Most Texas hold’em hands are drawing hands

Most Texas hold’em hands are drawing hands

February 20, 2018 3:00 AM


After the flop, most Texas hold’em hands are drawing hands. They must improve to hope to win the pot. Based on your two hole cards and those on the board, there are certain cards (presumed to still be in the deck) that will complete your hand. These are your outs.

Depending on how many outs you have, and the amount of chips in the pot (or anticipated to go into the pot on subsequent betting rounds), you decide to continue in the hand by calling an opponent’s bet – perhaps even a raise. If the pot odds – size of the pot vs. the bet size – are higher than your card odds as estimated from the number of outs you hold, you have a Positive Expectancy (often called a Positive Expected Value, +EV).

In the long run, staying in this hand will pay off for you. It’s a profitable investment.

By connecting with one of your outs to complete your hand, optimistically you presume it will take the pot. But, be aware, not all outs are equal. There are two kinds of outs. Good outs practically ensure you hold the winning hand. Bad outs (labelled “tainted outs” by Byron Ziman) will cost you more chips.

Problem is these particular outs – cards you are hoping to catch – may also be outs for one of your opponents. If it falls on the board, your opponent may have made a hand that is better than yours. Even though you have caught a good hand, you lose the pot. You shake your head and feel down. You close your eyes and take a deep breath – disappointed to say the least; and it costs you quite a few more chips when you bet out, only to be faced with a big raise from your opponent. Of course, you have to call his raise.

How could the poker gods do this to you? Better you should miss catching that tainted out – and save yourself a bunch of chips.

By the way, this sort of thing happens quite often at the poker table. But it sure hurts when it happens to you. And, there isn’t much you can do about it.

Example: From a late position, you are dealt Qc-Jc in the hole, and decide to call a raise to see the flop. It’s a great flop: 10c-9c-2h. Very exciting to say the least! Keep a straight face; no tells from you. You have draws to a straight and to a flush – even a straight flush. That gives you 15 outs all together (not counting outs for pairing up one of your hole cards).

With two cards to come (the turn and the river), using the 4-2 Rule, you estimate your card odds: 15 x 4 = approximately 60 percent probability of connecting. The card odds are about 1.5-to-1 in your favor: 60 divided by (100-60) = 1.5/1.

The turn is the 9s, pairing the other 9 on the board. An opponent bets out from an early position. You ponder for a few seconds and decide he may have caught two-pair or, perhaps, trip nines. Of course, you call his bet to see the river. You have so many outs and the pot is already big.

It’s the 8h – one of your outs! You now have a Queen-high straight. The early-position again opens the betting. After a little thought, you make what you consider a value bet by raising, only to be re-raised. Of course, you have to call, hoping he has two-pair or trip 9’s.

Slowly, deliberately, he turns up his hole cards: 9-8 off-suit. His 9s-full-of-8s full-house takes that huge pot.

By the way, this sort of thing involving a tainted out happens quite often at the poker table. But it sure hurts when it happens to you. And, there is not much you can do about it. You had no idea your out was tainted. It would have been better – less costly – if you had missed.

What you don’t know is the 8 on the river also helped your opponent. He had pocket 8’s in the hole. Combined with the 8h on the river and the two 9’s on the board, it gave him a full-house. That sure killed your straight – and cost you valuable chips.