How to Play Draws in Live Poker

Playing draws in live poker is one of the biggest problem
areas for many players. On one hand, you could play passively
but risk not getting paid off. On the other hand, you could play
aggressively but risk running into a better hand or not making
your draw at all. There are many different ways to play your
draws and each and every one of them is going to be very
situation dependent. It would be incorrect to say that playing
draws one way or another is “correct” as a bad play in one spot
might be great in another. Adjustments are crucial in poker and
draws are one of the best illustrations of when this comes into

Before you look at how to play draws, you should first
realize that one type of draw is unlikely to be equivalent to
another. You could have the nut flush draw on a flop with three
spades or you could have an open ended straight draw on a board
that appears safe to your opponent. Both of these hands will be
valuable, but they will also need to be played in different ways.
Deception is one of the most valuable weapons in poker. Your
goal when playing draws is to lower your exposure as much as
possible while also doing your best to ensure that you make
money off of your big hands. There’s no arguing that this is
much easier said than done, but it would be erroneous to say
that it’s something that can’t be learned with a little bit of

The Board

The board is almost always going to be the most obvious and
most important dynamic involved in any draw; after all, you
can’t have a draw without the board. You should always have an
understanding of the ever changing value of your hand. For
example, a flop of Js 8s 2d would be huge for a hand like As Ks,
but it would only be decent if you were holding 9d Td. With As
Ks, you should be more than willing to get all of the money in
on the flop, but 9 T really needs to see another card first.

Using the example above, pretend that the flop only had one
spade. Now, the value of A K drops significantly, because it’s more
reliant on hitting a pair, whereas the straight draw is much
safer. The original flop was dangerous with a straight draw
because even if you hit your hand, there’s a chance that you’ll be drawing dead. Beyond this, making your hand on this
board doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get paid off. If you hit
the 7s on the turn and your opponent doesn’t have spades, they
are more likely to consider the chance that you have it. If you
hit the 7s on the turn and there was only one spade on the flop,
however, you are in prime position to get paid off. Think not
only about the chances of you hitting your hand, but also about
how deceptive it will be.

Your Opponent

Your opponent will often times allow you to determine whether
a draw is worth chasing. If there’s a player who is a massive
calling station at your table, you are going to be able to pay a
much higher price when chasing your draws. Since you know that
this player is likely to pay you off, the times where you hit
your hand will have a much increased value. The opposite end of
the spectrum is where you’ll find tight and apprehensive
players. These are the people who you don’t even get excited
about hitting a draw against. If the draw isn’t going to make
you much money, there isn’t much incentive to go after it.

How someone plays won’t only determine the likelihood of
them paying you off, but it will also aid in finding the most
optimal way to play your hand. For example, if a player is
aggressive and unlikely to fold, you wouldn’t want to raise
their bets. The reason for raising or shoving over a bet with a
draw is because there’s a chance that you’ll be able to force
a fold and take the pot down without a showdown. If the player
you are up against hates folding, this possibility should be
greatly discounted. Now, if you are facing a tighter player,
raising with draws becomes more viable. You’ll force folds on
occasion, you’ll slow down the action in other spots, and you’ll
create an opportunity to take the pot down later on with even
more aggression. Use your opponents’ strengths and weaknesses to
your advantage when playing any draw.

Stack Sizes

Stack sizes seem to be something that a lot of live poker
players totally disregard, be it when they are playing draws or
otherwise. Stack sizes matter because they will determine how a
hand is going to play out. If you only have a relatively small
amount of chips, shoving earlier on is going to make more sense
than chasing. You have a small chance at forcing a fold when you
shove, but you have no chance if you bleed yourself dry with

Stack sizes should also determine how and when you are
aggressive. If a player has a ton of chips, you are going to
need to make more raises and moves than if they only have an
average amount. Sometimes you’ll be in a position where a
player just keeps firing out. In this case, you can sit back and
let them do all the work since raising is unlikely to do anything other than intimidate

The amount of chips that someone has will also help you to
calculate whether it’s worth chasing a draw at all. If you are
contemplating whether or not to play suited connectors and see
that your opponent only has 20 big blinds, it will be much
easier to lay down your hand. Draws are usually in hands where
they make minimal investments for an opportunity to hit big
hands and get paid off. If you are making minimal investments in
exchange equally minimal returns, you aren’t exactly creating
room for profitability. Always keep stack sizes in mind before
you make your decisions, because otherwise you might put
yourself in an unnecessarily difficult spot post-flop.