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!

poker combo draws
Even the worst combo draw is even money vs. an overpair.

What that means for you is:

  • 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 Combo Draws 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.

Take Advantage of 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.

poker draws strategy
Make use of fold equity.

Say you flop an open-ended straight-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.

poker draws
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.

The Power of Redraws in Poker

Poker is a game of choices and mistakes. You make money by making the correct choices and capitalizing on the mistakes of your opponents.

The more mistakes you can encourage your opponents to make, the more opportunities you'll have to make some serious money at the tables.

If your opponent knows what you're playing and how you're playing it, they will never make a mistake; for this reason it's crucial for you to disguise your hands and to play deceptively.

2 Types of Made Hands in Poker

There are two main types of made hands: hidden and obvious. The more hidden your hand is, the more likely your opponents are to make mistakes. There are two circumstances in which your hand qualifies as hidden:

  • The hand is naturally disguised.
  • You played the hand in a deceptive manner.
combo draws in poker

A Naturally Disguised Poker Hand

A naturally disguised hand is a hand that your opponents don't see as a possibility or one they assume it's improbable for you to be holding.

Example:

  • Board:          
  • Hand:    

In this example your opponent may have been astute enough to have put you, correctly, on a flush draw on the flop. What was completely hidden was your double inside runner-runner gut-shot. There is no way for a decent player to ever see a river with a naked 6-8.

For this reason any player with a marginal to large hand (you're really hoping to be up against a set here) won't think twice before paying you off. More often than not your opponent here will be convinced that they're the one value betting you.

This example is disguised in both ways as there is no logical way to put you on the hand and it's even hard to see that a straight is even possible on this board. Many players without a few thousand hours of experience in the game will miss this possibility completely.

A Powerful Idea in Holdem

The hand above is an example (albeit a very loose one) of a redraw. A redraw is an extremely powerful idea in Hold'em and a critical part of playing Omaha.

redraws in poker
Can it improve?

You always want your hand to have the ability to improve on later streets. The stronger a chance your hand has of improving, the more value the hand holds on earlier streets.

This flop:

Flop:      

Hand:    

is an example of a typical flopped redraw.

Your flopped top pair, top kicker is most likely the best hand (giving you a large amount of equity in the pot), while you have a nine-out redraw to the nut flush. The equity lost against better hands and strong draws against you is partially recouped by the redraw.

A redraw hand is the most common way to be holding a strong, or even nut, hidden hand. If you changed the cards around in the previous example to you holding top pair, top kicker with a backdoor flush draw, you're now in a position to play for the hidden hand value.

It doesn't make sense to be betting on the come of a naked backdoor flush draw. For this reason, if you're betting your TPTK with the backdoor draw, your opponents will assume you're betting top pair and typically ignore any possibility of you holding the backdoor flush.

The ideal situation is for your opponent to be drawing against your pair with a straight draw, or some other hand such as a two pair. If your opponent misses you win a small to medium-sized pot.

If your opponent hits, you lose a small to medium-sized pot, while if your opponent hits his hand on a card to bring your backdoor draw, chances are you win a very large pot.

Deceptive Play in Poker

When your hand doesn't naturally lend itself to being hidden, the only other option you have is to play your hand deceptively. Even if the hand you hold is the most likely and obvious choice, if you play it deceptively enough to confuse your opponent, you're able to achieve hidden status.

playing draws in poker
Sometimes the most deceptive play is the most straightforward.

Betting on the come, check-raising draws or even exercising pot control with a big single pair are all examples of potential deceptive plays. Anytime you pick a line that opponent believes you're unlikely to take with the hand you actually have, you're being deceptive.

Sometimes the most deceptive play is the most straightforward. If you have an opponent reading too much into you, trying to be far too tricky, sometimes doing the obvious ABC correct move will be subterfuge enough.

When playing against beginners, they are prone to stick to reasoning like "If he has a monster, it makes no sense for him to make large bets, since he wants the call." So by making large bets, you're convincing them you're weak.

If your opponent's image of you is that of a straightforward player, checking the obvious best hand can be deceptive enough to force a mistake by them.

If your opponents always know how you will play when you hold different types of hands, they will always know what hand you're holding. Playing with your cards faceup will allow your opponents to play a mistake-free game. If your opponents make zero mistakes against you, you're playing a game you cannot beat.

Take Hidden Hands into Consideration

When evaluating your hand selection you want to take hidden hands into consideration, but only after remembering the basics. Oftentimes being deceptive, or playing hands known to be likely to flop a hidden draw, can cost more money than it will earn.

If everything you do is hidden and deceptive then your opponents will assume you're doing just that and will adjust their play accordingly. You need to play a mix of straightforward and deceptive poker, allowing you to maximize your earnings on most hands while using others to set up future plays.

Just remember that being deceptive should never take the place of adhering to solid poker fundamentals. If your deception is always building small pots with big hands and big pots with small hands, it's hurting your game and your profits more than it's helping you.

It's a fine line to walk between deceptive and straightforward profitable. Once you can manage it, though, chances are you'll be crushing your regular game in no time.

More Beginner Poker Strategy Articles:

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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.
Thanks

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?
Thanks

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