Hitting a big draw and stacking someone is one of the most satisfying aspects of poker.
But the problem most people have playing draws correctly: over-valuing the implied odds.
In No-Limit Hold'em, you're constantly playing draws and you must be aware of both types of odds - immediate and implied - if you wish to play a draw effectively.
You Never Know Exactly How Betting Will Go
Your immediate odds are easy to calculate. If you're getting better than 3.5-1, it's probably safe to call any bet. It's when you're not getting those required odds that it gets tricky. You have to work with implied odds, and unfortunately implied odds are not quite so easy to calculate.
Implied odds are the odds you're getting with the implied betting of later rounds. So if you call a $10 bet on the turn in a $30 pot, your total odds are your immediate odds of 3-1 plus the implied odds of the river betting round.
The tricky part about implied odds is you can never know exactly how the betting will go on the river. You could make your draw and then go for a sneaky check-raise and have it go check-check. Or you can make your draw and then make a large bet hoping to get paid off and have your villain fold.
Who is Your Opponent?
To more accurately estimate your implied odds there are many things you should take into consideration. Who is my opponent? Is he a multi-tabling TAG (tight-aggresive player)? Is he a solid-thinking opponent? Is he a massive calling station?
You must also take into consideration hands you have seen him play on the river before. You may find even solid-ish players can call large bets on scary rivers because they're afraid of being bluffed out of the pot. You may also find players that become as tight as a clam on the river when a scare card comes.
Either way, to effectively draw you must know how your opponent will react when you hit your draw as well as when you miss your draw.
If you know how your opponent reacts on the river you will be able to profit from your draws much more. If you know your opponent is willing to call large river bets than you are probably safe calling that turn bet despite only being offered 1.5-1 or 2-1 immediate odds.
If your opponent is the type to tighten up once that scare card comes, than you are probably better off mucking the draw and perhaps trying to bluff him in a later hand where you have just been calling and an obvious draw is completed on the river.
The More Hidden the Draw, The Easier to Get Paid Off
A general rule of thumb is the more hidden the draw, the easier it is to get paid off. If you check-call two streets, the flush card comes and you donk-bet large or check-raise, it's usually fairly obvious to your opponent what you have.
If however you have straight and flush draws and your flush misses but your straight draw hits, your hand is almost completely disguised. A lot of the time your opponent will think you're bluffing a missed flush draw.
A lot of opponents don't really put in the time to think about their implied odds. They are of course aware of the concept of implied odds, but they just do not put in the required thought when they are in the heat of the battle.
They think to themselves, "Oh if I hit my gutshot I will have the nuts and I will rake in a monster," when in reality it's a limped pot and the only action is a bet from late position. To play a gutshot you must be offered a strong chance at winning a stack to make a call profitable.
A simple bet from late position does not mean a player has a hand that can call big bets. A player from late position could be betting any number of hands - most of which would not be calling any sort of bigger bets on later streets.
Put Your Opponent on a Range
To play hands like this effectively you must put your opponent on a range. If his range consists of mostly large hands, then you know he'll be more likely to call large bets on later streets.
If, however, his range consists of a number of one-pair hands, you must know a simple gutshot or a crappy open-ender or low-flush draw is probably not worth chasing.
Playing draws well is one of the most important aspects of poker. As they say, the money you save in poker is the money you win. The more money you save not chasing draws that have little chance of being paid off, the more money you will make in the long run.
Just like everything else in poker you must take everything into consideration before making a decision to continue in a hand.
More strategy articles by Dan Skolovy: