Completed Flushes & Straights

When we looked at how to play monster hands, I emphasized that you should play slowly, so as to keep as many people as possible in the pot.  When you complete a straight or a flush on fifth street, you may be tempted just to call all bets that come your way.  After all, you’ve made a good hand; so just keep those players in so they can pay you off, right?

Wrong! You should rarely play a flussh or staight slowly.  As a rule, you want to play these hands as aggressively and as hard as possible, unless you find a compelling reason not to.  If you play the hand passively (just call bets that come your way), you’ll be letting people with drawing hands stay in cheaply.  They may draw to a bigger straight, flush or full house and win a hand that you should have won.

When Calling is okay

I’ve said that the vast majority of flushes and straights need to be played very aggressively, but there are cases when you will want just to call bets.  Look for a reason not to play the hand hard.  Although you will be raising with a straight or flush at fifth street most of the time, there are those instances when calling will be the best thing to do.  Let’s look at those situations now.

During our discussion of playing a full house, you saw that calling was the right decision when it was two big bets back to you and there was something on the board that could have you beaten, such as bigger trips.  Keep this same rule in mind when you play a completed flush or straight.  If you see something to indicate that a player has already made a hand that’s bigger than yours, just call the bet rather than raise.

Here’s an example: I hold a 10-high straight and am in late position.  One player has bet and several others have called, so it’s one bet back to me.  Before automatically raising, I glance down at the bettor’s open cards and see that he has three 7s on the board.  My straight certainly can’t beat a boat.  Here, if I have a good knowledge of my oppoment, and if I know him to be the type of player who would bet only if he made his hand, I would call to see what he does on sixth street.

A raise might force out a drawing hand, but you need to know your opponent very well if you are considering raising his trips on the board.  Most of the time, though, you’d just call his bet here.  So what if he has just a pair on the board?  Would calling be the right move?

Your first thought might be “yes,” as the pair could represent a completed full hous.  But you should not let a pair intimidate you unless a player with a pair on the board raises a big bet that comes to him.  If he simply bets, go ahead and raise.  The odds are that he probably hasn't’t filled up yet.  It’s likely he’s trying to defend his Poker Two Pair or trips to force people out, so make it costly for him to stick around.

Even if he does stay, your raise will force out other players, which will be a good thing for you.  Do not let a three-flush or three—straight bigger than yours spook you – Poker Pleyar still needs two more cards, so bang away and don’t let him get those two cards cheaply.  You’ve got your hand already, so protect it.

When to Fold

Are there times when you will flod a flush or straight at fifth street?  As with a full house, these times will be few and far between.  Most often you might have to fold a straight.  The only time you should fold a completed flush or straight is when there seems to be overwhelming evidence that another player has you beaten.  Let’s return to the example of a 10-high straight.  A player with three diamonds on the boards bets, and trip 7s raises him.  All the other players fold, so it’s now two big bets back to you.  Here you have to think long and hard about sticking around.

You can stay in with a flush (so long as your highest card is higher than the highest card on the board).  A stright is not a bad hand at all and will frequently win the pot, but it won’t win this one when you are up against two players who could have better hands.  Fold and wait for a bigger hand, so that when it does come your way, you’ll have plenty of chips with which to bet.  Of course, with no trips on the board, and if you’re against just the three diamonds, you want to raise unless you know your opponent to be a very tight player who will bet only when he has made his hand.

Quick Guide….
….to Flushes and Straights on Fifth Street:

  • RAISE unless you find a strong reason not to – you want to play this hand hard and try to win the pot right here.
  • CALL if you feel that a player might have you beaten but you aren’t certain.
  • FOLD rarely – only if it looks like you are clearly beaten.