The Art of Drawing

"You can lead a student to college, but you can't make him think"

The definition of a drawing hand is any hand that has the reasonable possibility of substantial improvement. The most common drawing hands are flushes, straights and straight flushes.

Many of the hands you will play after the flop are drawing hands. There are a host of decisions you need to make when deciding to go forward with a drawing hand.

Do the pot odds justify drawing?

First you should know what the odds are when you are making a draw.  A flush and open ended straight draw having similar odds on the flop.  With a flush there are 9 unseen cards of that suit available to complete you and with an open straight there are 8 unseen cards that can make your straight.  This ends up being close to 4:1 against you making your straight or flush on each card dealt, so assuming you draw to the river you are about a two to one underdog.  

This is offset by the power of your hand should you complete and is one of the reasons the suited ace and suited connectors are such big parts to starting hand selection.

One thing that will help you (and will happen automatically if you follow the starting hand recommendations) is that with regard to flushes you will almost always be drawing to the nuts or the second nut flush (AXs or KXs). This is an extremely important consideration and is tied to the second bullet above...

Will you win if you make your draw?

In other words if you are drawing to a flush but you have low flush cards, what do you think the chances are that your flush will be beaten if it is actually made?   Are there several people in the hand checking and then cold-calling a raise?  These people are probably on a draw of some sort as well.  Be prepared and able to throw your hand away should you decide there is a good chance you can't win even if you make your draw.

A similar situation happens when there is a pair on the board.  While it is still Ok in general to draw to a flush with a pair on the board, you should raise your flush standards considerably when making this draw.  If there is a lot of action don't pay money drawing to a flush with 67s

In the case of straights, the size of your cards is not as important as the possibility that you will create the nut straight if you make your draw.  For example you might hold 45o with a board of 923 rainbow.  This is a stronger draw than having 9Tsuited with a board of JQ.  With an open straight you want to be 'on top'.  If you are the bottom of the straight it may still be worth drawing but it is worth considerably less so you should make arrangements to retreat if it gets too expensive to draw and if there are other people in the hand who also seem to be drawing.

Also, beware of counterfeiting on straight draws.  This is when one of the cards in your hand appears on the board give you a pair (or worse, two pair).  For example let's look at your weak flush draw.  9Ts with a board of JQ2.  On the turn the K arrives giving you a 9-K straight (a good hand but vulnerable to someone holding AT) and then (cruelly) on the river another T arrives.  Now your hand is just about worthless since any ace wins with the nut straight.

Or, lets look at the 9Ts with board JQ2 again.  On the turn you get a 9, and the river you get a T!  Two pair, but don't even call one bet with it since any K or 8 beats you.