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Playing the Pot Draw

This is a hand that currently has little or no strength, but has a chance to become very strong, usually by turning into a straight or flush by gaining the correct card. I call these hands pot draws because they have positive expectations in terms of pot odds but not in terms of bet odds. It is the money already in the pot that makes these draws profitable.

All draws to strong hands are best multi-way. With these hands, your odds of winning are roughly equal to your odds of completing your draw: You assume that you will lose if you don't hit the draw and that you will win if you do. Therefore, your winning odds depend mostly on the cards and aren't significantly affected by the number of opponents. (In fact, if you are drawing to the nuts, your winning odds aren't affected at all by the number of opponents.) If you have the odds to call but not to bet or raise, it follows that you want to maximize your pot odds by playing "on the cheap," that is, by having access to a large pot without having to pay much for it. Thus, pot draws are best when you are against many opponents and can stay in the pot cheaply.

Keep in mind that you will miss with draws most of the time. They key to long-term success with them is to (1) keep your contributions small and (2) make sure that when you do hit your draw, the pot is big enough to make up for all the times you missed, plus a net profit. Again, the presence of a large field is what allows you to accomplish this.

Basic Strategy for Pot Draws

1. Make sure that you have a positive expectation by comparing the odds of completing your draw to your pot odds. Your pot odds will ultimately depend on the number of opponents who you expect to play the hand against you. Your odds of winning are based on the number of available outs left in the deck, but these odds usually arise from standard situations for which you can memorize odds in advance.

2. If you decide to play a pot draw, the way to maximize your pot odds is to put a little money as possible into the pot by checking or calling. These actions have the additional beneficial effect of keeping other callers in the hand.

3. In fixed-limit poker, once you call one bet with a draw, you are usually mathematically bound to play it until the end of the hand.

However, you must be prepared to fold if your pot odds drop significantly. This can happen when (1) many other opponents fold or (2) you are required to call a large raised bet against a small pot or both. Don't let your ego prevent you from dropping a hand if an opponent raises to force you out. He may be doing the right thing by raising, and if that gives you a negative expectation, you are doing the right thing by folding.

Be prepared to fold if your odds of winning drop significantly. In Stud, which for the appearance of your outs in the up cards. Also, remember that your actual odds of winning with a draw are based on the chance of making the draw minus the chance of someone else making or having a bigger hand.

4. Betting or raising on a pot draw is inconsistent with basic strategy, but as you'll see, it can be tactically viable.

5. Implied pot odds can make it correct for you to stay with a draw if your immediate pot odds don't quite get you there, but only if (1) the gap is small, (2) you are drawing to the best hand or close to it, and (3) you are fairly certain that you are in a position to make your opponents pay you off if you hit.