I freaking love flopping the nut flush draw.
It’s such a strong draw and you can expect to win pretty often with it, either by hitting a made hand or forcing your opponent to fold by the river.
There are, however, some costly pitfalls that I want to help you avoid, which is why I’m writing this article.
Let’s talk about how to play nut flush draws profitably in the most common situations.
This article is marked as advanced. If you’d prefer more fundamental reading about poker strategy, check out introductory articles here.
How to Play Nut Flush Draws as the Preflop Caller
In this section, I am going to break down how to play both in position as well as out-of-position.
In Position as the Player Who Called Preflop
When it comes to playing in position, you have a distinct advantage. In addition to getting to act with the most information of any player, you also get the last say regarding the size of the pot.
These advantages help you tremendously when it comes to how much equity you will realize. For example, should you miss your draw, you can check back on the river and potentially win if your opponent has a missed hand himself.
Because of this, there is more incentive to call (rather than raise) with nut flush draws when you are in position. That’s not to say you should never raise them, but leaning towards calling is typically the best approach.
To put all these concepts into focus, let’s go over an example of a Blind vs Blind battle.
The scenario: The action folds to the Small Blind who raises to 3bb. You call from the Big Blind with A♥ 4♥. The flop comes K♥ 8♣ 6♥ and the Small Blind bets 33% of the pot.
In this situation, which hand do you think makes more sense to raise: your A♥ 4♥ or the lower flush draw J♥ 3♥?
I’ll give you a few lines to think it over.
J♥ 3♥ is a much more suitable raising candidate. There are two main reasons for this:
- You have showdown value with A♥ 4♥, but not with J♥ 3♥ (i.e. sometimes Ace-high wins at showdown, but Jack-high virtually never does).
- When you raise with the J♥ 3♥, you will force out many better hands (such as Q♣ J♠). But most of the hands you’ll force out with A♥ 4♥ are actually worse than Ace-high.
Here is the situation visualized in a solver for those who are interested:
Notice how the Jack-high flush draw (as well as other low flush draws) tend to have a higher raising frequency than the Ace-high flush draws.
(Can you spot any other interesting parts of this range? Let me know in the comments below this article.)
Out-of-Position as the Players Who Called Preflop
Playing out of position is a different story. You don’t have the option to check and always see the next card/showdown. If you miss your draw, your opponent can bluff you off of your hand a good amount of the time.
Because of your reduced ability to reach showdown, you have more incentive to check-raise nut flush draws when out-of-position.
Let’s exemplify this difference in a Big Blind vs Button single raised pot.
The scenario: The Button raises to 2.5bb and you call in the Big Blind. The flop comes Q♦ 8♦ 6♣ and the Button bets 75% of the pot.
Consider the following hands in your range: A♦ 3♦ and T♦ 3♦.
In this case, you should be more inclined to check-raise the higher flush draw (A♦ 3♦) than the lower flush draw (T♦ 3♦). The main reasons for this are:
- A♦ 3♦ will rarely reach showdown and win
- A♦ 3♦ has much more equity than T♦ 3♦ when your check-raise gets called
- T♦ 3♦ has reverse implied odds on the turn and river because:
- You will get called by all better flush draws, so you may lose a big pot if you hit your hand.
- Hands like JT and T9 will call the check-raise, and you share a card with them (i.e. you’re dominated)
- You’ll actually force folds from some lower flush draws if you barrel on the turn, so it’s tough for you to be on the right side of a cooler.
Here is the simulation which shows this preference in case you’re a poker nerd like me:
Conversely to the in position example, you’ll now notice that high flush draws are more frequently raised than low flush draws. The exceptions, unsurprisingly, are the combo draws such as 7♦ 5♦. Those are such strong hands that they want to shovel money in the pot as soon as possible.
Now, let’s move on to playing nut flush draws as the player who raised before the flop.
How to Play Nut Flush Draws as the Preflop Aggressor
Again, let’s start with playing in position first, then move on to playing out-of-position.
In Position as the Player Who Raised Preflop
As the player who raised preflop, you’ll almost always have a range advantage on the flop, and it’s usually a big range advantage.
When you have a big range advantage, the optimal way to play is aggressively. Put simply, you have so many more value hands than your opponent that you get to play your whole range aggressively. On most flops, you should basically bet every single time when you have the nut flush draw in position.
You should only slow down a bit when the board is especially good for the preflop caller, which is the case on low and very connected flops such as:
- 8♣ 7♦ 6♣
- 9♥ 8♣ 5♣
- 7♠ 6♠ 4♥
- 5♦ 4♦ 3♣
Since these types of flops will hit the preflop caller’s range so well, the optimal strategy is a passive one for the preflop aggressor. This includes checking with many hands that would be easy bets on other boards, including some of your nut flush draws.
That said, you’ll still have some strong hands that want to bet on flops like these, and thus you need some semi-bluffs to balance your range. Including some nut flush draws in that semi-bluffing line is a good idea.
So, which nut flush draws should you bet and which should you check? There’s a couple of options for how to decide in the moment what to do.
One approach is to play a mixed strategy with all of your nut flush draws. You’ll need to use some method of randomization for this approach. For specific methods of randomization, check out this article.
Another approach is to bet when you have a low kicker and check when you have a high kicker. For example, if the flop is K♠ 7♠ 4♦, you would bet hands like A♠ 2♠ and A♠ 5♠ while checking hands like A♠ Q♠ and A♠ J♠.
This makes sense because when you have the nut flush draw, you want your opponent to have a lower flush draw. The A♠ X♠ hands with a low kicker block fewer of the flush draws in your opponent’s range (like Q♠ 6♠ or J♠ 8♠), making it a bit more likely your opponent has a flush draw of his own.
Both approaches have merit and the expected value (EV) of each is similar, so pick the one that you prefer and roll with it.
Out-of-Position as the Player Who Raised Preflop
Playing out-of-position is never a picnic. Even with all those premium pairs that are exclusive to your range as the preflop raiser.
The first step is to consider what types of hands make up the majority of your opponent’s range. When someone calls a raise in position, the heart of their range is usually the low-middling pocket pairs, suited high card hands, and maybe of the best offsuit hands (like KQo or AJo).
The next step is to analyze how well your opponent’s condensed range of hands hits the flop. To list a few examples:
- 9♥ 8♥ 3♠ hits their range hard
- K♠ Q♠ 2♥ is a lot better for your range than their range
- A♣ 9♠ 3♣ is in the middle
When the board hits their range hard, you have to play extremely defensively. That includes checking with most or all of your nut flush draws.
When the board is better for your range, you can do a lot more betting. Most of your nut flush draws should be in your betting range on such flops.
When the board is somewhere in the middle, go back to one of those previously mentioned approaches (the mixed strategy or the high/low kicker strategy).
Those are a few solid rules that will result in a good out-of-position strategy.
Note: If you want to get more precise and maximize your EV as the preflop raiser out-of-position, you have to check out the Single Raised Pots OOP module in the Upswing Lab training course.
Poker pro Jason McConnon did an amazing job on this module. He takes you on a deep dive into this spot, starting with an overview of how to play on dozens of different flop and turn combinations. Then he moves on to in-depth analysis of 4 specific flops to help you lock-in the optimal strategy.
Here’s a full list of the lessons covered in the module:
The module also comes with Jason’s aggregated reports, which lists a ton of different flops along with optimal bet and check frequencies (along with the optimal bet size to use).
If you watch through this whole module and implement the concepts, you’re sure to make way more money whenever an in position player calls your preflop raise.
Phew, that was a beast of a guide!
If you’re able to internalize these strategies and put them into practice, you’ll find yourself making way more money on average with your nut flush draws (and nut flushes).
That’s all I have for you in this article! I hope you found it valuable and that it inspired you to play these hands better. As usual, if you have any questions or feedback please let me know in the comment section down below.
Want to continue your study with another advanced article? Check out Play Like a Pro When The Turn Pairs The Middle Card.
Till’ next time, good luck, grinders!