Draw or No Draw?
No-limit hold'em betting strategy
you have a good made hand, you still have to fear straights and flushes. In
no-limit hold'em betting, a player is unlikely to be able to make a flush or
straight on the river unless he had that draw on the flop, or had something else
working on the flop besides the backdoor draw, because the pot odds are not
sufficiently attractive for a player to try for a runner-runner draw. I advocate
your betting at least half the pot on the flop, rather than making a light
probe. By charging a sufficiently high price to your opponent on the flop, your
turn and river betting becomes easier.
There is a huge difference in how you bet a hand when there is a flush draw on the flop and when there is no draw. Suppose that you have A-K offsuit, open-raise the pot from middle position, and get two callers, the cutoff and the button. The flop is a pleasurable K 8 3, giving you top pair with an ace kicker. Whereas a number of players get cute here and check, figuring it is OK to do so because the free card is unlikely to help anyone, I do not care for this play with deep stacks when I have only one pair. I do not have enough hand to check-raise, and the cat-and-mouse play of check-call does not appeal to me. (Note that a tournament player with 20 to 40 times the big blind may well check-raise or check-call, because milking one bet out of an opponent by using a broken-wing act in a tournament is quite helpful.
I would bet a flop of this texture whether I had top pair or nothing. If I checked, I probably would have a hand like Q-Q, figuring I was either way ahead or way behind, and the free card probably wouldn't beat me if I was in front. I also could check top set, though I often bet that hand here.
Back to the K-8-3 rainbow flop. Let's suppose it was a $5-$10 blinds game. There would be about $100 in the pot, as my normal open-raise is three or four times the big blind. I would bet $50 to $60, enough to find out whether my opponent had top pair or better, assuming I was not facing a frisky lad or lass who was trying to put a play on me. Suppose that I get one call; what then? My ace kicker says that I am probably in front, so my hand is worth another bet. If I am behind, I am way behind, so rather than play games when I am out of position with one pair, I will find out what's going on by betting.
decide on my bet amount, I look at whether my opponent could have picked up a
flush draw. (There is no hand that a sane opponent could have here that could
pick up any straight draw, even a gutshot.) Of the three possible two-flushes
that could come with that K
I am not too concerned about a heart, because my opponent probably would not
call on the flop with the A
and may well have not called my preflop raise. (Now you know why I did not give
you blinds of $1-$2, as some mighty strange things are seen in a game of that
level.) If my king is of the two-flush created on the turn, I am not going to
worry about that suit creating a two-flush, using the same reasoning I used
previously for the suited A.
How much should I bet on the turn? There is now about $200 in the pot. If a non-threatening card comes, I will make a modest bet of a little more than half the pot, like $120 or $125. If I am then raised, my opponent is saying that he has my hand beat, so it is simply a question of whether or not I believe him. If I am called, it is a matter of judgment of whether I am being called by a nonbeliever or slow-played by a better hand. If the former, I would bet $150 on the end. If I suspect the latter, I will check and then guess. It is important that there was no draw on the flop, as few opponents who have a hand like K-Q are going to bluff with it on the end with a big bet. Busted draws bet, but a made hand will normally be shown down to see if it is any good. A big bet on the end from your opponent will probably mean your one pair is badly outclassed.
If the turn is a card that could have enabled my opponent to pick up a draw, I must bet more than $120. I would bet somewhere in the $150 to $200 range. If I am called, the situation is blurrier than the previous one, in which I had felt confident that my opponent was not on a flush draw that he picked up on the turn. Here, he might know that he is behind and feel the need to bluff. On the other hand, one might wonder why he did not raise on the turn, since he had no assurance that I did not pick up a draw with that two-flush.
Let's look now at a slightly different flop. Everything is the same except the flop is K-8-3 with a two-flush (instead of rainbow). I would bet more than half the pot on the flop because of the possible flush draw. My bet would be in the $75 to $90 range here. If I am called and a blank comes on the turn, I will bet around the full size of the pot. If someone is lucky enough to outflop me and there is a two-flush on the flop, I do not see any way that I can avoid a big loss. Most of the time, you will have the best hand with A-K, so it is silly, in my opinion, to try to save a few dollars by sending a boy to do a man's job. Furthermore, if you make a wimpy-sized bet and get called, you may have a river problem that a larger bet would have lessened, because the opponent's hand has been better defined.
I do not claim that every pro would think the way that I do. Some would bet smaller, or even check, under the theory that they want to play a small pot when they have only one pair. My philosophy is to fire a big barrel on the turn when my opponent may well have a flush draw. Sometimes he will fold a made hand, sometimes he will fold when he would have hit, sometimes I avoid a river problem because of my large bet, and sometimes I take a sizable loss because my opponent flopped a big hand and was willing to risk slow-playing it even though there was a two-flush on the board. That's poker.