Here we will look in a little more detail into the strategy of playing draws. We will do so in a general way now, and go into particular drawing situations in more depth in future lessons.
When drawing, we're in situations where we probably don't have the best hand now, but we're looking to hit our hand so that we will by the time it's over. The first important thing to keep in mind is that we have to be fairly certain that the hand we're drawing to will indeed win it should we hit the particular cards. One of the mistakes beginners tend to make is to draw to hands that don't have a good enough chance, and when they hit them, they think they are all set, only to get bilked by a better hand.
When calculating our chances for hitting a draw, we're going to be looking toward a certain amount of "outs" this will provide us. For example, if we have 4 to a flush, we know that there are 9 possible cards which could come up in the deck, so we've got 9 outs. If there's 2 cards to come, then we'd have 18 outs total.
What we do then is take the number of cards that we haven't seen in the deck, and apply the outs to that. If we're at the flop, and we have a spade flush draw, there's 47 cards we haven't seen, so the chances of it hitting on the turn is 9/47. The chances of it hitting on either the flop or the river would be 9/47 + 9/46, since there is one more card out at the turn. This will give us our chance to win the hand.
Added up, this gives us roughly a 39% chance to hit our draw. We now take that and apply it to the cost and benefit of drawing, which will assume when we hit we win. So, it's going to be very important to make sure that we are actually drawing to the best hand.
An example of outs you wouldn't want to count is this. Let's say there are several people in the pot, and you've got an open ended straight draw. Your opponents like to play flush draws, and there's 2 to a flush on the board. Now, we need to be wary of counting draws to our straight which may end up giving one of our opponents the flush. This will get us in a lot of trouble if we hit it and they hit better. So always be careful not to draw to a hand where you're not pretty certain it will win, and if you end up hitting a hand you're not sure enough about, proceed with caution.
So again, what we need to do is look at the cards which will help us get what's probably the best hand, and add all these good outs together. It's also a good idea on the flop to look to calculate the winning probabilities and money odds for the entire hand, not just for a particular street. It's preferable to do this as long as the game is loose, whereas in tight games we'll want to do the bets individually. This is because the implied odds are going to be better at a loose table. And since these are the games we're looking for, this will come up a lot more, and we need to be able to figure our way through the hand. To do this though, you're going to need a pretty good idea about how the betting will go, and if you're confused about this, stick to the one street.
Let's take an example to see how this is going to cash out. You've got KhQh, and the flop is Ad7h3h. Now, it's true that someone may have the Ah and another heart, but this isn't really likely, although we are not going to be getting into a raising war if we hit our flush. So, it's good enough to count the outs. We can't count hitting a K or a Q though, because we may likely end up losing to aces, and remember we don't want to be drawing to hands we're likely to lose with.
In these examples, we'll classify "bets" as small bets, where big bets are going to be worth 2. So, right now there's 14 bets in the pot, someone has bet and another has called, you're to act, and there's someone else to act after you. The fold rate of the table is 50%, say. If it's less than that, we're probably in the wrong game, so this will be a good rule of thumb to use.
Now, there's a lot of formulas that we could use, but we don't want to be dealing with anything too complicated, because we only have so much time to act. On the other hand, we need to be as accurate as we can here, since our profitability depends on it. We only want to be playing these draws when it's profitable to do so, and by the same token, we want to be playing the ones that are profitable.
So here's the formula we're going to apply to drawing on the flop. We want to err a little bit on the side of caution, so when there's a little less in the pot then we expect, we still will have a profitable situation. Now, take the amount that's in the pot now, and add 4 bets that we'll assume the better will contribute. To the others, we'll apply the 50% fold rate. The easiest way to do this is to assume they'll call all the way, then divide the bets by half. There's one person in the hand now, and we'll take the 4 bets he needs to see the hand through, and divide by 2. The other player will require 5, so we'll divide that by 2 and get 2.5. So all told, we're going to estimate the pot as being 14 in there now, plus 4, plus 2, plus 2.5. Which gives us 22.5 bets. It's going to cost us 3 to see the river, so we've got 3 bets to make 22.5.
We've got a 39% chance to win the hand though, so we're going to apply this to the formula now. Take the 22.5 and multiply it by .39 and this will give us the break even point (yes, it's good to have a calculator handy while playing). We get roughly 8.7. Now it's only costing us 3, and the return is 8.7, so it's a good deal obviously. As long as the return is a bet or more higher than our cost, we'll do it (remember we need a profit).
This calculation might seem daunting at first, but it's actually pretty easy once you get used to it. It's far better to have an outs chart though to glance at, which will save us a lot of time. Take a piece of paper, and write out outs, from 2 to 25. Then take each number of outs at the flop, and calculate the winning percentage at showdown. Remember, the formula is x/47 + x/46. This will give you the percentage, and all you have to do is figure what will be in the pot, and multiply by the percentage that applies. Now, turn the paper over and do the same for the turn, but this time you'll be using x/46 only. Keep this handy to refer to at all times.
There are other factors of course, like raises from your opponents, your betting the draw, and so on, but we'll get into that in later lessons of course. For now, this will give you a fairly easy formula to use as a general rule, to pump up the profits you'll get from drawing correctly.