Playing Nut Flush Draws With Deep Stacks

Nut flush draws are super powerful, but they can be confusing. Do you pile a bunch of money in early? Do you slow-play your draw and wait until it improves? Was your preflop line best?

Today we’ll explore this question through the lens of a $2/$5 hand. Our hero, Andrew, ends up in a multi-way pot with Ace Ten suited and has to make interested decisions at multiple points int he hand. In Andrew’s write-up about this hand, Andrew says this

“The solid reg has been isolating limpers pretty often from late position, so I’m flatting in the big blind with a pretty playable hand. MP has been limp/calling a lot too. I feel the call preflop is pretty standard.”

I want to talk about this for a moment because I think this is a really important start of the hand.

So we have the solid reg in the cutoff, who is isolating, totally standard, has been doing that a lot during the session, also starts with 200 big blinds. Okay, awesome. And then we have the passive reg, by the way, I love that description, and this person has been doing a decent amount of limp calling preflop. But the fact that they’re qualified as reg, even if they’re passivish, whatever, just means that they’re probably not going to be dumping off a ton preflop nor postflop, especially someone who’s limp-calling preflop, probably not someone who’s going to be completely spewy postflop with a bottom or middle pair. Yeah, they play a little passive preflop, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to be ultra, ultra spewy.

I don’t think there’s going to be a huge source of implied odds from either of these players. Now, people will flat with AT here. They flat with KQos here. They flat with AJ here. They flat with all these kind of hands that are pretty, that they definitely want to play, but they don’t want to 3bet. And what I would want to challenge hero to do, and what Andrew would think about specifically, and you when you find yourself in similar situations definitely consider the 3bet.

Check out this quick video & guide about the power of 3betting with blockers.

Now, there’s a couple of different reasons why. Again, first, if we do decide to call, where are the implied odds, where are we really making money, or are we just setting ourselves up for some really, really tricky situations? If you’ve never thought about that before, pause the video, think about that for the next 30 seconds, and see what you come up with. I assure you, it might be a little different than what you thought was the “standard default thing to do here”.

Once we’re beyond talking about the upside of flatting, sure, passivish reg probably isn’t going to 3bet you very much, so you’re going to see a lot of flops, but great, you’re out of position, the pot is $75, you don’t have the deepest SPR in the world. You’re kind of sitting there around 11, 12ish. Okay, fine, there’s certainly enough playability to go forward, but what are you going to do? Do you love when it comes 10x? Do you love when it comes to Ax? How sticky are you planning on being? Are you calling off a buy-in with top pair? What are you really going to be doing in that scenario? Again, how is postflop going to pan out? How is that going to be profitable? How is that going to show an edge for you?

Conversely, think about 3betting. What does 3betting do? 3Betting probably gets the passivish reg to fold a lot. Okay, fine. But chances are you haven’t been 3betting very often. So is the solid reg really going to give you heaps and heaps of action? Sure, we’re playing deep, so maybe he decides to call a little bit more, but is he really going to go crazy postflop, especially if he hasn’t seen you 3betting very much? It’s a situation where, sure, maybe he calls with more hands like AJ and QJs and hands like that, but is he really going to go bonkers postflop with high cards? Well, he’s going to have that a large chunk of the time. So, again, think about how that’s going to pan out.

Another thing is thinking about the overall dynamic. If you start 3betting here, what is telling the solid reg over the duration of the session? Are you telling him, “Hey, you should apply a lot of pressure every time I’m in the blinds and you want to attack limpers?” or are you sending the message of, “Hey, it’s not going to be so easy every single time you want to try to pick up a pot’s preflop. So if he starts getting out of those pots, now it leaves an opportunity for you to start taking advantage of those pots.

If you remove a player from certain spots, you reclaim more options for winning those pots.

Again, we’re not just looking at this single hand. We’re also thinking about how this line and how our aggression is going to shape and mold the entire session. It might be a little more of a thought process than you’ve ever put into situations like this, but I assure you, if you’re going to start thinking about sessions as kind of like oceans where there are all these waves and you can determine, okay, which wave is going to be best for me to ride on, and how can me being on a wave take away from someone else’s wave, I assure you, it’s a little meta, but it’s also going to be really beneficial for your growth in the long-run.

To Andrew’s point in the write-up where he says, “I feel the call preflop is pretty standard,” I agree with you. I think most people would do this. I think it is a typical, standard, safe thing to do, but I don’t think it’s best. I think exploring the 3bet here is going to be way more valuable than most people give a credit for, and I think that if you start doing some of that exploration, even just light thinking on it off session, it will allow you to find this kind of situations in session much, much more easily.

Anyway, as played, we end up calling. Passivish reg calls as well, not shocking. Go 3-way to it, go here, the hero decides to check, check, face a c-bet of almost, and the hero just decides to call. So this is actually a pretty cool hand with a decent chunk of inflection points that are quite interesting. In this scenario, the hero just decides to check-call, but one of the things I would think about is could we check-raise here? Would check-raising to $240, $250 be something of interest? Would it get a job done? What would it accomplish? What would the solid reg do, that sort of thing?

I think it would be pretty tough to do so super-profitably, just because what is the solid reg really going to be c-betting here almost for pot and then going away with? So I don’t think there’s heaps of fold equity, and we could get a lot of money in when we have a decent chunk of equity, but we’re always going to equity dogs and there’s not enough overlay to make this worthwhile in my opinion.

This is one of those things that I would have asked myself before I even made my flop decision. So as soon as I’m here, I ask myself, ‘Okay, would a check-raise be good, yes or no?’ And then I also ask myself, ‘Would a lead be good here, yes or no? Would just betting here be fine? Would check-raising be more profitable or would check-calling be more profitable?’ Again, looking at all the lines in front of us and thinking about which one is going to be best.

Now, I don’t love check-raising in this scenario. I just don’t think the stack sizes are right for it, I don’t think the ranges are going to be right for it, and as such, I don’t want to check-raise. So that leaves me to check and then call because I’m certainly not going to check-fold, or I could just lead.

Again, when you’re exploring hands off-table, this is what I want you to be doing. Even if it’s a situation where you’ve never led before, it’s just something you’ve never even thought about, you’ve never even done, you always check when you’re the preflop passive person. Okay. But when you’re doing off-table exploration and analysis, at least take a moment and say, “Wait, could that be good? What would that do? Is that profitable? Is that better?” and then make some decisions from there. The more you do that off-table, the easier in real time it is to actually find lines that maybe a-typical for either your overall playbook or your player pools playbook as a whole.

In this situation, I really like leading. I lead here for $50 and just kind of play out. I’d be leading here with a lot of hands, and I’m also planning on leading and applying a lot of pressure if I face a raise, especially from the solid reg. But that’s just kind of my overall idea in this scenario. I like that a lot better than trying to go for a check-raise. And check-call is not my favorite play in the world either.

A donk bet = a lead bet. Both are when the player without the iniative bets into the player who had the initiative.

As played, we do decide to check-call, the passivish reg actually shows up with a check-raise, and the solid reg decides to fold. Now, at first glance, I looked at this and I said, “Well, passivish reg, probably going to be check-raising with a pretty strong range of hands. As such, if I decide to 3bet, is there really any fold equity?” So let’s talk about that for a moment. Whenever I’m in a spot like this, I always ask myself, first and foremost, how many really strong power-nutted combos are possibly in here? Deuces make sense for the passivish reg, but I don’t think queens and nines make sense because if the passive reg had QQs or 99s, are they really going to take that preflop of limp-call? If they wanted to do something trappy, maybe they went for a limp re-raise, maybe they just open-raised themselves. I don’t think QQ and 99 are going to be in here a very large chunk of the time unless you’ve seen it if you have some information to really lead you that way.

For this moment, I’m going to delete QQs and 99s, which leaves three combos of sets. And I think that if the passivish reg has Q9, it’s going to be Q9s and there are three combos of that, so five combos of power. Great. Let’s compare that to other possible combinations of hands. Well, JT could take this line. There are other heart combinations, including KJh. KTh probably doesn’t make a lot of sense, but there’s probably going to be suited connectors that we don’t block, like 78h and 56h and maybe gappers like 86h. So all of a sudden, you can start throwing in all these combinations of second-best hands and hands that you smoke and absolutely annihilate. So the more that I look at this, the more I’m thinking, ‘Wait, wait, wait. Sure, he’s passivish, but does he only has five combos of the nuttish kind of hands here or is this the kind of dude who is not going to be showing up with a ton of that stuff, and now all of a sudden, he’s left with a lot of hands that we do super-well against. Even if this dude is getting KQ all-in, well, is a passivish reg really going to do that? Maybe, maybe not, but I don’t think we need to be super, super concerned here.

So because of that, not a lot of strong combos. Lots and lots of combos that we actually do pretty well against, even if they’re shaded, even if you think he would sometimes check-call them and sometimes check-raise them, I think this is a beautiful scenario just to punt the rest of it in and actually end up in a very, very profitable situation. You can use a fold equity calculator if you want to proof it, but at an eyeball’s glance, this looks pretty darn good to me. Now, the hero does decide to just call here and we’re getting an okay price, not the best one in the world, but calling again puts you in kind of an awkward situation.

We have a situation here where Andrew decided to take a call line preflop, create an awkward situation, check, call, flop, put himself in an awkward situation, and now is calling a check-raise on the flop, putting themselves into another awkward situation. Now, that’s not to say that every single time that we call that we’re always going to find ourselves in an awkward and possibly suboptimal spot, but I’d say this is something that Andrew would definitely want to look at in his game, and this is probably something that you want to look at in your game as well. Sure, we’re looking at it through a very specific lens of this exact hand, but definitely look at that if you’re constantly finding yourself in spots where you’re taking more of the passive approach that’s not super-aggressive, and really ask yourself is that serving you as best as it possibly could?
In this scenario, we end up improving on the turn, although it does board pair, again, I’m not worried about QQ, not worried about 99. There is now one combination of deuces, which makes quads, and as such, I don’t care. I just want to get a lot of money in here, and really the question is do we check and allow the passivish reg to continue betting? If the passivish reg is bluffing something like JT, is he really going to continue firing at this point or is he going to take more of the passive approach?

In this scenario, the hero decides to check, and while checking I think is pretty standard, I think a lot of people will do it, I’d actually much prefer to see a donk just lead it out here. Andrew actually suggested that as well in his write-up, that he thought that leading would be better here, and I definitely agree. I think if you lead here for $250, $275 resting on the river, you get a much more profitable scenario. I think you guarantee that money starts going in, rather than checking and allowing him to start playing scared, start playing more passively and putting yourself in a situation where you just leave money on the table.

Unfortunately, the reg does end up checking on the turn. The river ends up putting up the fourth heart. Obviously, we’re pretty comfortable with our hand at this point and hero decides to lead for $260. So barring the fact that I never really get here like this, let’s still explore this situation none the less because sometimes we find ourselves in weird spots and it’s important that we know how to dig ourselves out.

So if we go back here, we have roughly a pot-size bet going into the river. The question I would ask myself is would shoving get me lucked out by second best? If not, what bet size is going to be better in this situation? Essentially, if the passivish reg somehow found himself here with the King of hearts, what number would I have to give him? If he found himself here with 78h, what number would I have to give him?

I’m going to let you in on a little secret when it comes to bet sizing. And this is just numbers that I’ve come up with through economics classes, but also just through experience in the game. When you’re playing live especially, there are some very important numbers to be aware of when it comes to people’s psychology of bet sizes and numbers. So $100 is a major number, $200 is a major number, $500 is a major number, and $1k is a major number. Notice that nowhere in there did I say $300, $400, $379, or $642 was a major number.

What I mean by that is once you cross the $200 threshold, between $200 and $500, you get a lot of kind of non-pain. Once someone has decided I’m going to call at least $200, usually there’s a number between $200 and $500, and most of those numbers, they’re going to be fairly comfortable with, especially when all of those numbers are underneath the size of the pot. Once you then get to $500, now all of a sudden you’re in this new pain point and you have to estimate whether or not they’re going to give that action.

* Looking for even more bet sizing information? Start here:

Again, bearing with me, there’s a little psychology here, there’s a little economics here, but that’s where we are right this moment. So what I mean by that is we’re obviously going to be betting more than $200 here a pretty large chunk of the time, more than third pot. So my question is: What’s the number between $200 and $500, because I don’t think I can shove here and get lucked out by really anything other than deuces and any weird thing that somehow beats us. Maybe the King of hearts gives us action, but I don’t even see that happening a hundred percent of the time.

I’m trying to find a number that gets me looked up by second best enough. And I think that $260 is pretty similar to $320, and pretty similar to something like $385. I think a lot of those numbers are going to be treated very, very similar in terms of how I get action from them. So because of that, I think only going $260 leaves money on the table. I think we could easily bet as large as up to around $400. And probably if our opponent does decide they want to give action with their hand, they’re going to be fairly inelastic in that range. Again, sub $500, definitely over $200, we’ve already surpassed that pain point and now we’re on to the next one.

This hand got way deeper than I was originally anticipating. There’s a lot of things in here that need to get unpacked. But once you can start understanding, digesting a lot of these nuggets, I think it’s going to help you a ton, if nothing else, give you a ton to study and think about off-table, and then of course turn that into real table thought process, but there’s a lot of things in here to look at.

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So, Andrew, I really appreciate this hand. Thank you for sending it in and also for the interesting write-up. But this is just a scenario where, again, I think you just misplayed a bunch of different streets here, and I think the bet size on the river also leaves something to be desired, looking at just general economics and price psychology.

In this scenario, passivish reg does decide to call. Fine. We don’t end up seeing their cards, they much, we win. Awesome. But, again, I think a lot of money was left on the table here, and I think a lot of different inflection points here could have been played differently and also much more profitable.

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