Every time you call preflop with a suited hand, there is an 11% chance that you will flop a flush draw. How well you play those flush draws will have a pretty big impact on your bottom line
This article covers how to best play these hands on the flop and on the turn after you called a raise preflop. I will be focusing on playing flush draws on two-tone flops (e.g. A♠ 5♠ on a J♠ 7♠ 3♦ flop) rather than monotone flops (A♠ K♦ on J♠ 7♠ 3♠).
Just a quick heads-up, this article is a bit on the advanced side.
The Most Important Scenario to Study
There are many different scenarios in which you can be the preflop caller. These are the most common:
- Single raised pot, out of position
Example: The Button raises and you call from the Big Blind.
- Single raised pot, in position
Example: The Cutoff raises and you call on the Button.
- 3-bet pot, out of position
Example: You raise from the Cutoff and call a 3-bet versus the Button.
- 3-bet pot, in position
Example: You raise from the Button and call a 3-bet versus the Small Blind.
The most common of these scenarios is the first one — when you call from the Big Blind against a raise from any position other than the Small blind. Even though these pots are relatively small, this is the most important scenario to study because of the sheer frequency at which it occurs.
Rather than briefly covering each of the 4 scenarios, let’s dive deep into the most important scenario.
Playing Flush Draws on the Flop (as the Big Blind Preflop Caller)
When talking about playing flush draws in this spot, this next line is the most important thing you need to remember…
You need to include flush draws in both your check-calling and check-raising range. This ensures that you will always have flushes in your range on the turn regardless of how the flop played out.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at a couple of different flop outputs from the solver for a Big Blind vs Button battle and go over the main takeaways:
Situation #1: The Coordinated Board (Q♠ 5♦ 4♦)
Suppose the Button raises and you call in the Big Blind. The flop comes Q♠ 5♦ 4♦, you check, and the Button c-bets. Let’s take a look at a PioSolver screenshot for the Big Blind in this spot:
Now, let’s go over the main takeaways.
First, the reason that some flush draws combinations are excluded from this output (such as A♦ K♦ or 8♦ 3♦) is because those hands are not in our range, as they would have elected to either fold or 3-bet preflop.
When focusing on the flush draws that are actually in the preflop calling range, you can see that most flush draws are mixing between check-calling and check-raising at certain frequencies.
Interestingly, the high flush draws are generally played more aggressively than the lower flush draws. Combos draws (like 6♦ 3♦) are played aggressively almost every time. You could dig a bit deeper and try to discern some patterns, but, in reality, choosing certain combos over others won’t make much of a difference.
The important thing to retain is this: When you have a flush draw on a semi-wet board, you should check-call most of the time and check-raise around 1/3rd of the time.
Let’s take a look at a really wet flop now and see if there is any difference:
Situation #2: The Very Coordinated Flop (J♦ 8♦ 5♠)
Same action, different flop.
The Button raises and you call in the Big Blind. The flop comes J♦ 8♦ 5♠, you check, and the Button c-bets. Let’s take a look at a PioSolver screenshot for the Big Blind in this spot:
Focusing on the flush draws once again, you can see that the solver thinks that check-raising should be done less frequently overall (about 33% less often compared to the Q♠ 5♦ 4♦ flop)
This makes sense because the preflop raiser bets bigger (66% of the pot) on this flop, which is accompanied by a more polarized range. When faced with a polarized range, the best response is to polarize your own range, thus you should check-raise as a semi-bluff with fewer combos.
Note: A polarized range is a range that contains strong hands and relatively weak hands, without any medium-strength hands.
These two examples had some small differences, but the main takeaway is the same:
Check-calling should be your most frequent play with a flush draw against a c-bet, but you should also sometimes check-raise to balance out the value range.
The two most common scenarios in which you will have a flush draw on the turn are:
- When you face a bet on the turn (aka double barrel) after check-calling on the flop
- When you face a check-back on the flop
So, the focus of this section will be these two scenarios.
Facing a Double Barrel: (Q♠ 5♦ 4♦) T♥
Let’s first talk about how to play when facing a double barrel.
Your opponent’s double barreling range on the turn will usually be even more polarized than the c-betting strategy from the flop, regardless of the actual board. Additionally, you won’t have as many strong hands in your range since you would have check-raised with some of them on the flop.
For these reasons, you should be very selective with your check-raise hands on the turn when faced with a double-barrel.
To illustrate this, let’s go back to the Q♠ 5♦ 4♦ with the T♥ falling on the turn.
Since you have to limit your check-raise semi-bluffs, you have to restrict yourself to the very best ones available. The majority of the flush draws won’t make the cut, but combo draws do.
Here’s how the solver plays flush draws versus a bet on the turn:
You can see that the solver really likes check-raising combo draws (J♦ 8♦, 6♦ 3♦, A♦ 3♦, etc), but apparently, there aren’t quite enough of those. So, the solver mixes in some second nut flush draws (K♦ 2♦ – K♦ 7♦) as the second-best option:
Regarding which flush draws to check-call, it will depend a lot on your opponent’s bet size. Against a 66-80% pot double barrel, you will need the nut flush draw or the second nut flush draw to justify calling. The lower flush draws should simply fold against this medium bet size.
If your opponent chooses an overbet size, then only nut flush draws are strong enough to check-call once more. There are two reasons why nut flush draws are strong enough to call: they can river the nuts and win an entire stack, or sometimes win with ace-high if the action checks through on the river.
Facing a Check-Back on the Flop: J♦ 8♦ 5♠ (2♣)
For this point, let’s go back to the J♦ 8♦ 5♠ flop with the 2♣ falling on the turn.
After your opponent checks back on the flop, flush draws are prime candidates for probing on the turn for two reasons:
- Flush draws have a lot of equity to improve to the best hand (at least 9 outs, sometimes more if the pair outs are live)
- These hands have little to no showdown value
This is why, with an unpaired flush draw, you should almost always be probe betting on the turn. The only exception is with the strongest nut flush draws such as AT and A9. Those hands can be check-called because they have enough showdown value, as this solver screenshot shows:
This is pretty much the gist of how to play flush draws when you are the caller out of position. You can, and should, go deeper than this if you want to play at the highest level. With this knowledge you should be able to confuse your opponent more often and put in on the spot when you can show up with flush draws in all of the lines.
Now that you’ve learned how to play flush draws as the preflop caller, learn how to play flush draws as the preflop aggressor here.
That’s all for this article! Now go out there are play the hell out of your flush draws and make more money doing it!
Till’ next time, good luck, grinders!