Who doesn’t love flopping a flush draw?
It’s easy to understand why players get excited when they have a flush draw, but that excitement can cause costly strategic errors.
In this article, I am going to lay out some ideas that will help you make more theoretically sound (and profitable) decisions whenever you have a flush draw on the flop and on the turn.
The flop sections focus on playing in position as the preflop aggressor. The turn section covers playing as the preflop aggressor in general. Note that I covered playing flush draws as the preflop caller in an earlier article (check that out here).
Playing Flush Draws on the Flop as the Aggressor
In the era before poker solvers, the consensus in the poker community was that if you have a flush draw, then you should basically always bet on the flop. The logic seemed sound — you either take the pot right there or build the pot with a hand that might become a monster on the turn/river.
I remember joining the Upswing Lab back in 2016, and that was when I first learned the power of checking back some flush draws (a highly recommended strategy in the Lab).
The reason for doing so? Balance. If you always bet when you flop a flush draw, your opponent will can easily counter you in a number of ways, such as:
- Folding more often versus your turn/river bets when the flush comes in.
- Attacking your check back range when the flush comes in (because you never check back flush draws).
Once the solver era kicked into high gear, the strategy with flush draws become more precise. Frequent users began to notice trends in the way the solver played flush draws. Sometimes it would mix it up big time, checking with all types of flush draws at some frequency. Sometimes it bet flush draws 100% of the time.
Before getting into specifics about which flush draws to check on the flop and when, keep in mind that always betting with flush draws only becomes a serious problem if your opponent(s):
- Know that you are always betting with flush draws
- Know how to exploit the fact that you are always betting with flush draws
With this in mind, let’s see when you should check back some flush draws on the flop against those particularly strong players who match both the criteria above. In other words, let’s talk about the theoretically correct way to play flush draws.
When You Should Sometimes Check Back With Flush Draws
You should check with some flush draws when you do not have a big range advantage on the flop. Consider flops such as:
- 8♠ 6♦ 4♦
- T♣ 4♥ 2♥
- J♦ 7♥ 3♥
On these boards, the solver elects to check back somewhere between 30-40% of the time with flush draws.
It is perfectly acceptable to build whatever kind of rules you want for yourself to match these frequencies. You can either use a randomizer and play a mixed strategy with all flush draws, or try to come up with a rule that results in checking back 30-40% of flush draws (such as always checking nut flush draws).
When You Can Always Bet With Flush Draws
On flops where you have a big range advantage — flops on which you could even c-bet with your whole range without losing much EV — you should always bet with a flush draw. Think of flops such as:
- K♦ J♦ 5♣
- Q♠ T♥ 3♠
- K♥ K♦ 6♥
On these flops, because of your nut advantage (having many strong hands that your opponent cannot have), you can c-bet at a high frequency. This is because the other player can’t check-raise too often because he doesn’t have enough super strong hands to back that check-raising range up.
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Playing Flush Draws on the Turn
Now that flop play is out of the way, let’s talk a bit about the turn.
We cannot possibly cover the near-countless turn spots in a single article, but I can help you with a few rules of thumb that will help you make better decisions overall.
Rule #1: Make sure you check back with some flush draws
The turn strategy is vastly different from the flop strategy, where sometimes betting with all flush draws can be theoretically correct.
On the turn, you will (almost) never have such a strong range advantage that you can bet your entire range. For this reason, you want to keep yourself somewhat balanced in all the spots by checking back some flush draws, that way your check back range will not be vulnerable when the flush draw hits on the river.
Checking with these flush draws is not something that will automatically win you more money against the average opponent, but it protects you from becoming exploitable and losing money against very good players.
Rule #2: Make sure you’re always betting with at least some flush draws
The main reason to bet with draws is because they can become value bets on later streets. So, on the flip side to rule #1, you should still lean towards betting most of the time with your flush draws.
The key is to not take an all or nothing approach with flush draws. In any given turn spot, you should bet with some flush draws and check back with others (unless you have a good exploitative reason for doing so).
Rule #1 and #2 provide two ends of a spectrum. The third rule will help you dial your flush draw betting frequency to the optimal point on that spectrum.
Rule #3: The better the turn is for your range, the more you want to bet with flush draws
The better the turn is for your range, the more fold equity you will have. As your fold equity increases, the profitability of your bluffs (or semi-bluff) increase.
The inversion is also true, the worse the turn is for your range, the more you want to check and play defense. For example, suppose the turn is very bad for your range to the point that you only want to bet your very strongest hands. In that scenario, you should only bet a handful of your flush draws (say, 10% of them) to help balance out the strong hands.
Even though checking back some flush draws is backed by theory, you may not make more money over the long run simply by doing this.
What may happen instead, is that your opponents start to fear you a bit more, especially if you’re playing live against the same players over and over again. They may get caught off guard by how you always seem to have flushes in your range. That may cause them to start playing more passively against you when the flush hits (or in general). This will make your life much simpler and your time at the table more profitable as you will get to realize more equity for free and play more accurately against their bets.
Or, maybe you’ll come across a crazy opponent who overbets all-in after you check back and turn a flush. “He checked back so he can’t have a flush,” he’ll naively think.
That’s all for this article! I hope you learned something interesting and find a way to apply into your own game to get an edge over your opponents! As usual, if you have any questions feel free to leave a comment down below and I will do my best to reply.
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Until next time, good luck, grinders!
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