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Dicey Situation With A Marginal Draw

by Jonathan Little |  Published: Jan 31, 2018


I was recently told about a poker hand that illustrates a significant error many amateurs make with their drawing hands that costs them a huge amount of money in the long run.

In a $5-$10 no-limit hold’em cash game, our Hero raised to $35 out of his $1,500 effective stack from second position with 8Spade Suit 7Spade Suit.

Some players opt to fold suited connectors from early position, but I think that is generally a mistake when playing deep stacked unless your opponents play at a world class level. By adding a few suited connectors to your early position raising range, you give yourself better board coverage, meaning there are more boards where you can conceivably have the nuts. For example, if you only raise 8-8+, A-K, and A-Q from early position, it is quite difficult for you to have a nut hand on most middle and low card boards, but if you have a few decent suited connectors in your range, it becomes a bit more likely, making it tougher for your opponents to push you around by blindly applying pressure.

A player in second position called and then an unknown player in third position reraised to $130. Everyone folded around to Hero, who called.

This is a dicey spot, but given the pot is somewhat likely to be seen by all three players, I am fine with calling. Hero has a hand that has large implied odds, meaning he will usually either lose a small pot or win a gigantic pot. As long as he doesn’t put in too much money with a marginal one-pair hand, things will usually work out well enough. That said, folding is also perfectly acceptable, given Hero has essentially the bottom of his range, he is out of position, and he is not getting great implied odds.

The player in second position folded. The flop came 6Heart Suit 5Spade Suit 2Diamond Suit, giving Hero an open-ended straight draw and backdoor flush draw. Hero checked, his opponent bet $140 into the $310 pot and Hero called.

While leading may have some merit, I typically check my entire range to the preflop reraiser because he should have a range advantage on essentially all flops. Once he bets, I think Hero has an easy check-raise to $500 (with the intention of calling if the opponent pushes all-in due to the excellent pot odds). Hero can also check-raise using this bet sizing with his sets. Notice Hero should have relatively few draws in this spot (due to his presumably strong early position preflop raising range), meaning his check-raising range should be mostly premium hands (assuming he calls reraises with small pairs). When your range should be mostly premium hands, you want to work hard to ensure you also have draws in it.

The problem with calling the opponent’s flop bet is that if the turn fails to complete Hero’s draw, he will often have to fold to another bet, or run a risky check-raise bluff. When the turn checks through, Hero should usually attempt a bluff, but there is no guarantee it will succeed, especially if the opponent will check behind with overpairs. By check-raising, Hero avoids tough turn and river situations.

The turn was the 5Heart Suit. Hero checked.

I actually don’t mind a small turn lead in this spot, given the opponent has essentially no trips in his range whereas Hero could have a few (A-5 suited, 6-5 suited, and 5-4 suited). If the opponent raises, he will be investing money poorly when Hero has the effective nuts, meaning he should often call with his overpairs and fold most other hands. By betting small, Hero saves money compared to when he checks and his opponent makes a sizable bet. Also, Hero can conceivably bluff the river because he would certainly bet with all his effective nut hands.

The opponent bet $250 into the $590 pot and Hero called.

At this point, Hero is in a tough spot. He is getting slightly worse than break-even odds to call, which makes that an unattractive option. If he raises to essentially any amount, he will be priced in to call an all-in, which also doesn’t seem ideal. As much as I hate it, I think Hero should raise all-in, mainly because that will make the opponent fold many hands that are ahead, but will fold to aggression, such as weak overpairs and unpaired overcards. By calling, Hero can only win when he improves or runs an optimistic river lead when a heart or perhaps a four or a three comes, and even then, the opponent may make the call with his overpairs.

The river was the 3Heart Suit. Hero pushed all-in for $980 into the $1,090 pot.

I like Hero’s all-in. If Hero found himself on the river with a full house or flush, he should strongly consider leading because it is highly unlikely the opponent will bet with an overpair, given a four makes a straight, a five makes trips, and the backdoor flush draw came in. So, the only way to get value out of an overpair is to lead. That said, if the opponent is well-versed in hand reading, he may assume that Hero would have played most of his full houses and flush draws in a different manner on the previous betting rounds. However, that may not be the case, given Hero played a similar draw in this manner. As long as Hero plays some nut hands in this way, I am fine with him bluffing with most hands that make sense, especially eight-high. ♠

Jonathan LittleJonathan Little is a two-time WPT champion with more than $6 million in tournament winnings. Each week, he posts an educational blog and podcast at, where you can get a FREE poker training video that details five things you must master if you want to win at tournament poker. You can also sign up for his FREE Excelling at No Limit Hold’em webinars at