Big draws don't always mean fold equity

Those of you who have played PLO know that sometimes in a multiway pot a non-nutty, two-way draw can be complete garbage...

Posted Jan 01, 2014


Bart Hanson BW2

Bart Hanson

Owner and Lead Pro

Those of you who have played PLO know that sometimes in a multiway pot a non-nutty, two-way draw can be complete garbage. That is one of the costly mistakes that holdem players learn when transitioning to the new game. If you have 7 8 K A and the board runs out 9 T 2 and you are facing a bet and several aggressive actions in front of you a lot of times your hand is an easy fold as your draws are dominated.

We do not think about this concept too much in holdem because most draws usually have decent equity especially heads up. However, there are certainly situations that warrant us to not play draws aggressively. Remember, the number one goal in semi-bluffing is fold equity--we want to win the pot right now. If there is not a reasonable chance that our opponent will lay their hand down then it is a pure spew to shovel chips in as an underdog. If you want to flip coins and pay sixty cents on the dollar every time you lose I'll fly you on a private jet out to Los Angeles so long as you bring all of your money.

In holdem, there are certain actions that will dictate that we have no fold equity. Let us take a look at hand that I recently commentated on from Live at the Bike and that I used for my live training videos over at It was a $5-5, $300-$1000 game on a Friday night. The game was typical loose passive where people were rarely raising post flop unless they had the goods. A player with a $600 stack opened UTG to $25 with A K and four players called in the field. The flop came J T 9 giving the preflop raiser a royal flush draw. He decided to continuation bet $85 and the UTG +2, who had him covered, raised to $250. It got folded back to the UTG who immediately moved in. UTG+2 snap called with 8 7, the board bricked out and he won a huge pot. Some of players at the table bemoaned the UTG's luck saying that there was nothing that he could do because he had a royal flush draw. But, are they correct?

First of all we have to evaluate what it means to be raised on this flop. Let us put ourselves in the UTG’s shoes. We were the preflop raiser and continuation bet into four people on an extremely wet flop. Even a bad player should know that we must have something, usually at least top pair. Players are rarely ever going to overplay a hand like AJ on a board like this because we look so strong. Also, because we have the ace and the king of clubs, it is unlikely that our opponent has a draw as they would not raise a naked, under flush draw on this flop. Usually, then, we can deduce that our opponent has some sort of made hand, probably at worst two pair. And, more importantly, with these stacks sizes and our perceived range once our opponent raises us he will almost never fold. So, by definition, we have no fold equity.

This hand starts to become a conditional philosophy problem kind of like logic class back in college. We know A therefore B or if X then Y. In this case if our opponent raises then we know he will not fold. If his range consists of two pair, sets and straights our equity is about forty one percent with A K. To raise all in to see two cards would be nothing but a spew. Now, depending on the stack sizes, we can certainly call the raise and many times call a bet on the turn especially knowing that our opponent has flopped something big and will most likely pay us off to some extent on the river. But to just close our eyes and shove is a big mistake because we forget the main point of semi bluffing—fold equity.

Now sometimes we can have draws as big as 15 outs (open ended and flush draw). In these situations our draw has so much equity that it is almost never bad to play them aggressively. In the real world there is usually at least a hint of fold equity and when dealing with a hand where at worst our equity would be in the high forty-percentile range it is probably not bad to semi-bluff. However, there are certainly situations where you can be overly aggressive with them, especially when it is apparent that your opponent has a set. A fifteen out draw only has forty percent equity versus a set so we get back in the territory of spewness just like the twelve out draw above.

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