Suppose you’re playing in a $4 to $8 limit hold’em game and you’re $40 ahead. You have the 7-6 of spades in late position and nobody has raised so you limp into the pot for the minimum $4 bet. Here comes the flop: 9-8-7 unsuited.
You’ve made bottom pair with a draw to a straight. Not bad, huh? But wait – what if a 10 comes on fourth street? Aha! You’ve made your straight, but if someone has a jack, he’s made a higher straight. Even the jack-high hand is a loser to somebody with Q-J in the hole.
When there’s a lot of action on the flop and turn, someone usually has either the nut hand or a draw to it, so why endanger your stack by drawing to a lesser one when you know higher is possible?
Bottom line: Don’t draw to the low end of a straight when a higher straight is possible.
Poker aficionados call it "drawing to the idiot end of the straight," and you’ll find out why after you’ve made a fool of yourself a few times losing to the higher hand. Same thing goes for drawing to a straight when a flush is possible
Now, suppose you have a flush draw and the board pairs on fourth street. Someone could have made a full house or even four of a kind. This means even if you make your flush, you will lose. In other words, you’re drawing dead.
And if the pot is jammed, you’re probably a loser for sure. It is very expensive to make your hand only to find it’s the second-best on the river.
In low-limit hold’em games, the action is usually multi-way. For that reason, many players believe they have adequate pot odds to justify continuing with a flush or straight draw, no matter what.
Granted, a paired board doesn’t guarantee an opponent has filled up – some innocent soul might’ve simply made trips and think it’s the best hand. But if there is heavy betting action when the board pairs, I throw away my flush or straight like burnt toast.
Always be careful that the hand you’re drawing to will be the best hand if you make it – and that’s the lowdown on drawing hands in hold’em.
Shane Smith is the author of Tournament Tips from the Poker Pros and three other books for low-limit players.