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In previous discussions, we’ve described the various ways in which a hand has both strengths and weaknesses. We’ll now specifically identify three scenarios you will commonly confront.
First, you could have a straight draw with two suited cards on the board. For example, you hold Q♠-T♠, are against an opponent holding A♦-4♦, and the flop in this figure:
Be careful of potential flushes.
In this specific case the flush draw will win 70.5 percent of the money, as it is more likely a flush will come by the end of the hand with nine remaining diamonds out versus the six nondiamond straight cards. The news is much better if you are against A♦-4♦ and the flop in the next Figure appears.
Making a hand on the flop improves your winning chances significantly.
In this case you would still have a straight draw but also a pair of Queens, the percentages change to 56.3:43.7 percent in your favor. We can work with that!
The second kind of seemingly vulnerable hand is when you flop a straight or a flush draw, but there is a pair on board. Let’s say you have Q♠-T♠, and the flop this Figure appears:
This hand is dangerous for straight draws.
Against three random hands you will win 32 percent of the money, which isn’t so bad. Check and call one bet here if you want to play conservatively. If you want to be a little cheeky, you can go for a check-raise, as flush draws will be afraid of a third Nine, and a Nine will be afraid of a flush draw as well as a Nine with a higher kicker. Danger hands for you here are of the J-10 or J-9 variety, as they give the opponent a second pair, trips, or even a full house. These are both commonly played hands, so watch the betting pattern.
Straightforward play would be to check a Nine on the flop and bet it on the turn because of its strength, while a Jack will likely be bet out to get rid of straight draws. If someone does have a third Nine, such as A♥-9♥, you are a major underdog, winning only 26.5 percent of the money. Against AJ, you are on the wrong end of the equation, but not as badly at 61:39 percent against. At this point, you need to decide whether the pot is large enough to stay in. More about that in a bit.
A flush draw with a paired board puts you in no better shape. Let’s say you hold Q♠-T♠, and you get this flop:
Potential flushes rarely beat made trips.
Against A♥-6♥ you are a 25.2:74.8 percent loser going to the turn. Hey, the player holding the Six has made their hand and is more than happy to let you come a-chasing. Your one saving grace is that a player holding the Six will often check the flop, so you will perhaps get a free shot at one of the nine spades in the deck. It’s even worth calling one bet if the pot’s big enough. If you call two bets, turn off your computer and go to bed—you’re too tired to play any more tonight.
Finally, we’d like to talk about when you flop two pair, but there is both a straight draw and a flush draw on the flop. Admittedly, this is not as common of an occurrence as the other two situations, but it will happen. Let’s say you’re in the big blind with 9♣-7♥. Ick. Yuck. Never play these two cards, unless no one raises. If, by some miracle, you get to click Check and see the flop, you might see the miracle shown here:
Sometimes trash turns to gold, then back to trash.
Yippee! You’ve hit the Big Blind Special. But have you? This hand is good, but there are a lot of ways it can lose. First, anyone playing JT will have a straight, leaving you with four cards (the remaining Nines and Sevens and, OK, two running Eights, whatever…) to win the pot. You are offi cially an 82:18 percent underdog as of now. Against a Ten or a Six, giving one opponent an open-ended straight draw, however, you are a solid favorite at 69.4:30.6 percent. Aggressive players will push their straight draws, so it may behoove you to bet or raise for information. If a re-raise comes, it will be best to slow down, unless the turn gives you your miracle. If it looks like the turn completed someone’s straight, and there are a few players left, it may just be time to cut your losses. Look at the pot, though, and think hard before mucking two pair. Just how crazy are these folks? One more big bet in limit poker rarely kills anyone, especially against only one other player. If someone has a double draw with A♦-T♦, you are virtually 50:50 percent to win the pot.
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