Poker Lesson 29

Evaluating the flop in hold'em, part 8: Different types of straight draws
It is now time to examine the various possible straight draws that can appear, after the flop or after the turn. These are (1) the open-ended straight, (2) the inside straight, and (3) the so-called "double belly-buster".

The open-ended straight means that your draw can be completed "at both ends". A prime example is when you hold Q-J and the flop comes down K-10-3. Now, with the flop, you have four cards (10-J-Q-K) that form a straight draw: if an A or a 9 lands, on the turn or on the river, you will have hit your hand.

What are your chances of hitting that straight? Going by the "rule of 4%" which I taught you in an earlier lesson, there are possible eight cards that will help you (the four Aces and the four Nines), meaning roughly 8 x 4% = 32% (the actual figure is 31,5%). This corresponds to odds of about 2,2 to 1 against: you will hit your draw not quite one time in three. Note that you are slightly less likely to hit an open-ended straight draw than a flush draw. (Once again, this figure assumes you will look at both the turn and the river.)

The inside straight means that your draw can only be completed by a card of a particular value. Let us assume that you once again hold Q-J, but this time the flop comes down K-9-3. Now you have 9-J-Q-K, meaning that there are only four cards in the deck that will help you: the four Tens, any of which will complete your straight.

Naturally, your chances of hitting an inside straight are much smaller than those of hitting an open-ended straight, since there are fewer available cards that will help you. To be exact, the chances of completing an inside straight draw are only 16,5%, if you look at both the turn and river. This corresponds to odds of 5 to 1 against: you will hit that draw only one time in six, which of course means that you should seldom pursue such a draw, and then only when the circumstances are particularly favourable.

Note that there are also "inside straight draws" that can only be completed at one end! If you hold A-K and the flop comes down Q-J-4, you have A-K-Q-J for a straight draw... but it can only be completed with a 10, since there is no higher card above the Ace. Such a draw therefore is just as "bad" as a regular inside straight draw.

The "double belly-buster" is however a straight draw which is not as apparent as the two above: it is in fact a "double inside straight draw", meaning that just as with an open-ended straight draw, there are eight possible cards that will help you.

An example is if you hold Q-10 and the flop comes down A-J-8. Do you have a straight draw now? Yes!! Look closely, and you will see that if either a King or a Nine hits, on the turn or on the river, you will have completed the straight draw, getting A-K-Q-J-10 or Q-J-10-9-8 respectively. Since any of eight possible cards will complete your "double belly-buster" straight draw, you have the same 31,5% chance of hitting it, on the turn or on the river.

Such double inside straight draws take experience to spot, but do not miss out on them when they appear on the flop or on the turn! They can also be very deceptive against your opponents. Should a King land on the turn in the above example, and another player hold A-K for top two pair at the same time that you hit your double belly-buster and made it a completed straight, he or she will in very deep trouble and could easily lose the entire stack of chips in the confrontation against you.

However, with any straight draw, as with any flush draw, beware of situations where you are not drawing to the highest possible hand (and, of course, situations where you are drawing to a straight while there is also a potential flush draw on the board). One example is when you hold J-9 and the flop is K-7-10. Now watch out if a Queen falls on the turn to complete your straight... since an opponent holding A-J will simultaneously complete a higher straight!

In general, straight draws are trickier to play, both holding them in your own hand and being up against them in someone else's hand, than flush draws. As always, experience with them will make you a better player!