When playing drawing hands in limit and no limit poker two different approaches are common. Pot limit poker straddles the other two main betting formats and it can be difficult to determine how to play a drawing hand.
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In no limit poker, players have betting freedom to try killing a hand if there are possible draws that may overtake them and may welcome cheap draws for their own flush or straight if allowed. Often in no limit poker a pot can be built after a successful turn card is dealt.
The restrictions of fixed limit poker give players still drawing the pot odds to see many hands to the river and so may take a limited cost to continue drawing. Often it is correct to build the pot early in anticipation of a successful draw and be happy to leave dead money when it does not come off.
Playing with a pot limit betting structure, players have the best (or worst) of both worlds.
Pot Limit Hold’em (Texas and Omaha)
Drawing hands are a major area of pot limit Hold’em. When drawing, players have to decide if the amount they will win with a successful draw in a given hand is more than the amount they lose for the unsuccessful times playing in similar circumstances.
Winning a large pot when drawing in pot limit Hold’em begins with early building. It is often wrong for a player to check a favourable flop with a strong drawing hand. If that player hits on the turn, the connection (board cards to pocket cards) will often seem obvious, making it hard to entice opponents with subsequent large bets; also if that player misses, they will not be able to force opponents to fold, because the pot may not accommodate a large bluff.
A player drawing with a strong poker hand should be thinking of a pot sized bet on the flop. That player may win the pot uncontested with the incomplete hand or if called, may go on to hit the turn and now has the flexibility within the size of the pot to be paid off. Similarly, if the player misses the turn, depending upon circumstances, they may chose to represent a successful draw.
Choosing the opponent to draw against is also important. After the flop, if a player’s opponent is one likely to continue in a hand with an obvious flush or straight it is good to draw. If however, the opponent is one who generally gets off a hand when it looks likely they are beaten, there is less value in paying very much to draw as the number of times that the draw misses will not make up for the time when one hits. Only if the drawing player feels their opponent is a passive player can this be valuable, as they may be able to force their passive opponent off the hand enough times to make the bet worthwhile.
Pot Limit Omaha
Omaha and Omaha Hi/Lo are often played in the fixed and pot limit formats. The four pocket cards dealt in Omaha can mean it is more of a drawing game than Texas Hold’em.
A keen eye on which hands to progress with is required when considering a potential profitable draw.
Omaha (high only) starting hands useful to draw with will typically feature one or two high value pairs and are improved if cards are suited or preferably double suited.
For example, one of the better starting hands in Omaha is A-A-K-K double suited; many though will favour A-A-K-Q, A-A-Q-10, A-A-J-10 as drawing hands that will win a large pot. Not only do they have high value pairs, but also multiple straight draws. If suited (especially suited with the aces) there are even more outs; often it is correct to raise the pot pre-flop with these types of staring hands. Be wary of making a raise with just any pair of Aces because A-A-x-x (x-x being two unsuited/unconnected cards) will be less useful to draw with.
A wrap (four closely connecting or better still consecutive cards) is a valuable hand that may become very strong with a favourable board. The best wrap is J-10-9-8 double suited; aside from being fairly high on a flush, it also gives a player six high straights to draw to.
Lower value wrap hands such as 3-4-5-6 even if double suited should be played with caution, as they may be overtaken or lull the player into a false sense of security when holding the idiot end of a low straight, or playing low on a flush.
Omaha Hi/Lo, is a game of multiple outs. There are so many variables in poker and Omaha Hi/Lo in particular that potential draws for a player or their opponent should be thought through, not over-bet and not slow played.
A-A-K-2, A-A-2-3 double suited is where the smart money goes, but in a four card split pot game these hands can be toppled.
A-2-x- x (x-x being two unsuited/unconnected cards) often is not a good drawing hand as at best it will only guarantee a share of the low pot if there is a qualifying low hand. Too often a promising low hand draw is busted by there either not being a low card dealt later in the hand or, if a low card is dealt it duplicates with one already showing or in the pocket.
For this reason it is usually not correct to enter a pot or continue an expensive draw intent on winning only the low hand. There is always a high hand but not always a low hand in Omaha Hi/Lo. Middle wrap hands like 9-8-7-6 should also be played cautiously as often the player holding them may be left low on the high hand and high on the low hand.
The best draws in pot limit Texas Hold’em and Omaha games will have multiple outs. Up and down straight draws on a rainbow board, and straight draws with strong flush options on suited boards. Reading how the board cards may affect an opponents hand is as important as how they affect the player’s hand. A player should not always assume that a flush has been made whenever there are three suited cards on the board (or is likely with two suited cards showing), but neither should the possibility be ignored if considering a costly straight draw.
Finally, when considering the cost to draw after a promising flop, always take into account the cost if the turn card doesn’t help. If an elusive card is destined to come on the river it may be too much to call.