The Flop

There are seven players seeing the flop of 874. This is a very good flop of our hero. The main characteristic is a flush draw against a large field. Played properly, flush draws against large fields are very big money winners but this flop is even better. Second pair might be actually the best hand. The 9 kicker is an overcard and there is a three-card straight. Counting the three-card straight as one out, and the counting the 9overcard as three outs, this hand might already be the best poker hand and has as many as thirteen outs if it is not best. That's enough to make this hand only a small underdog against one player. Against two or more players, this hand is worth a raise. Against three players this hand is certainly worth a raise, if you are certain that three of them will call. It would be good to have everyone fold and win the pot right now, but as that isn't likely to happen, you would like to have as many callers as you can get so that you get maximum odds on your draw.

The first three players checked. There was a bet. The next player raised. The sixth player called and our hero called. Then the pre-flop raiser, who has originally checked, re-raised; the other two players who had checked folded, and everyone else called.

We shall discuss this in two stages. First the initial call on the flop by our hero. A debate can be made for not raising initially on the flop because there were still three players who hadn't had chance to call and he didn't want to deter them from calling. With three players who will certainly call a re-raise, a raise would not be wrong but it is a situation calling for a table judgment. If you had a reason to think that a couple of the players who had checked first will call for two bets when they wouldn't call for three bets then just calling and going for the overcards is the right thing to do. However, if you think that an extra bet won't affect whether any of those three players will call, you should go ahead and raise. You can also check with the intention of back-raise, if you think that one of the texas early position players were planning a check-raise.

In any case, our hero called the first round and the situation was such that it is not really possible to be certain that calling isn't better than raising here. After the big blind check-raised, however, our hero should put in the last raise when the betting gets back around to him. He is last to act and there is no one else behind him who might raise; everyone has already called a bet and two raises, so they will call another raise. With a flush draw, that becomes very significant.

Our hero once had reasoned why didn't raise. It was because he was concerned that someone might be drawing to a bigger flush than his 9-high. That is a common matter among players who often take a made-hand-versus-draw perspective to Hold'em. It is also common matter among Hold'em poker players who play lot of seven-card stud.

In seven-card stud, if you have a flush draw then the chances that someone else also has a flush draw are higher than they would be if you didn't have a flush draw. Their draws are likely to be in a different suit than yours. The reason is that if you have four Spades then the remainder of the deck has a higher proportion of Hearts, Diamonds, and Clubs than it usually would. If you have a four Spades then the chance of someone else having four Hearts is larger than it would be if you had one card of each suit. Therefore, in games such as seven-card stud that don't have shared cards, you should be very cautious in drawing to flushes that aren't headed by an Ace. A 9-high flush can often be beaten by a larger flush.

Hold'em is completely different. Because of the nature of the shared cards, you cannot have straight flush draws in two different suits on the flop. If anyone else has a flush draw, it should be in your suit. Between the two in your hand and the two on the board, there are only nine cards of your suit left. There are thirteen unseen cards of two of the other suits and twelve unseen cards fourth suit. If another player has suited cards, the odds are very high that the suit is not the same suit as your flush draw. It is very unlikely that two players both flop a flush draw in Hold'em. One player with a draw is what makes it unlikely that another player also has a draw.

Second thing which works in your favor is that if you have a flush draw in those situations (where someone else actually does have a bigger flush draw) the chances that you will make your flush are very weak. That means it is unlikely that you will make your hand and you will be beaten by another flush, which can be costlier those few times it does happen.

The 2-1 odds of making a flush takes into consideration those times that someone else has a draw and your chances of making it are worse than that. If no one else has a flush draw, then your poker odds are better than 2-1 and having the extra edge of three or four callers is more than enough to compensate for those few unwanted situation where you do get beaten by a bigger flush. The risk of putting in the last raise is more than compensated for by the profit you will get from that raise. Failure to raise before the flop was a small mistake. Failure to raise on the flop was a big mistake.

The Turn

The card on the turn made the flush with the 874K. The first player checked the next player bet and everyone called.

Why didn't our hero raise now that he has made the best hand he has a draw to? Again, he was concerned that someone else might have better flush. That's way too timid. It is a kind of timid play in a multi-way pots that players who take a fixed perspective on the game tend to make. If you have a flush then the chances of making someone else is relatively smaller. Here the K is one of the cards on the board making it even less likely that, even if someone else has flush, then it would be larger than the 9-high-flush. Failure to raise in this situation is hesitant and it is an example of weak-tight play. Three players have already called a bet. At least two players would call a raise. That means that in the least case you get 2-1 on a raise. You might even have everyone call, giving you 4-1 on the raise. The chances that your texas hand is best are probably better than 10-1. Even you estimate that its even money that someone else has a higher flush, the odds you will get on the raise from the number of callers you will get compensated for that risk.

It is quite normal for players to be timid to raise when they make a flush that is not the best possible flush. That's a mistake. Hands such as 97 are profitable in multi-way pots. The reason of its profitability is that they sometimes make flushes with the potential for a huge pot. You won't realize that profit unless you make a raise with these hands when you make them.

The River

The card on the river was 9?. And the board looks like 874K9. It is possible for a straight flush. The first three players checked and one player who had been calling till now suddenly bets. Our hero called.

It is important to raise now. Because no one raised when the flush card hit, the bettor is very likely to have made a straight and be convinced it is the best hand. Raising might very well get a re-raise from a player with the straight. Sometimes it is better to call a bet on the river in a multi-way pot in the hope that players who haven't called yet will call but they won't call a raise. That's called "going for the overcall." When the pot gets large and here in this case the pot is large, the kind of players who tend to occupy loose texas tables will often call a raise with weak hands. The pot is too large for them to give up. Because the board looks as if it is possible someone has a straight and they think a straight is the best hand, a raise may well attract the players to re-raise.

But our hero called. Then the player who had initially raised on the flop raised. A check-raise on the river with a board that shows a possible flush and a possible straight is a show of great strength, but this player didn't check-raise when the K fell on the turn and he could have. So it is unlikely that the check-raiser has a flush. A straight is the possible hand that the check-raiser has, although it would be surprising if he would raised before the flop and continued to call to the river with a hand that would make a straight.

Our hero called the raise. It seems a re-raise was called for. The trade-off between overcalls and a raise is now gone. Although a check-raise by the pre-flop raiser does show strength, we think the pattern of the play of the hand suggests that it is very unlikely that anyone else has a flush. Our hero's judgment at the table was that there was a risk of another player having a higher flush and he just called. His judgment was almost right.

The Showdown

The pre-flop raiser had made two pair on the river. He had K9. The other player in the showdown had a straight. Our hero won the pot with the flush.


Now this hand serves as a classic example of the kinds of mistakes that players make when they tend to always think of Hold'em as a contest between the best hand and a draw. They think that adding more callers increases the chances that the best hand is very high hand. The fact is that adding more callers helps to increase the odds you are getting enough to that it's often good enough to have the best hand, particularly when your hand has many outs.

In a loose game, especially the card game that's very loose and very aggressive, players tend to have some weak hands and they often tend to overplay those weak hands. That's where the profit comes from in these games. Having a lot of callers who tend to play weak hands does not increase the probability that the best hand is a very good hand. Just the opposite: it increases the odds that a better-than-average, not top, hand will get action from weak hands. For getting action, you should be willing to take some risk. It is a risk to re-raise on the river with a flush that might not be the best flush. It is a risk to raise on a draw to a hand that might not be the best hand but there is a high pay-off available to those willing to take those risks in the right kind of game conditions.

In a loose or very loose game that's also aggressive or very aggressive, it is important to take control, play your hands aggressively. It means raising and re-raising when you think you probably have the best poker draws. It also means raising when you make a flush. If you do not desire to take the risk associated with taking control in such games, then it might be that such kinds of games are not meant for you.

Continue: Playing a Pocket Pair