Playing a Straight

A good example of when straight aggressive play is best to consider is when you have a straight. When you have a straight draws, there is a fair chance another player has two pair. That's because the cards that make your straight are connected cards, the kind of hands Hold'em players like to play. Other draws to beat you are likely out there also, draws to better straights and flushes. So straights should be played aggressively but not always.

If there are more draws out to beat your straight and this is not uncommon then you are in a similar situation to the top pair or the pocket Jacks in the hand we discussed earlier. In that case, you should slow down on the flop. This is true if the flop is two-suited, containing a flush draw and the game is very loose and aggressive. For example suppose in a very loose and aggressive poker game you have 86 in late position and the flop is T97.

If the action is hot and aggressive before it gets to you, you might want to think about folding this straight. You might have the best hand right now but you might not. If your hand is not best now then you have no chance to win this pot and will end up putting a lot more money in it. Even if you are best poker player, you have to think about any Heart, an 8, a Jack, a 10, a 9 or a 7. There are many cards that have the possibility of beating your hand even if it is best now. This does not mean you should fold it but you should consider folding in a very loose and aggressive game if there has been action like a bet, a call, then two raises before the action reaches you. There is a better chance you are beaten and if you aren't, there is a good chance you will be before it is all finished.

The situation would be different if you have, say T8 and the flop is 976. Now you know you have the best hand. There is no folding this hand. If the game is very loose and aggressive and the actions is same as mentioned earlier, you don't want to put in the last raise unless you think raising will limit the callers to two or three players. Any more callers than that and the collective outs they have are very likely to combine in such a manner that your hand won't profit that much from the bets on the flop. If the turn card doesn't help any of the possible draws (perhaps a black Ace falls on the turn) then raise away with his hand. You can play aggressively on the turn but only if the turn card doesn't complete any of the draws that could beat you.

In a tighter aggressive game, these hands are rather differently. With either, if you have two or three other active players on the flop, a straight still seems to be vulnerable. With few rivals, flopping a straight might you a best hand. Flops like those already discussed now can create risk however, and in a tight or typical game, the hand should be played very aggressively while it is still the best hand.

Playing a Flush

When you flop something less than the top flush, you are again in a situation equivalent to the top pair or an overpair. How aggressively should you play this hand depends on how many callers you are getting and how aggressive they are. If you are getting three or more callers, you should play slowly with a flopped flush that isn't headed by the Ace or King. There will be draws to a bigger flush than yours and they will benefit from the bets and raises, not you.

With only one or more other active hands, a flopped flush should be played very aggressively. In a tight game, it is very improbable that anyone else has also flopped a flush, so even if you don't have an Ace-high flush, you don't have much to think about.

In a loose game, there is lot of chance that you are not the only player who has flopped a flush. Even if you have four or five other active hands, the chances of someone besides yourself having a flush are relatively small. If you have a flush play on the flop, then five of the thirteen flush cards are considered. For someone else to have a flush they should have two of only eight cards unaccounted for. This is unlikely even in the loosest of games.

In Hold'em, of all the possible starting hands, less than about one-third of them are suited. Hence if you are at a loose table where players are seeing the flop 60 percent of the time or more, they don't have suited cards at all, even suited in suits other than the flush. Play even if you flop a low flush. Your hand is probably by far the best hand and you should play it accordingly.

Even, in a loose game don't allow more action on the flop convinced you that someone else has a flush. A hand was discussed earlier, where our friend was holding 86. He saw the flop along with six other players and the poker betting was restricted at four bets before the flop a big pot. The flop was AT2. He flopped a small flush. He was third to act on the flop and the first player to bet. The first player had already raised before the flop. The second player raised and our friend re-raised. Everyone called and the original raiser put the last raise. Here at this point of time our friend was convinced that he was beaten, that someone, probably the player doing the raising, had a larger flush than he did. One of the factors that helped convince him that he was beaten was that the raiser was what he considered a tough player.

We shall analyze it. How likely is it that the raiser on the flop has a flush? To consider that, we need to do an inventory of the possible hands he might have, hands would be constant with the way that he' played both before the flop and on the flop. First, what and would he play this aggressively (raising twice) on the flop? A flush for sure, but he would also have played a set or two pair that aggressively. He might also have played aggressively with K and a second card that gave him a pair or a gut-shot straight draw, and a hand like AKor KQ. Which of these might he be having? Before the flop the raiser has been on the big blind and the bet had been raised twice when the action got to him and he called. With seven players seeing the flop, he would likely have called with any of the hands listed in the below table.

Likely hands of the flop raiser in our example hand.
Ax Ay
Ax K
Ax Tx
Tx Ty
K Qx
K Jx
Any two with one over an 8
Any two with none over an 8
There are about forty-eight hands that a solid player might have which he would be playing aggressively on the flop. Of those poker hands, twenty-one of them would have our hand beat, twenty-seven would not. Of the twenty-seven, twenty-one are hands that have draws to beat our small flush. So if a solid player is playing a single-suited flop aggressively and we have a small flush, we are not beaten. He does, however, probably have a draw to beat our flush. In this case the poker strategy was to take play it aggressively on the flop and turn. This is because although a draw to a bigger flush has a good enough draw to profit from the odds he will probably get from the flop bets, the other draws are almost drawing dead, and the made flush benefits also from the bets on the flop. In this situation the best draw and the best hand both benefit from bets and raises on the flop, as long as two or three other players with pairs or worse flush draws are calling.

In this example, there were many other callers who might have beaten us but it is not likely they did passively call unless they are weak draws such as QQ or JT.

What did the other players have hand with a flop of AT2? The aggressive raiser had AK and one of the other players had QQ. The others didn't show their hands but might have mixed of weak draws or pairs.

Continue: Kicker Problems and Various Pairs

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