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Tips From the Full Tilt Pros

Playing a Big Draw in Limit Hold'em by Chris "Jesus" Ferguson

In Limit Hold 'em, it is not uncommon to see pots that are contested by four, five, or even six players. This happens with some frequency at lower limits, especially when playing with those who haven't learned the virtues of a tight-aggressive style of play.

In multi-way pots, draws become especially powerful, and playing big draws aggressively against multiple opponents can create very profitable situations. For example, say that you're dealt A-8 on the button. Three players limp before the action gets to you, and you decide to limp as well. Both blinds call, so a total of six players see the flop of 4-7-J. You have no hand at the moment, but you do have the nut flush draw.

On the flop, the small blind bets and three players call. What's your best action? Clearly, folding would be wrong. With two cards to come and nine outs, you'll make the nut flush roughly 35 percent of the time, making you only a 2:1 dog. With six small bets going in the pot pre-flop and four going in on the flop, you're getting pot odds of 10:1.

You might be tempted to just call and see what the turn brings but, in fact, raising in this situation gives you better value. The pot is getting large and it's likely that all your opponents are going to call. Even those who have nothing more than second pair or a gutshot straight draw may feel that their pot odds are favorable enough to justify calling the second bet. If your raise gets called by four people, you'll be getting great value. You'd be getting 4:1 on your money when you're only a 2:1 underdog – a clear win for you.

The raise might also work well for you on the turn and river. By acting after the flop, there's a chance that the other players will check to you on the turn. This gives you the option of checking and taking a free card if you don't make your flush.

The level of aggression that you show with a draw will largely depend on your position. To show how your play might change with position, imagine you're in a hand with the same hole cards (A-8), the same number of players (six), and the same flop (4-7-J). This time, however, you're not on the button but are in the big blind instead when the small blind bets out. Here, you want to encourage the other players in the hand to put as much money in the pot as possible. If you raise, you're probably going to force players with second pair or a gutshot to fold, so your best option is to call. Give your opponents every opportunity to throw money in the pot.

Finally, let's look at how you might play the same cards when you're the first to act. If you have a nut flush draw in the small blind and there are six players in the pot, go ahead and bet. It's a favorable situation for you, so you want to make sure that some money goes in the pot. When out of position, I'll usually follow-up my flop bet with another bet on the turn no matter what card hits. Then, if I miss again on the river, I can decide whether or not I want to bluff at the pot. If I'm against only one or two players on the river, I'll usually bluff. If there are five players left in the hand, I won't bother. It's too likely that someone will call.

You can make a lot of money playing draws in low-limit Hold 'em. Just remember that you want as many people contributing to the pot as is possible, which means that in different positions, you'll need to do different things to get the most out of your draws.

Chris "Jesus" Ferguson

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