Flopped Flush Draws
Flopped flush draws are one of the most exciting things in poker. You know that you have a big hand even though it's not yet a made hand, and the prospect of stacking someone when that next card hits is always thrilling. Of course, you aren't always going to hit the winner, and you will need to play the hand optimally in an effort to lose the least amount of money in those situations where you just can't catch. There will inevitably be streaks of time where you just can't seem to catch a break no matter what you do. You can't make a pair with AK and you never hit your big draws. This is all part of poker, but the best winning players know that they can reduce the effect of this brutal side of the game by playing their draws as well as possible.
A flopped flush draw can mean a few different things. You could either have one of a suit with three on the board, or two to a suit with two on the board. Needless to say, you are much more likely to get paid off when you have two of the suit in your hand. Not only is your hand more deceptive, but it's also less likely that your opponent too is chasing after the flush. Within these two different types of flopped flush draws there will be some pieces of strategy that remain static and some strategy that changes. No two flush draws are ever alike, well, not usually anyway.
Limped pots are the best way to add all kinds of deception to your hand. If you are in the blinds or limped from somewhere else at the table, your opponents will naturally be inclined to discount the likelihood of you playing with a flush draw. For whatever reason, this is the absolute easiest way to be completely deceptive with your flush draw hands on the flop.
Leading out or making a raise is going to be the strategy that sees the most long term success with flopped flush draws in limped pots. You'll be putting the pressure on your opponents and they won't be as likely to put you on a draw, with the reason being that most people play these types of hands very passively. Passive play and their correlation with draws is the reason why calling bets is very detrimental to your success. If you call bets on a draw heavy board and then only raise when the draw hits, even the most amateur of poker players should be able to pinpoint what type of hand you have.
Raised pots are a bit trickier than limped pots in these situations for the reason that they entail more risk. You'll have more money already invested into the pot, meaning that you now have to put more money on the line with each street that you play. With this understood, you need to be prepared and even willing to get all of the money in the middle when you flop a big draw.
With a raised pot, you are more likely to face a raise when you bet, but you'll also be more deceptive when you flat call than if it was a limped pot. You see, in raised pots, players tend to feel like their opponents are less likely to flop draws and are more likely to have hands like pairs, over cards, and so on and so forth. Where calling bets was weak and sub-optimal in limped pots with flopped flush draws, it can easily stack the majority of players when in a raised pot. Funny how that works, huh?
Three to a Flush
A flop with three to a flush is going to be the least likely to get you paid and also the worst time to get all of your money in the middle. The reason that it's least likely to stack a player is because your hand is going to be very apparent to any thinking player. You can't really be deceptive about it other than to shove on the flop, and this is hardly going to be a profitable move.
Even if you have the ace of hearts and the flop comes 6h 8h 2h, getting it all in on the flop won't make sense in the majority of situations. If you consider the hands that you are likely going to get all in on this type of flop, it will usually be polarized to sets and made flushes, with the odd over pair mixed in. No matter how you look at it, another heart is both not guaranteed to be a winner and is less likely to come.
If your opponent already has a made flush, two of your outs are gone from the deck. If your opponent has a set, even a heart will lose the hand for you if the board pairs. You should play these types of hands passively and milk the most out of them that you can, but do your best to wait until you have already made the flush before you get too crazy.
Two to a Flush
This is the most frequent flush draw scenario and is also the most likely to get you paid off. The value in these flush draws is going to depend on a couple of different factors, all of which are going to be known to you. First, is the board paired. If the board is paired, your flush draw loses an awful lot of value, even if it's the nut flush draw.
Not only will there be a better chance that your opponent will make a full house, but you are going to have a tougher time extracting value from smaller flushes when you hit. Pretend that the board reads Jh 5d 5h on the flop. If the 6h comes on the turn and you bet and get a call, any river is going to be scary to your opponent. Imagine that they have 8h 3h. Not only does a full house have them beat, but so too does almost any other flush.
The next pertinent element to consider on these types of flops is just how strong your draw is. If you have the nut flush draw vs. the nut low draw, you are going to be a lot more confident in your hand. Some players disregard their flush draw strength and just assume that any made flush is going to be the winning hand. The flaw with this approach has two parts. First, a low flush can lose to a runner runner card that allows for a four card flush to trump your turned low flush.
Second, you are going to frequently get your money in against better flushes when the draw completes, if only for the fact that players stack off less often on draw heavy boards with anything but the draw itself. Playing flopped flush draws can be challenging, but when you take a step back to analyze the hand in question, there shouldn't be anything all too mystifying.
Author: Jonathan Wanchalk
Updated: March 2015
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