Tip 27
Flush straight

The presence of some draws on the board somewhat complicates the reading of hands.  When no legitimate draws are present, bets and raises signify made hands.  With two a straight or flush on the board, however, bets and raises occasionally are come bets, in which a player is pushing a drawing hand rather than a made one.

  An in the examples given in the previous tips, you should bet if you hold top pair or an overpair to the board, both to help protect your hand and for value.  If there is a bet to you, you should raise with top pair-top kicker or better.  Just calling with top pair-lesser kicker is often best, unless a raise might narrow the field.  You should have a good idea whether a raise will accomplish this objective based on your position relative to the better.  If the better is to your immediate right, your raise forces all the other players in the pot to call double bets.  However, if a player bets and several opponents have already called, all raising accomplishes is to build a bigger pot.  You need a very strong hand to do this.

  One hand you can raise with in this case is the nut flush draw.  You have close to a 40 percent chance of completing four flush by the river, and if several players are “trapped” between the original better and you, you don’t mind building a larger pot with a quality draw such as this.  A side benefit of raising here is that the other players are likely to check to the raiser (you, in this case) on Poker Turn.  This way, if Poker Turn card does not provide improvement, you can check as well.  So, you save half a big bet those times Poker Turn card doesn’t help your hand, but you gain several small bets when it does. 

  For the most part, call with quality draws to flushes and open-ended straights.  You won’t win the pot unless you hit the draw, and you don’t want to raise out any of your opponents.  You gain nothing by narrowing the field down to you and the best hand.  Your chances of winning the pot are virtually the same, but you won’t win as much money when you do.

  There is one notable exception to this, however.  Sometimes it is good to raise with a drawing hand when simply making a pair might win the pot for you.  Here is an example:

EXAMPLE  1

Your hand     Board

       

  It is a five-way pot, and the first player bets.  Although you won’t raise out anyone holding a better flush draw, and your queen high is surely not the best hand right now, a raise might be the right play for another reason.  Suppose you raise causes a player holding A-J or K-Q to fold.  Now, you might win the pot not only if you make a flush, but also if you make a pair.  In this case, you have created extra outs for yourself.  However, don’t take this idea overboard.  It is best to make this play with two cards in the T-Q range, as they are most likely to be in kicker trouble* should they pair up.  That is, you want to drive anyone out of the pot who will have a higher kicker than yours if he pairs.

* Kicker trouble:  The situation in which you have a pair, but if someone else has the same pair, he likely has a higher kicker.