Strategy for Straights & Flushes
How to Play Drawing Hands in Online Poker Games
Straights and flushes are among the better hands to show down in Texas Holdem. This is especially the case when your opponents are the kinds of players who are reluctant to fold 1-pair type hands. To make these hands you’ll need to speculate, playing connected and suited cards before the flop. Since these cards will rarely win unimproved, you need to be sure that both the math and the situation is correct before you put money into the pot.
This page covers the separate though related strategy for playing straight and flush hands before the flop. First I have looked at suited cards, and the risks and rewards of trying to hit a flush. After that suited connectors are discussed, these hands can hit small flushes and straights. At the end of the page ae some thoughts on flopping the nuts, and how to adjust to different types of opponent.
Suited Cards – Playing to Hit Flushes in Texas Holdem
One of the biggest leaks I see in new players is playing too many hands where the cards are suited. Hitting the occasional flush with your Queen-Eight of hearts might bring you a big pot or two – though over time, the majority of these hands are big losing propositions. The real risk is not when you miss the flop – it is when these players partially hit. You’ll lose big pots those times an opponent has you outkicked or has a bigger pair.
In order to play suited cards, you should be looking at an ace-x hand, two suited broadway cards, or a suited connector (two consecutive suited cards). Even with these hands you will need to fold to any significant action before the flop. Without at least 20x your initial bet to be won after the flop, the math does not work out. Your chances of flopping a flush are only 0.84%, and even then there is no guarantee that you will double your stack.
When you play a suited ace, the more likely outcome is that you will hit a flush draw – which you’ll hit 11% of the time. That is to say you will need one or more of the turn and river cards to match your suit in order to complete your hand. There are also pair + draw combinations to consider.
My advice is to play these types of hand aggressively, rather than wait until you make the flush to wake up betting. This gives you 2 shots at winning the hand (your opponent can fold) - this also builds a bigger pot for those times you complete your hand. Another reason is that when the 3rd (or even 4th) flush card hits, many players will be wary of a flush – and not be willing to risk their entire stack at that point.
Straights – Connected Cards and Suited Connectors
Straights are lower than flushes in the hand rankings, though they have one distinct advantage. When you make a straight, say with 7-8 in your hand, it is often very well disguised. The flop might have 9-5-6 – and nobody will suspect your exact holding.
Playing all cards which are connected would make your range of starting hands way to wide. I recommend that the only unsuited cards you play which are close in rank are the broadway cards. Suited cards which are also connected are known as ‘suited connectors’. An example would be 5-6 or spades. These are more valuable, since you can also make small flushes with them. Once again they only become playable if your stack (and the stacks of your opponents) are deep enough to justify your preflop betting. I recommend you ensure that at least 25x your bet is available.
As with the flushes scenario – you are far more likely to flop a draw to a straight (or small flush) than a made hand. This is where aggression pays off. If you ‘semi bluff’ at the pot you can either win right away or win at showdown those times you do improve.
Remember that position at the table is important when it comes to playing suited connectors. If you are one of the first players to act, there is a higher chance of a reraise (which you probably can’t profitably call) coming in behind you.
Flopping the Nuts
If you hold suited and / or connected cards and flop a made flush or straight, then you’ll need to think about the best way to get money into the pot.
If you have the nut flush, then the last thing you want to see is a 4th card of the same suit hit the turn – scaring off your opponents. Whether you bet or call will depend on the games you are playing in. If your table is loose and passive, then you can start building a pot right away. If you are against a single timid opponent, then you might want to slow down – hoping that your opponent will make some kind of a hand on the turn.
Straights are more easily disguised – even when there are 3 connected cards on the flop, it is difficult for opponents to give you credit for the hand you have. Here I would be more inclined to bet out – especially if your opponents are the type who get to showdown with weaker 1-pair type hands.