MCU poker tip: Hold ’em, chasing a flush

When you begin with two suited cards and flop two more — meaning you need to catch one more of that suit on the 4th (turn) or 5th (river) cards, it’s often correct to continue to pursue the pot. So, if you start with K♥ J♥ in a either a no-limit or fixed-limit hold ’em game and the flop is 7♥ A♦ 4♥, you probably should call. Of course, it depends on the action that already happened, including the size of the wagering in no-limit.

Should you bet?

What about betting, instead of checking, if you’re first to act or everyone else has checked? That tactic should remain in your poker arsenal for deceptive purposes, but it is overused. Usually, the benefit of getting a free card outweighs the value of the deception.

Usually check, if that’s an option, and call or fold, otherwise. Raising with flush draws has become fashionable for some. And although this surprise tactic gets praised by TV audiences and commentators, it’s actually a long-term mistake in most situations.

But if there’s a pair on that flop, such as 10♥ 10♦ 7♥, you should fold more often. Why? It’s because the flush attempt is usually only marginally profitably (on average) without the pair present. The increased chances of you making a flush only to have it beat by a full house when a pair is present often makes the adventure unprofitable.

Beware of the pair

That’s why, if you think the pursuit of the flush would only show a small profit without the pair, you should almost always fold with the pair present. Rare exceptions might involve times when you can use the presence of the pair to bluff or to posture. — 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.


4 thoughts on “MCU poker tip: Hold ’em, chasing a flush”

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  1. Hi Mike, I hear what your saying. I have a hard time throwing away any flush draw in most circumstances.

  2. This is where the game can get very interesting. I have learned a lot of lessons in these times. I have been both lucky and unlucky. Generally, if I have low or middle suited connectors, or one gap connectors, I will see a cheap flop if I can. I would much rather see a straight flop than a flush. When it comes to flopping a flush draw though, I like to check to the river if possible and see if I can win a small pot. I generally don’t play these hands fancy. Now if I get AQs or AKs, depending on the amount of players at the table and my position, I like to raise 3-4x the BB and getting it down to two or three other players. It also helps to have at least one high card in the suited pocket in case four-to-the-flush comes out on the board. I can quickly fold a queen if raised or reraised on the river.

    I am sure we can all talk forever on this subject.

  3. Okay, however, what if you flop the flush?
    Once had a satellite where this happened, and I shoved. Didn’t realize that I’d get a call with someone that had flopped a set, and I lost to the full house on the turn.

    1. Hi, Mike —

      Flopping the complete flush is an entirely different situation.

      The only thing you had to fear immediately, at the point you moved all in, was an opponent having made a higher-ranking flush — assuming that was possible. If you knew for certain that your opponent had flopped a set, you would still have moved all-in.

      There’s nothing you should have done differently, knowing the two hands, no matter how many chips you had remaining. However, since you didn’t know what your opponent held, usually you’d prefer to bet a more modest amount than a deep stack, hoping to be called.

      In this case, the only bad thing was the outcome.

      Straight Flushes,
      Mike Caro

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