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Explain Poker Like I'm Five: Backdoor Draw

Series Teaches You The Basics Of Poker Strategy And Terminology


When you’ve played poker for years, it’s easy to forget that technical poker speak may as well be a different language. Many players just picked up a deck of cards for the first time and are wondering what the hell a reverse implied range merge against a large stack to pot ratio is.

Maybe you are new to poker as well and want to start analyzing the game at a deeper level, but the lingo and foreign concepts get in the way. To help, Card Player brings you this series, Explain Poker Like I’m Five.

Every issue, we’ll take on a new term or idea, perhaps one you might come across elsewhere in this very magazine, and we’ll break it down to its simplest components.

The Concept Backdoor Draw

What Is It?

Also known as a runner-runner draw, backdoor draws are much weaker than traditional drawing hands which offer two streets in hold’em and Omaha, and three in stud, to complete. Backdoor draws have limited equity and are often used to justify a bluff or a float.

Okay, Now Explain It Like I’m Five

A backdoor draw requires you to hit not one, but two cards in order to make your hand.

Give Me An Example

Let’s say that you are playing in a cash game and raise QHeart Suit 10Heart Suit from the button. The big blind calls and the flop comes down 9Diamond Suit 7Heart Suit 2Spade Suit. Your opponent leads out with a bet. Assuming he has a hand like top pair with 9Club Suit 5Club Suit, you would normally just fold your two overcards.

But, given your backdoor draws, both straight and flush, you might be able to justify calling. In fact, the percentage difference is drastic. A hand like KSpade Suit QDiamond Suit, although a slightly better holding, only has 23 percent equity on that flop against top pair. But QHeart Suit 10Heart Suit has nearly 31 percent equity. That eight percent difference might be enough to peel a card.

Consider that with QHeart Suit 10Heart Suit, any heart on the turn will give you four to a flush, and any six, eight, jack, or king will give you four to a straight, and that excludes hitting your overcards. The 6Heart Suit and KHeart Suit, specifically, will increase your equity to 41 percent. The JHeart Suit and 8Heart Suit bump it up to almost 48 percent. So, you can see just how powerful some backdoor draws can be.

One of the biggest benefits of backdoor draws is that they are very well hidden. When a regular draw is completed, your opponent might shut down or play more cautiously, but a backdoor draw is less likely to be noticed and therefore increases your implied odds. Simply put, if you make a backdoor flush or straight draw, you just might get a huge bet to be paid off.

Of course, just like you can go broke by chasing all of your draws, you can go broke even quicker by chasing all of your backdoor draws. A backdoor draw only adds value to a hand when you are getting the right price to play and when you use it in conjunction with well-timed bluffs and big value bets when you do get there. ♠