How to Play Straight Draws (It Might Surprise You)

How to Play Straight Draws

This article was written by contributor Fran Ferlan.

Playing drawing hands in no-limit hold’em can be tricky, and straight draws are no exception.

A lot of players struggle with straight draws: they either chase draws that are unlikely to complete, or they have trouble getting paid off once they do manage to hit their draws.

If you have trouble playing straight draws, keep reading.

This article will tell you everything you need to know about playing straight draws, which mistakes to avoid, and how to make the most money with them.

Let's get right into it.

1. How Often Do I Flop A Straight in Texas Hold’em?

To understand how to play straight draws profitably, it’s useful to know how often you’ll make a straight in no-limit hold’em in the first place. 

It’s important to understand that different hole cards can make a straight in multiple different ways. 

For example, connectors from JT to 54 can each make a straight in four different ways.

If you are dealt JT, for example, here are the boards that give you a straight:





Now, let’s look at a one-gapper type of hand like J9. 

It can make a straight in three different ways:




A two gapper like J8 can only make two straights:



And a 3-gapper like J7 can only make a single straight combination:


The conclusion is fairly obvious: 

Connectors are stronger than gappers because they can connect with the board in more ways, meaning they’ll make a straight more often. 

The bigger the gap between the cards, the weaker they are.

It also goes without saying that suited cards are stronger than their offsuit counterparts. 

Check out my recent article on how to play flush draws for more info. 

Of course, there’s also a possibility of making a straight with a single hole card. 

For example, you are dealt A2 and the board is KQJT5

But for the purpose of this article, we’ll stick with playing straight draws with both of your hole cards.

Now for the bad news: The chance of flopping a straight in no-limit Texas hold’em with a connector hand (JT through 54) are only 1.3%, or 1 to 76.

The chances of flopping a straight with a gapper type of hand are even slimmer.

Chance of flopping a straight with a one-gapper (like J9 or 86): 0.98%

Chance of flopping a straight with a two-gapper like J8 or 85): 0.64%

While you won’t flop a straight very often, your chances of flopping a straight draw are much better.

The chance of flopping a straight draw with a connector hand (JT through 54) is 9.71%, or 1 to 9.3.

Not great, but still almost 8 times more likely than flopping a straight outright.

So you obviously don’t want to play any connector hoping to hit a straight, because you won’t hit it nearly as often to justify playing any connector. 

Suited connectors are stronger than their unsuited counterparts because they give you more ways to connect with the board.

By the way, check out Nathan’s video on how to play suited connectors like a pro.

2. How to Play Straight Draws on the Flop

There are different types of straight draws, depending on the number of outs you have to complete them.

An out is a card that you need to complete a certain hand combination (a straight in this instance). The more outs you have, the stronger your draw.

Based on the number of outs you have, you can have an inside straight draw (or a gutshot straight draw) with 4 outs or an open-ended straight draw with 8 outs.

There’s also a double gutshot straight draw with 8 outs. 

Example of an inside straight draw:

You are dealt 98 and the flop is 652. You need a Seven to complete your draw (4 outs total).

Example of an open-ended straight draw:

You are dealt 98 and the flop is T72. You need either a Jack or a Six to complete your draw (8 outs total).

Example of a double inside straight draw:

You are dealt 98 and the board is 65QJ. You need either a Seven or a Ten to complete your draw (8 outs total).

Of course, you can also have a straight draw with a single hole card. For example, if you are dealt A3 and the board is KQJ, KQT and so on.

Similarly, there’s also spots where one of your hole cards is “canceled'' by the board. For example, if you are dealt 98 and the flop 876

You only need one card to complete a straight, but so does your opponent. Needless to say that this type of draw is weaker than the rest.

The most important thing you need to be aware of is the difference between an open-ended straight draw and the inside straight draw. 

The open-ended straight draw is obviously stronger because it has twice as many outs, meaning it will complete twice as often.

Speaking of which, here’s the percentage chance of your straight draws completing from flop to river:

Chance of open-ended straight draw completing: 31.5%, or 1:2.2 odds.

Chance of inside straight draw completing: 16.5%, or 1:5.1 odds.

Protip: instead of memorizing the numbers, you can use the so-called rule of fours to quickly calculate the percentage chance of your draws completing.

Rule of fours: simply multiply the number of outs you have by 4. For example, if you have an open-ended straight draw, multiply 8 x 4 = 32%. 

The rule of fours gets slightly less precise the more outs you have, but it works well enough in most in-game situations.

If you want to calculate the chance of your hand improving over a single street, (flop to turn or turn to river), simply multiply the number of outs by 2 instead of 4.

Memorizing (or calculating) your hand equity is important because it tells you whether or not you can continue playing the hand profitably. 

You need to compare your hand equity to the pot odds you’re getting on the call. If you’re getting favourable pot odds, you can continue playing the hand profitably.

Pot odds are the ratio between the pot size and the price of the call. 

For example, if the pot is $60 and the price of the call is $20, you’re getting 3:1 on a call. 

For more info on the pot odds, check out my ultimate poker odds cheat sheet.

Here’s an example to illustrate the point.

How to Play Straight Draws Example Hand #1

Effective stack size: 100 BB 

You are dealt JT on the BU (button). Villain open-raises to 3x in the CO (cutoff).

You call. Blinds fold.

Pot: 7.5 BB

Flop: 872

Villain bets 3.5 BB

You: ???

Let’s calculate the pot odds first. 

The pot size is 11 BB (7.5+3.5), and the price of the call is 3.5 BB.  When you divide the two numbers, you get 3.14, so we can round it up to 3.

You are getting 3:1 odds on a call. You have an inside straight draw, so you have 4 outs. Your chance of improvement to a straight is 1:5.1, meaning you don’t have the correct pot odds to call.

Now, let’s change the example a bit, and see what happens when you have an open-ended straight draw.

Same hand, you are dealt JT. Same action sequence preflop.

This time, the flop is:


This time, you have 8 outs ( any King or any Eight), so the odds of completing a straight are 1:2.2. Your pot odds are 3:1, so this time you have the correct pot odds to call.

Protip: if you prefer the percentage chance over the odds, you can convert the odds into a percentage by simply adding the numerator and the denominator, then divide 100 by the result.

For example, if you are getting 4:1 odds, add 4 and 1, then divide 100 by the result (5), and you get 20%.

Another protip: instead of calculating the pot odds every hand, it’s easier to remember common pot odds you’re going to get in most hands.

Here are the most common pot odds you should have memorized:

1/2 pot bet = 3:1 pot odds

2/3 pot bet = 2.5:1 pot odds

3/4 pot bet = 2.3:1 pot odds

1/1 pot bet (full pot bet) = 2:1 pot odds

You can also memorize the required hand equity (i.e. how often you expect to win the hand) and compare it to the pot odds you’re getting.

Hand equity required for different bet sizes:

1/2 pot bet = 25% hand equity required

2/3 pot bet = 28% hand equity required

3/4 pot bet = 30% hand equity required

1/1 pot bet (full pot bet) = 33% hand equity required

At the very least, you should remember the pot odds (and required hand equity) for a half-pot bet and a full pot bet, as these are the most common bet sizes you’re going to encounter over and over again.

Important caveat: pot odds simply tell you whether or not calling is OUTRIGHT profitable, meaning it doesn’t take other factors into account, like the implied odds, for example.

It just tells you whether or not calling is profitable RIGHT NOW. If calling is outright profitable, it doesn’t mean it’s the MOST profitable play. In the example hand above, raising might be more +EV than calling.

For these reasons, the pot odds are only one factor you should consider when deciding on how to play your straight draws. 

If you don’t have the correct pot odds, it doesn’t mean you should fold, and if you do, it doesn’t mean you should continue the hand at all costs.

The number of outs you have with your drawing hands is important, but it’s not the only
factor to consider when deciding on whether or not to play a drawing hand.

Let’s take a look at other factors you should consider when playing straight draws.

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3. Are you Drawing to the Nuts With Your Straight Draw?

There are two factors that determine the strength of drawing hands: the number of outs you have, and whether or not you’re drawing to the strongest possible combination, i.e. the nuts. 

If you’re not drawing to the nuts, even if your draw completes, you run the risk of your opponent having an even stronger hand than you. So you should be extra careful when you’re drawing to the non-nuts combinations.

Example of a nut straight draw:

You are dealt JT and the flop is: 982

If your draw completes (either with a Seven or a Queen), you’ll have the strongest hand combination possible. 

In other words, you have 8 clean outs, and you don’t need to worry about the reverse implied odds.

Reverse implied odds are the amount of money you can potentially lose if your draw completes, but your opponent ends up having an even stronger combination.

Example of a non-nuts straight draw:

You are dealt 65 and the flop is: 982

You need a Seven to complete your straight, but your opponent could have JT, so you’re not drawing to the strongest possible combination. 

What’s worse, one of your outs is “tainted”. If a 7 comes on future streets, your opponent could also have a flush that beats you.

In the second example, you’re drawing to the so-called ass-end of a straight. When that’s the case, you should think twice about chasing your straight draw. And if you do decide to play it, consider the reverse implied odds first.

For more info on reverse implied odds, check out the Microstakes Playbook.

4. What Are the Implied Odds With Your Straight Draw?

Pot odds tell you whether or not you can call profitably on a certain street. Implied odds, on the other hand, tell you how much money you can potentially earn on future streets. 

Pot odds are exact, while implied odds require a bit of guesswork. 

The better the implied odds, the more inclined you should be to play your draws. 

I won’t get too deep into the implied odds here, so you can check my other article on playing flush draws for more info on the topic.

One notable difference between flush draws and straight draws, though, is the fact that straight draws are more difficult to spot. 

This means that straight draws generally have better implied odds than flush draws.

Even recreational players can easily spot a potential flush draw completing, so it’s often the case that you can’t get action when you finally do manage to get a flush.

Straight draws are more concealed, so it’s more likely you’re going to get action if you manage to complete your straight.

For example, let’s say you’re dealt 98 and the board is: A6T7 

Now, compare this to a completed flush:

You are dealt A5 and the board is K832

Which hand are you more likely to get action with? It’s obviously the first hand, because your opponents will have a harder time putting you on your exact hand.

For more info on how to conceal your hand strength and keep your opponents guessing, check out Modern Small Stakes.

Now that we’ve gone through the things you should keep in mind when playing straight draws, let’s look at different in-game situations and figure out which play is the most +EV.

5. When to fold a Straight Draw?

As mentioned, you can’t chase every draw profitably, as most draws simply don’t complete. Worse yet, even if you hit your draw, you need to consider the reverse implied odds, because your opponent could have a stronger hand than you. 

In fact, chasing bad draws is one of the most common mistakes amateurs make in poker, period.

For these reasons, sometimes it’s best to just fold your straight draw immediately.

Here’s the spots where you should consider folding your straight draw:

a) when your draw can be dominated: when you’re drawing to the ass-end of a straight, when your outs are tainted and so on.

b) when you’re already drawing dead.

Drawing dead means not being able to win the hand even if your draw completes because your opponent already has a stronger hand you can’t beat. 

For example, if the board is paired and your opponent could have a full house, or the board is monotone and your opponent could already have a flush.

c) when you don’t have enough pot odds/implied odds.

Sometimes you simply won’t have the correct odds to continue the hand profitably. In these spots, the only mathematically correct play is to just give up the hand.

For example, you have an inside straight draw, your opponent shoves all-in on the flop and you’re getting 2:1 odds on a call. 

How to Play Straight Draws Example Hand #2

You are dealt 87 and the flop is: JJT 

Playing this kind of draw is just begging to get stacked. 

You have a gutshot straight (which is unlikely to complete), one of your outs is tainted, because your opponent can have a flush, and you’re drawing to the ass-end of a straight. To top it all off, the board is paired, so there are multiple full house combinations possible. 

For more info on how to read different board types, check out Crushing the Microstakes.

6. When to Call With a Straight Draw?

As a general rule, calling is the last option to consider when playing straight draws, because: 

a) you’re exclusively relying on hitting your outs to win the pot

b) you’re letting your opponent dictate the tempo of the hand, and

c) even if you hit your outs, it doesn’t guarantee your opponent will pay you off.

Some players make the mistake of calling with weak draws, because they aren’t strong enough to raise, but don’t want to let go of the hand by folding, either.

This is often a mistake, because they don’t complete their draws most of the time, anyway, and even if they do, they run the risk of having only the second best hand.

With all that said, there are spots where calling with a straight draw is the best play.

For example, if you have little to no fold equity (because your opponent is unlikely to fold) AND if you have good implied odds.

A common spot where this scenario is likely is when playing against recreational players (aka the fish).

Against fish, you often have very limited fold equity, because they have a lot of trouble folding their hands. This, in turn, means that your implied odds are great, because they’ll be more likely to pay you off if you manage to hit your straight draw.

How to Play Straight Draws Example Hand #3

Effective Stack Size: 100 BB

You are dealt 76 in the CO (cutoff). You open-raise to 2.5 BB. 

A loose and passive fish calls from the SB (small blind).

Pot: 6 BB

Flop: A85

Fish donk-bets 6 BB. 

You: ???

You should flat call.

You flop an open-ended straight draw and the villain donk-bets a full pot bet, which is one of the most common telltale signs of recreational players.

A donk-bet is an out of position bet made against the previous street’s aggressor.

For more info on why donk-betting is usually a bad idea, check out my other article on amateur poker mistakes to avoid.

Raising here can be a viable play, but it has its downsides. First of all, by raising, you’re forcing the villain to fold all of their junk they might otherwise keep bluffing with, and continuing only by hands that have you beat.

If you have trouble dealing with donk bets, check out my other article on what to do against pot sized bets from fish.

If the villain comes back with a re-raise, you’d be forced to fold a significant chunk of equity.

By flat calling, on the other hand, you’re allowing the villain to continue barreling on future streets with all of their junk. 

If you hit your straight draw, they’ll probably be none the wiser, and you’ll be able to take down a huge pot. 

You may even be able to stack them completely if they have a hand they can’t let go of (like Ax hands, weird two pair hands and so on).

In other words, your implied odds are excellent, it doesn’t make sense to blow the villain off of their hand, and raising comes with additional unwanted risks. 

Hero calls.

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7. When to Bet or Raise a Straight Draw?

As a general rule, the stronger your draw, the more aggressively you should play it.

If you bet or raise on the flop with a straight draw, you’re essentially semi-bluffing.

A semibluff is a bet or raise made when you don’t have the best hand, but you could improve to a stronger hand on future streets.

Semibluffing is usually preferable to stone-cold bluffing, where your hand has no chance of improving. 

When you’re semibluffing, you have additional hand equity to fall back on if your bluff gets called.

It’s usually advised to play strong draws aggressively because you’re simply giving yourself more ways to win the pot. 

You can either win the pot outright by making your opponents fold, or hit your outs and win an even bigger pot on future streets.

If you play your draws passively, the only way for you to win the pot is by hitting your outs (which won’t happen most of the time).

Another reason to play strong draws fast is because your opponents may not be willing to pay you off if they spot a potential draw completing.

Granted, this is a smaller problem with straight draws than flush draws, because straight draws are better concealed, but it’s still something to be aware of.

With all that in mind, here’s when you should generally bet or raise a straight draw on the flop:

a) when you are the preflop aggressor

If you have a straight draw on the flop, a c-bet is all but mandatory. C-bets are usually profitable, especially when you have a lot of hand equity to fall back on.

This is something Daniel Negreanu talks about in a lot more detail in his advanced poker training program. 

An exception to this rule could be a spot where the flop is monotone and you’re in a multiway pot. In situations like this, it’s advised to exercise more caution.

b) when you are already pot-committed

If you’ve already committed a big chunk of your stack to the pot, it’s usually correct to keep applying the pressure and be willing to play for the rest of your stack. 

You can figure out how committed you are to the pot by using the stack-to-pot ratio (or SPR) for short.

As the name suggests, the SPR is the ratio between pot size and the effective stack size. 

For example, if pot is $20 and the effective stack size is $80, the SPR is 4.

The smaller the SPR, the more committed you are to the pot, and you should be more willing to play for the rest of your stack. 

If the SPR is very small (3 or less), you are automatically committed with a top pair hand or better, or with a strong draw (like an open ended straight draw, or a combo straight + flush draw, for example).

c) when you have a lot of outs

This one’s a no-brainer. The more outs you have, the more aggressively you can play, because you have additional hand equity to fall back on.

d) when you have high fold equity 

Betting or raising big with a strong draw has the additional benefit of maximizing fold equity. 

Simply put, fold equity refers to the percentage chance of your opponent folding. The more likely your opponent is to fold, the bigger your fold equity.

By going all-in, you’re maximizing your fold equity. Going all-in just for the sake of maximizing your fold equity is obviously ill-advised, but it can be effective if you have a strong draw to fall back on.

This is explained in much more detail in Modern Small Stakes.

How to Play Straight Draws - Summary

Knowing how to play drawing hands is an important aspect of a fundamental winning poker strategy.

When playing drawing hands, it’s important to base your decision on mathematically sound principles.

Inside straight draws (with 4 outs) have a 17% chance of improving and open-ended straight draws (with 8 outs) have a 32% chance of improving from flop to river.

You need to compare the pot odds you’re getting with the chance of your draws completing to see if you can play them profitably.

Apart from the pot odds, you also need to consider the implied odds (and the reverse implied odds), i.e. how much money you stand to gain (or lose) if your straight draw completes.

This will depend on the type of opponent you’re up against, the board texture, the previous action and so on.

When you take all of these factors into account, you can choose the most +EV line to take. 

As a general rule, the stronger your draw, the more aggressively you can play it.

Conversely, if your straight draw is very weak, sometimes it’s best to save your money and give up chasing it altogether.

In poker, avoiding unnecessary losses is just as important as maximising your winnings, so don’t chase any random draw just for the sake of it.

When in doubt, always consider the math first.

Lastly, if you want to know the complete strategy I use to make $1000+ per month in small stakes games, get a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

How to Play Straight Draws