Drawing to a
straight flush

Mar 6, 2007 1:05 AM

If there were any poker hand that could need psychological help, it would have to be the straight flush. After all, the highest hand in video poker is generally the highest possible straight flush. But, we manage to change its name to a royal and not even give credit to the straight flush.

It originally sat as the second highest hand on most versions of the game, but someone had to create Bonus Poker, which quickly elevated four of a kinds above the straight flush.

Straight flushes just seem to happen once in a while. You don’t actually try for them do you?

Well, the answer may surprise you. And, it may explain why the straight flush has the sort of reputation that it does.

One of the keys to successfully learning expert strategy is learning how to properly play partial straight flushes. It really isn’t all that difficult. Obviously, we keep all 5-Card straight flushes. Even if you were dealt the 9 thru King, you do NOT go for the Royal.

Four-card straight flushes are played over Pairs, but below a Straight or a Flush. Unfortunately, on full-pay jacks or better, the straight flush does not pay enough to warrant taking the risk.

On the other side of things, we NEVER play 2-card straight flushes. If you have a 2-Card straight flush, you look for possible 4-card Straights and if you don’t have one, you throw all five cards (unless you had a Pair as well).

Obviously, if the two cards were part of a 2-Card Royal, you’d be talking about a hand with a totally different status. Keeping suited connectors below a Jack has an expected value so poor that we are better off throwing away all five cards.

That leaves 3-Card straight flushes. Three-card straight flushes are categorized in two ways — the number of gaps between the cards and the number of High Cards. So, we can have a regular 3-Card straight flush (7-8-9), a 3-Card inside straight flush (6-8-9) and a 3-Card double inside straight flush (6-8-10).

As there are more ways to complete the straight flush (or straight) with fewer gaps, a 3-Card straight flush has a higher expected value than the other two. High Cards are Jacks, Queens, Kings or Aces.

These have value because of the possibility of winding up with a High Pair. It should be noted that we only count High Cards that are within the partial straight flush.

The reason why we categorize 3-Card straight flushes in this manner is because we have to be on the lookout for possible 4-Card Straights (and 4-Card Inside Straights), which are categorized in a similar fashion.

With the exception of 3-Card double inside straight flush with no high cards, if you do not some form of 4-Card Straight, you will definitely be playing the 3-Card straight flush. If you have a 4-Card Straight, then you’re going to have to review the strategy table very carefully.

As a general rule, you play a 4-Card straight over any 3-Card straight flushes. Again, a 3-Card straight flush that is actually a 3-Card royal is considered to be a 3-Card royal and ranks much higher.

At the same time, you play a 3-Card straight flush (and its many variants) OVER a 4-Card INSIDE straight. We play very few 4-Card inside straights. Since a playable 4-Card inside straight must contain at least 3 high cards, it can only overlap with a 3-Card Royal.

We NEVER play a 4-Card Inside straight with less than 3 High Cards. So, if you have a 3-Card straight flush (regular, Inside or Double Inside) that is also a 4-Card Inside Straight with less than 3 High Cards, the 3-Card straight flush is always the proper play.

As I mentioned earlier, EVERY 3-Card straight flush is playable. This means that we NEVER throw all five cards if we have at least some form of a 3-Card straight flush. If we have a 3-Card Double Inside straight flush with 0 High Cards, however, we will only play this hand if we have NO High cards in the entire hand. Even a single High Card has a higher expected value than this partial straight flush.

Three-card straight flushes appear more often than most people realize. By playing them correctly, you may be pleasantly surprised with the results. Not only will you get more straight flushes, but your entire bankroll will benefit.