Hidden gems
in straight,
flush draws

Mar 1, 2005 7:20 AM

Generally speaking, outside of those players who use some form of expert strategy, there are two types of seat-of-the-pants players. There are those who play too timidly and those who play too wildly.

The wild player will play almost anything instead of a razgu (draw five cards). He’ll play two- and three-card straights if that’s all he’s dealt. Three-card flushes are fair game too.

The timid player, on the other hand, winds up with more razgus than he should because he doesn’t recognize the value of the many partial hands that are playable.

Over the past month, I’ve discussed the four-card straights and the four-card flushes. For jacks or better, we never play three-card straights or flushes. Three-card straight flushes, on the other hand, are a whole different story. About 2 percent of our hands will be some form of three-card straight flush (not including a three-card royal). While this may fall far short of the frequency of many other hands, they are common enough to make an impact if you consistently play them wrong.

Like four-card straights, three-card straight flushes are categorized by how many ways they can be completed and how many high cards they contain. Where they fall on the strategy chart is not so simplistic and will depend on the specific paytable. Generally speaking, an extra high card is worth more than an extra ”˜opening’ costs us. Thus, a three-card inside straight flush with two high cards is higher on the strategy table than a three-card straight flush with one high card. Of course, it’s not possible for any hand to contain multiple three-card straight flushes (we would have at least a four-card flush or four-card straight flush in this case).

Because there are so many variations of three-card straight flushes and their ranking on the strategy table varies from game to game, rather than focus on the strategy table, I’m going to try and demonstrate WHY a three-card straight flush, while hardly a great hand, is still one worth playing over holding single high cards or playing as a razgu. Let’s take a look at an example. Say you are dealt the following hand:






Thus, we have a three-card straight flush with one high card. What makes this hand so powerful is that fact that there are so many ways it can be completed into something that pays. There are 1,081 possible draws when drawing two cards. For this hand, these are the possible outcomes:

Straight Flush






Three of a Kind


Two Pair


High Pair




Drawing to this hand will lead to a win nearly 24% of the time, with about half being more than a push. By comparison, if we hold only the Jack, we will win about 33% of the draws, but only 7+% of these will be more than a push. A razgu will be a paying hand only about 23% of the time, and again, only about 7+% of these will be more than a high pair. We shouldn’t be surprised to find that the razgu has an expected value of only 0.36, the single high card has an expected value of 0.47 and the three-card straight flush with one high card is at 0.72. In fact, even a three-card double inside straight flush with no high cards, the worst possible three-card straight flush outranks a razgu (but not a single high card). So, the next time you get dealt this:






Make sure you reach for the hold button and not the draw button. The money you save, may be your own!