Playing Combo Draws on the Flop in Texas Hold'em

Nick Schulman

It's very rare in Texas Hold'em that drawing hands have more equity in a pot than a made hand.

Combo draws, however, are so powerful that some are actually a favorite versus a made hand.

A combo draw is defined as a draw that has more than 12 outs.

These draws are so robust they should be played fast and hard on almost all flops.

Some examples of combo draws:

  • a pair and an open-ended straight draw (13 outs against an overpair)
  • a pair and a flush draw (14 outs)
  • gut-shot straight flush draw (12 outs)
  • a straight draw and a flush draw (15 outs)
  • the ever-elusive open-ended straight flush draw (15 outs)

In all of these examples about a quarter of the deck or more can give you the winning hand against an overpair.

In fact, the very worst combo draw you can have - a gut-shot straight flush draw (12 outs) - is even money versus an overpair!

Praz Bansi
Even the worst combo draw is even money vs. an overpair.

What that means for you is that you're only a slight dog to even monster hands. Against average hands you're a huge favorite.

You should push these hands hard; they're big money earners for all good players.

Why Should You Play Them Hard?

Obviously, you're always looking to get your money in in poker with good odds.

After a pre-flop raise, a bet and likely a raise on the flop, you're getting way more than the required break-even odds on your robust draw.

If you're going to win the pot 50% of the time, your break-even odds only have to be 1-1 to get it in on the flop.

In reality your odds are going to be much better, so don't be afraid to fast-play these combo draws.

If you don't get it in on the flop and a scare card comes on either the turn or the river, your opponent may not be willing to put in any more money which makes it hard for you to get paid on your hand.

If you get it in on the flop, though, your opponent may be more willing to call.

Fold Equity

Any time you're making a bet or a raise, you always benefit from fold equity.

Simply put, fold equity refers to the equity you gain from the chance that your opponent will lay his hand down and forfeit the pot to you.

Obviously, calling has zero fold equity.

Fast-playing combo draws will not only give you excellent equity in the pot from your draw - you'll also gain fold equity.

Liz Lieu
Make use of fold equity.

Say you flop an open-ended stragiht-flush draw. You bet the flop and your opponent raises.

Now you're getting more than the required odds to call (you're actually a favorite here versus any one-pair hand), but you shove instead.

At this point, you can win the pot by hitting one of your numerous outs or you can win by having your opponent fold.

How much do you like getting one pair all-in on the flop? Not a very appealing prospect, right?

So you can exploit tight players by fast-playing your draws. They are in a lose-lose situation.

If they call, they're a slight favorite at very best. If they fold, they forfeit all of their equity in the pot.

This is a situation where you make both folding and calling incorrect for your opponent!

Don't believe me?

An Example:

$1/$2 No-Limit, six-max, online. Effective stacks are $200.

You're dealt T 9 on the button.

It's folded around to you and you bump it to $8. The small blind folds and the big blind three-bets to $22.

You make the call.

The flop comes 7 2 8.

Your opponent bets $35. You raise around the pot to $110.

If your adversary was three-betting with any overcards and then following up with a continuation bet on the flop, he'll clearly have to fold.

If he was three-betting with a hand like 99-JJ he'd have to make a very difficult call. If he shoves with QQ-AA, he's actually a 45-55 dog!

You've just put your opponent in a very difficult spot where calling, shoving and folding are all marginal plays.

Your range when you play a combo draw like this consists of mostly monsters.

What your hand looks like is slow-played big pocket pairs AA-QQ, sets with 77, 22 or 88 and combo draws w/ 5-6s, T-9s and J-9s.

To make a profitable call against this range, your opponent would need a monster too.

J.C. Alvarado
Combo draws are monsters on their own.

Chances are he doesn't have one so he'll either fold or get it in - in which case you can call and get fantastic odds on what amounts to a coin flip.

Add Fast-Playing Combo Draws to Your Arsenal

From our example it becomes obvious that fast-playing combo draws should be a move in every poker player's arsenal.

They are monsters on their own and you can always rely on fold equity on top of that.

You need to be able to fast-play both made hands and good draws.

If you only get monsters in on the flop, you're going to become very predictable and seldom get action.

If you can make strong plays with both monsters and draws, the likelihood that you'll get paid off increases.

So stop being so passive and start playing those combo draws like the big-pot hands they are.

More intermediate strategy articles from Dan Skolovy:

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RustyJay 2015-01-14 12:14:09

rookie, against an overpair, if you flop a pair and open-ended straight draw, you have:
8 straight outs. 2 trips outs, and 3 outs to hit your second pair = 13 outs total

Ray 2013-12-20 15:49:43

rookie, if a 3 comes up it gives you 2pair which also improves your hand.

alex 2012-09-08 17:32:45

Answer, they are not two pair outs. When the board is paired every player has a pair. Effectively you still have one pair, so those 2 pair outs are useless.

Answer 2012-06-18 15:53:57

You forgot the three remaining two-pair outs...

rookie 2012-02-17 11:11:34

Got it! I misunderstood the example; I thought it meant having a pair preflop, then hit an open ended straight draw on the flop.

34 456 2(4) 7(4) 4(2) 3(3) 2012-02-10 20:03:43

For example:

You're holding 3(h)4(S)

Flop: 456 rainbow

There is (4) two + (4) seven + (2) four + (3) three to help improve your hand.

Hope that help

rookie 2012-02-10 10:16:44

rookie here, so I apologize for a dumb question but in the case of a pair and an open-ended straight draw combo, wouldn' t that give you only 10 outs (not 13): 4 for the 'small' straight', 4 for the 'high' straight, and 2 to complete your pair? What are the other three i'm missing?

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