how to play open-ended straight draws

How to Play Open-Ended Straight Draws in Cash Games

I get a rush of positive energy whenever I flop an open-ended straight draw.

It’s just so amazing to hit one of those 8 sneaky outs and win a huge pot.

I’d be willing to bet that most of you feel similarly.

But playing straight draws correctly isn’t necessarily easy. This article will help you play them better by covering:

  • How to Play Open-Ended Straight Draws as the Preflop Raiser (Single Raised Pots)
  • How to Play Open-Enders as the Preflop Caller (Single Raised Pots)
  • A Quick Word on Multiway Pots

Let’s begin!

Single Raised Pots: Heads-Up Scenarios

There are two scenarios that are more frequent than any other by a huge margin:

  1. In position as the preflop raiser from the Button
  2. Out of position as the preflop caller from the Big Blind against the Button

These two scenarios will be the focus in the examples that follow.

Let’s start with playing open-enders from the Button.

Open-Ended Straight Draws as the Preflop Raiser

Open-ended straight draws usually have a pretty good chance of becoming the best hand by the river.

Because of this, you should usually bet with open-enders to start building the pot and to deny your opponent his equity.

Solvers confirm this approach. On any non-monotone flop, solvers almost always bet with the open-enders at a very high frequency (close to 100% of the time).

Take a look at how PioSolver plays a J♠ T 5as the Button preflop raiser against a big blind preflop caller:

button vs big blind solver solution for JT5 with open-ended straight draws highlighted

On this flop, the open-ended straight draws are KQ, Q9, and 98.

You can see that the betting frequency (betting of 2 into a pot of 6) is quite close to 100%. In practice, it’s more than fine to round this up to 100% (unless you’re against an aggressive player who will attack your check back range when the straight completes).

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Open-Ended Straight Draws as the Preflop Caller (Out of Position)

After defending from the Big Blind, your opponent will more often than not fire a continuation bet (c-bet).

Against a c-bet, the optimal counter strategy includes check-raising with the strongest hands in your range to build the pot and extract value. You then have to balance those strong hands with semi-bluffs, otherwise your opponent could exploit you by folding a lot versus your check-raise. And some of the best semi-bluffing candidates are open-ended straight draws.

That said, you should not always check-raise with your open-ended straight draws. Playing out of position with a high stack-to-pot ratio is a tough task, and the optimal approach is complex as a result. There are many more ranges to balance out.

To keep all of your ranges robust and protected, you will need to both check-call and check-raise with your open-enders. The exact breakdown heavily depends on the specific flop and situation.

Let’s take a look at another example in PioSolver. This is for that same J♠ T 5 rainbow board in the same situation (Button vs Big Blind), but from the Big Blind’s perspective versus a c-bet:

solver solution big blind vs button on jt5 with open-enders highlighted

In the solver’s solution, you can see that KQ, Q9, and 98 are all mixed strategy hands. This means that the solver found it best to split these hands into both the check-calling and the check-raising lines.

If you think about it, it’s fairly obvious why the solver plays open-enders this way.

Consider how your opponent could exploit you if he knew that you always check-raised with open-ended straight draws. Whenever you just called and the turn completed a straight, your opponent could put maximum pressure on you with huge bets. And there’s nothing you could do about it because your range would be capped at hands worse than a straight.

Open-Ended Straight Draws in Multiway Pots as the Preflop Aggressor

Solvers are amazing for studying heads-up pots, but not so much for multiway pots. So, let’s rely on intuition for this section.

As the preflop raiser, there are arguments to be made for both betting and checking with draws in multiway pots.

On one hand, you can bet to force folds from weak pairs and random nothing hands. However, the likelihood of someone holding a strong hand is much higher when more players are involved in the pot, so your bet is less likely to take down the pot on the flop. You will also get raised more often, which makes it tougher to realize your equity.

If you do bet, I suggest using a small size. Your goal is to force folds from airball hands and weak pairs with equity — strong hands aren’t going anywhere, even if you bet big. If you use a big size, you actually make it quite easy for your opponents to play correctly (they just have to call or raise when they have a strong hand and fold otherwise).

On the other hand, checking will allow you to realize your equity for free or cheaply. But this also means that your opponents get to realize their equity for free, so there’s a clear trade off and neither option is obviously better than the other.

When you have an open-ender in a multiway pot, use your best judgement to decide whether to bet or check. Consider how your opponents’ ranges interact with the flop, how likely it is you will face a raise, your opponents’ tendencies, and any other information at your disposal to make the right decision.

Final Thoughts

Open-enders are fun hands to play. You should often times play them aggressively, allowing you to frequently take down the pot without showdown. But even if you’re called, you have 8 outs to make a powerful, disguised hand with which you can scoop a huge pot.

That’s all for this article! I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you have any questions or feedback please let me know in the comment section down below and I will do my best to reply!

Here’s what I recommend reading next: 3 Tips for Winning with Gutshot Straight Draws.

Till’ next time, good luck, grinders!

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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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