never have boats in this spot. (We would never check-raise on the turn with two pair or a set.)
Making use of a smaller sizing still allows us to value-bet our flushes and straights and also gives us room to work in bluffs. If we were to shove on the river with our capped range, our opponent can counter us by calling with a tight range, most of which will beat our best value bet — a flush.
Overall, nice hand!
Note: By following Doug Polk’s free 20 Rules for Playing Flush Draws, you will win more hands in two ways:
Enter your name and email below to get the free flush draw guide.
That’s all I’ve got for you today
See you next time!
If you want to learn more from Doug, check out his video explaining how to play Ace-King after the flop.
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