Sign Up For Card Player's Newsletter And Free Bi-Monthly Online Magazine

The Rise and Fall of a Big Draw

by Daragh Thomas |  Published: Jun 01, 2010


There are many areas in poker in which even good players frequently make mistakes. In fact as the games have gotten tougher it is these types of mistakes that determine whether a player will be a winner or a loser. One very common mistake that all players make, from bad to good, is vastly overestimating their implied odds. Implied odds are just like pot odds, but take into account possible bets on future streets. Think about the steps that all have to be in place for this to work.

1) You have to make your draw.

2) If you make your draw, it must be the best hand — it’s not always possible to draw to the nuts, and a lot of draws contain both nut and non-nut outs.

3) Your hand must stand up — it’s not much use making a flush on the turn if the river gives your opponent a house.

4) You need to make money once you make your hand. This means either your opponent betting, or you betting and getting called. A lot of draws are very visible, and your opponent will often be reluctant to put more money into the pot if an obvious draw hits. (Or a tight player suddenly raises him).

As you can see, it’s quite the parlay. One factor that is often overlooked is position. In position it is much easier to control the action, and thus you can often get to the river for cheaper and it is much easier to get value for your hand, should you be lucky enough to make it. The hand I am about to recount was played out of position, with predictable results.

The hand occurred in a live no-limit £1/£2 game in London, at the Empire Casino in Leicester Square. I had been playing for around six hours when the following hand occurred.

I raised to £7 from early position with QHeart Suit JHeart Suit. I got several calls from around the table (we were playing ninehanded). The flop came up A-X 10Heart Suit 9Heart Suit, giving me a straight flush draw. There was about £28 in the pot, and I bet £18. It was folded to the cut-off, who made it £50. It was then folded back around to me. Now here I have a decision to make.

My hand is so strong that you could make an argument for re-raising here, and in a lot of situations I would. Had the effective stack been below £300 I would just raise again, committing myself. However in this case we both had more than £700, which meant that if I was to raise again, I would face an all in which I would be forced to call, and I would make very little money as I am a small underdog against a set.

Most of the time I get it all in like this I will be up against a set, or possibly A-K of hearts. Since the raise size was small, relative to the effective stacks, I decided to flat call. Also, what dissuaded me from raising was that I put my opponent on a very tight range. The game was playing very passively, and there were several very loose players in the hand when he made his raise — this forces his range to be stronger.

He was a young friendly chap named Aaron, probably a professional. While there was a possibility he was bluffing me, I thought it was far more likely he had a set, two pair, or possibly a good ace.

The turn was a very bad card for my hand, an off-suit ace. Until this point I had a very strong hand. Now, if my feeling was correct and he had a very good hand on the flop (I wouldn’t consider Ax strong here) one of the following must have occurred.

A) His two pair just got counterfeited. This is unlikely. If it happened it means I have little in the way of implied odds any more, and not much chance of bluffing him since he is in position as he can check behind the turn with a house as easily as with T-9.

B) His two pair or set just became a house. This is quite likely, and means my huge draw has now shrunk into a two outer.

In these situations you can tell a lot about someone’s hand by the amount they bet. I checked and he bet £60. Some players will size their bet with the river pot size in mind, especially if they have a very good hand. Other players, with a very strong and almost unbeatable hand (like a house) will size their bet so as to price in, or entice draws into the hand. I felt this player was more likely to be in the latter camp. So at this stage I thought he was likely to have a house, with a small chance of a bluff, and a reasonable chance of a hand like A-K or A-Q.

I made what was definitely a mistake on my part here though. My hand is great on the flop, it has really good equity against any hand, including a set (about 42 percent). However this is a really bad turn card for my hand, as I am now likely to be drawing to two outs against a house.

This is where a situation called reverse implied odds (RIO) comes into play. Not only should you consider the implied odds in a situation, you also need to consider the RIO if there is a chance you could make your hand, but for it to be second best. In this hand, if I get lucky and make a flush or a straight but am unlucky enough to be against a house, it is going to cost me money. I can’t check-fold, I can either check-call, or bet-fold; both of which are going to cost me a good deal of money.

My opponent’s play is entirely consistent with a house, and even if he only has trips or a bluff, there is little chance he is going to pay me off should I make my hand. So in the cold light of day, this is a pretty clear fold. However, the cold light of day is very different to the middle of a 14-hour poker session, in the middle of a four-day stag party. (Otherwise read as a drinking session!). So I obviously called. I’ll leave the river card, and the action for next months article, as the action on the river was fascinating by both players. I had already made a big mistake in the hand and I followed it up on the river with an even bigger one. Spade Suit

Daragh Thomas has made a living from poker over the last three years. He also coaches other players and writes extensively on the poker forum, under the name hectorjelly.