MCU poker tip: Betting a flush draw on the flop

Before I share this tip with you, I need to make something clear. Betting flush draws in hold ’em is usually unprofitable.

Why? It’s because, just as you don’t want to let someone draw to a flush or straight for free when you have the better hand, your opponents shouldn’t want you to get a free card when you’re drawing to a flush. But when you bet, you’re just charging yourself for the opportunity to connect, when you could have paid nothing.

And, yes, I’m aware that many players believe you should bet a flush draw as a so-called “semi-bluff.” There are actually very few times when that’s a good idea.

Key mistake

In fact, betting flush draws — beyond just a rare attempt at deception — is a key mistake made by poker amateurs and pros alike. But, now that I’ve said that, here’s a time you can profitably bet a flush draw — as long as you don’t overuse the tactic.

It’s one of my favorite hold ’em plays that you can use quite often without opponents adapting.

The tip

You have a flush draw on the flop — two of your suit in your hand, two on the board. You’re last to act. Everyone checks to you. Consider betting. (If you’re in a no-limit game, make your wager small.) Sometimes you’ll win the pot immediately without a struggle, but even if you don’t, you’ll frequently have helped your cause.

At this point, everyone who calls your bet is apt to check to you on the fourth board card (the turn). If you make your flush, you just keep betting, natural as natural can be. If you miss, you check along.

And the great thing is that — assuming opponents check on the next round — you get your free card then, which could have cost double in common limit games where the size of bets increase after the flop. And it’s a fine tactic in no-limit games, too, as long as you don’t bet too large and destroy your pot odds. The truth is, usually you don’t mind if everyone calls. But you don’t want anyone to raise, so beware of opponents who have shown a likelihood to check-raise.

Free bonus

If you miss on the turn card and all goes as hoped, the final (river) card is free. And if you miss again, you’ll usually fold without further cost.

There’s another twist to this tactic. (And you don’t want to overuse it, because astute players may catch on and adapt.) Built-in deception comes from more often betting these flush draws when you hold at least one card higher than the board. That way, you have additional chances of making top pair and continuing to bet on the turn. Having that high card also means, of course, that you’re less likely to be beat if you make the flush.

When you pair big, many opponents won’t notice at the showdown that you were originally betting the flush draw. They sometimes just see the top pair and forget when you made it or how. This psychologically camouflages the fact that you’re often betting flush draws in last position when checked into, hoping to get a free card on the river if you miss on the turn.

Use caution

Be aware that if your bet isn’t likely to cause opponents to check to you on the turn, the tactic is wrong. The best thing you can do is get cards for free when trying for a flush. This tactic sacrifices some of the goodness of getting free cards by betting (small in no-limit), hoping to pay less on future betting rounds for the flush-making opportunity. If opponents are likely to check to you even if you don’t bet, then you’re better off checking every chance you get.

Finally, be aware that betting speculative hands — meaning flush or straight draws — is usually a bad idea unless you’re last to act with two or more opponents having checked to you. So, seldom bet flush draws unless you’re in the situation I’ve described. And then, don’t do it too often. — MC

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Mike Caro

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Known as the “Mad Genius of Poker,” Mike Caro is generally regarded as today's foremost authority on poker strategy, psychology, and statistics. He is the founder of Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy (MCU). See full bio → HERE.

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  1. Loved the advice, I also like to
    Bet a flush draw when I’m holding a decent pair(1 card in the hole and 1 match on the table) kind of a back up

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