Limit Holdem: Making Fewer Mistakes Part 2 (Bad Draws)

In the first part of this article I talked about making fewer starting hand mistakes in Limit Holdem which isn’t as simple as playing aces kings and ace-king only.  The next most common mistake limit players make is continuing on the flop and turn with bad draws.

What is a bad draw in small stakes poker?

A bad draw is a draw that will not win enough money when you win to offset your current and future contributions to the pot when you lose.

A beginner’s approach to this is to look at the pot odds for a draw compared to your odds of making that draw with one card.  For example if you can call a bet for $10 and the pot already has $100 in it then the pot is laying you 10:1 odds, therefore if the odds of making your draw are less than 10:1 the you should call and if they are greater you should fold.  Pot odds has some flaws, namely:

  1. It doesn’t take into account future action on the hand.  With some draws you are more likely to get paid off on the river (or even have your opponent raise you) when you make your hand.  This concept is called implied odds and basically means comparing your total contribution to the pot when all cards are dealt to the final (obviously estimated) amount of the pot.
  2. It doesn’t take into account the times that you make your draw and still lose the hand.  This concept is called reverse-implied odds.  A common example of this is drawing to a flush that isn’t ace-high (a non-nut flush draw).  Sometimes one of your opponents will have a larger flush draw and you will end up paying extra bets on the end when you make your draw.  Other common examples are drawing to non-nut straights or drawing to a hand like two pair (sometimes your opponent will have a set or even a full house when you make your hand)
  3. Many players don’t see all of the draws available to them in order to more accurately estimate their chances of winning when all the cards are dealt.
  4. The way you play the hand (perhaps by raising instead of calling) can affect not only your likelihood of winning the hand but also the amount of money that ultimately goes into the pot.

So ok that is a lot to think about and being able to accurately estimate the amount the final pot size and how much you’ll have to invest to get there is a skill that requires experience, however there are some mistakes that people make in limit holdem that are so bad they are quite easy to identify and take advantage of:

Mistake #1: the inability to lay down a pocket pair, especially in non heads-up situations

You’ve definitely seen this one if you’ve played any amount of limit Holdem…  There are certain players that absolutely cannot fold pocket pairs regardless of how unlikely they are to win.  You will see people call down to the river with pocket tens while the flop is Ace King Four against three opponents.  The general rule of thumb for pocket pairs is that you want to flop a set and in most cases if you do not you should fold your hand.  If your pocket pair doesn’t give you 1) a set, or 2) an overpair or 3) the high end of an open ended straight draw then in almost all cases you should abandon it on the flop vs. more than one opponent.

Mistake #2: weak straight draws while there is a flush draw on board

If there is a flush draw on the flop then you only want to be drawing at the top end of an open ended straight draw and even then you should often abandon this hand if there aren’t enough people in the pot.   You will notice some people that will draw with the bottom end of a gutshot straight draw when there are only one or two people in the pot.  You need to first mark these people with a little green dot in your poker client and then you need to take advantage of them by betting your stronger draws and made hands consistently against them.

Mistake #3: non-nut flush and straight draws heads up.

When you are in small pot situations and you don’t think there’s a decent chance your hand may be best right now it is often correct to dump many draws when you are playing heads up (for example the button raises and you are the only caller in the big blind).  Usually the flop call is correct and the turn call is incorrect if your opponent has a better made hand than you do (when drawing to a nut flush, for example, your ace high alone may give you the best made hand).  In these situations it is a matter of knowing your opponent and what range of hands they are likely to play to know if you should abandon your hand or play it more aggressively if there’s a decent chance you can get them to lay down a better hand than yours.

If you have a simple draw and decide that drawing (check/calling) is the correct move then you should often draw on the flop and fold on the turn if you haven’t improved and if your draw has less than 10 outs.  Keep in mind you may have other outs besides your main draw.  In a heads-up situation, for example, your ace may be good if you are drawing to the nut flush.

Mistake #4: Drawing with less than six outs with one card to come.

It is almost always wrong to draw to a gutshot straight draw or worse (most common worse draw is hoping to hit a set with a pocket pair) on the turn.  It is a rare pot that is SO huge that you can afford to chase your hand in this situation.  You’ll be plugging a big leak if you can get out of hands in this situation.


If you can learn to take advantage of other people making these four mistakes and avoid making them yourself you will see an immediate improvement in your limit results.