4 Straight Draw Mistakes Fish Always Make

4 Straight Draw Mistakes Fish Always Make

This article was written by blackrain79.com contributor Fran Ferlan.

Drawing hands can be tricky to play in no-limit hold’em, and straight draws are no exception.

With so many factors to consider, it can be hard to figure out the most profitable line in each spot you play.

If you often feel stumped when you flop a straight draw, keep reading.

In this article, we’ll go over 4 most common straight draw mistakes, and more importantly, the right way to play your straight draws.

Let’s get right into it.

Straight Draw Mistake #1: Chasing Inside Straight Draws

One of the most common amateur poker mistakes is chasing too many draws.

In no-limit hold’em, most draws don’t complete, and drawing hands are almost always an underdog to the made hand on the flop.

This means you should only chase strong draws that have a reasonable chance of completing by the river.

Provided of course, you’re getting sufficient pot odds or implied odds on the call.

The strength of your draw is determined by the two factors: the number of outs you have, and how strong your hand will be if your draw completes.

Let’s discuss the number of outs first.

An out is a card that you need to complete your draw. The more outs you have, the stronger your draw and vice versa.

This brings us to the problem with calling with inside straight draws (aka gutshot draws).

Here’s an example of a inside straight draw: 

You are dealt 76 and the flop is K84.

In this spot, you need a Five to complete your draw, so you have 4 outs to a straight.

The chance of completing an inside straight draw from flop to river is only 17%.

If you prefer the odds, the odds of completing an inside straight draw are 4.88:1 against.

By the way, you can quickly calculate the percentage chance of your draw completing by using the so-called rule of fours.

Rule of fours: simply multiply the number of outs you have by 4 to get a rough percentage chance of your draw competing from flop to river.

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

If you want to know the chance of your draw completing on the next street (flop to turn or turn to river), you simply multiply the number of outs by 2 instead of 4.

By using the rule of fours on the inside straight draw example, you would get the chance of completing your draw to be 16% (since 4 outs times 4 equals 16), which is quite close to your actual 17% chance of improvement.

Now, all of this is not to say that you can never call profitably when you have an inside straight draw.

But as far as drawing hands go, gutshot draws aren’t in great shape against made hands on the flop.

So if you choose to chase any gutshot draw regardless of the odds you’re getting on the call, chances are you’ll be bleeding money over the long run.

Now, contrast the gutshot draws with open-ended straight draws.

Example of an open-ended straight draw: 

You are dealt 76and the flop is K54.

In this spot, you have twice as many outs, as any Three or Eight gives you a straight.

This means your draw is almost twice as likely to complete.

The chance of an open-ended straight draw completing from flop to river is 32%.

Here again you can see the rule of fours working well, since 8 outs times 4 equals 32.

What this means in practice is that you’ll  get the correct price on a call far more often than you would with an inside straight draw.

You can also consider raising with an open-ended straight draw when facing a bet, since you have so much equity to fall back on in case you get called.

When you play your drawing hands this way, you’re essentially semibluffing.

You are semibluffing when you don’t have a made hand yet, but can potentially improve to a strong hand on later streets if you manage to hit your outs.

Semibluffing is usually preferable to stone-cold bluffing, where the only way for you to win the pot is by making your opponents fold.

This is discussed in much more detail in The Microstakes Playbook.

Again, this doesn’t mean you can’t semibluff with gutshot straight draws as well.

But this play will have a worse expected value due to the fact that your hand equity will be much lower in case your bluff gets called.

By the way, I made a recent video on How to Bluff When You Have Nothing (correct way):

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Straight Draw Mistake #2: Calling With Gapper Hands Preflop

Another common amateur poker mistake is calling with way too many hands preflop.

As a general rule, calling is the last option you should consider preflop, and you should only call if other options don’t make sense.

In poker, you’re going to win the most money by getting to the flop as the preflop aggressor, not the preflop caller.

If you’re using a hand tracking software like PokerTracker 4, you can check these stats yourself.

Chances are, you’d be surprised by how much more you win when you get to the flop as the preflop aggressor as opposed to being the preflop caller.

Calling preflop is especially problematic if you call with mediocre hands like suited gappers.

When talking about suited gappers, we’re usually talking about one-gapper and two-gapper hands like T8or 85♠. 

The bigger the gap between your hole cards, the harder it is to make a straight post flop.

This means that connector hands will make a straight far more frequently than gapper hands.

For example, a hand like JTs can make a straight in 4 different ways.

And a three-gapper hand like J7s can only make a straight one way.

For this reason, suited connectors have way better postflop playability than suited gappers.

Let’s take hands like Jack-Ten suited and Jack-Nine suited as examples.

Jack-Ten suited will flop an open-ended straight and a gutshot straight draw 9.6% and 16.6% of the time, respectively (total of 26.2%).

Jack-Nine suited will flop open-ended straight and a gutshot straight draw 6.93% and 14.6% of the time, respectively (total of 21.53%).

This may not seem like much of a difference, but remember that poker is a game of razor-thin margins in the first place. 

Over the long run, a few percentage points add up to a tremendous difference in the overall profitability.

Also bear in mind that two gappers flop even worse than one-gappers and so on.

And if you’re curious what’s the chance of outright flopping a straight with a hand like J9s, it’s 1%.

Flopping strong combinations like straights (or even straight draws) are more of an exception than the rule.

So if you’re playing a certain hand for the prospect of hitting that monster on the flop, you’re likely in for a disappointment.

The problem with suited gapper hands is that they have poor playabillty post flop if they don’t make strong combinations like a straight or a flush.

For example, a hand like Jack-Nine suited will only flop a top pair 13.4% of the time.

And even if it does, you still have a mediocre kicker to worry about, since your hand can easily be dominated by stronger Jx hands like AJ, KJ and so on.

Even if your opponent doesn’t have a stronger Jx hand, you still have a bunch of overcards to dodge on future streets.

Of course, all of this is not to say that gapper hands are totally unplayable.

Suited gappers still have decent nuts potential, and can be played profitably in certain spots.

But calling with gapper hands preflop with the sole purpose of hitting a straight post flop is not likely to be a winning proposition over the long run.

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Straight Draw Mistake #3: Disregarding the Relative Hand Strength

Another common amateur poker mistake is overvaluing certain hand combinations.

In other words, a lot of amateur poker players fail to recognize the difference between their absolute and relative hand strength.

Absolute hand strength tells you how strong your hand is compared to the hand rankings ranging from one pair to royal flush.

Relative hand strength, on the other hand, tells you how strong your hand is in relation to the board runout.

A lot of poker beginners tend to focus on relative hand strength, while disregarding their relative hand strength.

For example, if they happen to get something they perceive as a strong combination, they’ll usually cling on to it and refuse to fold, without realizing their relative hand strength is weak.

Here’s an example to illustrate the point between the relative hand strengths.

Let’s say you’re dealt T9 and see these two board runouts: 

Board #1


Board #2


You have a made straight on both of these boards, so your absolute hand strength is the same.

But your relative hand strength is very different.

On board #1, you have the stone cold nuts, i.e. the strongest combinations possible.

You can only lose the hand if you happen to misread it and fold it by accident.

But the board #2 is a different story.

You also have a straight on the second board, but there are a number of different combinations that can beat you.

Your opponent can beat you with a number of different flushes or full houses.

So how does relative hand strength tie into playing straight draws successfully?

As mentioned, the strength of your draw is determined by the number of outs you have and the strength of your hand if your draw completes.

This means that not only do you need to hit your outs to win the hand, but you need to make sure you’ll have the best hand if you do hit your outs.

If not, you’ll need to take the reverse implied odds into account.

Implied odds refer to the amount of money you can potentially earn on future streets if your draw completes. 

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

It doesn’t make sense to chase draws if you’re not improving to the best hand when you hit your outs.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should only chase draws  if you’re drawing to the stone cold nuts.

It just means that you need to carefully weigh the risk and reward, and consider the fact you may be drawing to the second best hand.

This means that you’ll sometimes need to discount some of your outs, because some of them might be “tainted”.

A tainted out is a card that can improve your hand, but can also potentially improve your opponent’s hand even more.

Let’s look at an example hand to illustrate the point.

Straight Draw Example Hand #1

You are dealt 87 in the BB (big blind). Villain open raises to 3x from the CO (cutoff). You call.

Pot: 6.5 BB 

Flop: K96

In this spot, you have an open-ended straight draw, so you have 8 outs. However, 2 of your outs are “tainted”.

T and 5 will give you a straight, but they can also potentially complete the villain’s flush draw.

This means that these cards may or may not give you the best hand on future streets, depending on your opponent’s holdings.

Again, this doesn’t doesn’t mean you should only play drawing hands if you’re drawing to the nuts.

It just means you should consider the board runout carefully, and if a lot of your outs potentially help your opponent’s range more than yours, your draw just may not be worth chasing.

This is especially the case if you’re not getting favourable odds to call in the first place.

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Straight Draw Mistake #4: Playing Strong Draws Too Passively

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

So if you flop a strong drawing hand like an open-ended straight or a flush draw, you should consider raising instead of calling.

Example: You have A♥️T♥️ and the flop comes 8♥️4♠️2♥️

This way, you’re giving yourself more than one way to win the pot.

You can either win the pot right away by making your opponent fold, or you can win an even bigger flop on future streets if you manage to hit one of your outs.

A lot of amateur poker players tend to play their draws passively, so they fail to extract maximum value once they actually manage to hit their draws.

That’s because more observant players will be less likely to give you action if they spot a potential completed draw on future streets.

If you raise with your drawing hands instead, your opponent will have a much harder time of putting you on your exact hand if you complete your draw.

Remember, most draws don’t complete in no-limit hold’em, so sometimes you need to find a way to win the pot even without a particularly strong hand.

You don’t need to rely on hitting your outs if you make your opponents fold.

Playing your strong draws aggressively is one of the ways you can improve your red line, aka your non-showdown winnings.

In poker, most of the money you’ll make will come from your strong value hands where your opponent has a weaker hand that’s willing to pay you off.

The problem is, these strong value hands don’t come around very often.

So it really pays off to find ways to win pots without needing to rely exclusively on your hand strength.

If you do decide to bluff in certain spots, though, it’s always better to have some sort of equity to fall back on in case your bluff gets called.

This is why it’s better to semi-bluff with your strong draws, especially if you’re drawing to the nuts. 

I give you tons of examples of exactly how to do this in Crushing the Microstakes.

Straight Draw Example Hand #2

$1/$2 Cash Game, Effective Stack Size: 100 BB

You are dealt 87 in the BB (big blind). Villain open-raises to $6 from the CO (cutoff).

Pot: $13

Flop: A96

You: ???

You should check-raise to 2.5x the size of the villain's c-bet.

This is an excellent spot to semibluff and try to take down the pot with an Eight-high.

You have an open-ended straight draw, meaning you have 8 clean outs to the nuts.

You also have a backdoor flush draw, which adds a nice little boost to your overall equity.

A backdoor draw means you need both turn and river cards to complete your straight.

If you check-raise here, you’re putting a tremendous amount of pressure on your opponent.

Villain will have a hard time calling you down with a number of Ax hands, not to mention the weaker parts of their overall range.

You’ll be able to push your opponent out of the pot with a lot of hands that are actually ahead of you equity-wise.

Think hands like strong broadways (KQs or QJs), pocket pairs like pocket Tens or pocket Jacks and so on.

A lot of hands that villain chooses to c-bet with will have a hard time standing up to the pressure of a check-raise.

Even if villain calls your check-raise, you still have a tremendous amount of equity to fall back on on future streets.

This means you can keep applying the pressure on the turn if you miss your draw, or bet for value if you do improve to a straight.

A lot of beginner poker players will opt for the check-calling line here, but this makes it harder to extract value on future streets if they hit their outs.

Let’s suppose you check-call on the flop, and hit a Five on the turn.

You’ve made your nuts straight, but how do you expect to extract value from your opponent?

You are playing out of position, so you need to hope villian will fire another barrel on the turn so you can check-raise.

The risk of this line is that villain can simply choose to check back instead.

Alternatively, you can go for a donk-betting line.

A donk bet means betting into the previous street’s aggressor.

But if you do this, it’s going to ring alarm bells in any semi-competent opponent.

When you start betting out of the blue in the middle of the hand, it’s usually very apparent that you have a monster hand, so you’re not likely to get action with the donk-betting line.

Check out my other article on the 5 bad poker strategies to learn why you should avoid donk-betting.

4 Straight Draw Mistakes Fish Always Make - Summary

Drawing hands can be tricky to play in no-limit hold’em, and straight draws are no exception.

But you don’t need to learn a lot of advanced poker strategy in order to play them profitably.

All you need to do is avoid some common straight draw mistakes a lot of recreational players are guilty of.

To sum up, here are 4 common straight draw mistakes you should avoid:

1. Chasing inside straight draws

The chance of completing an inside straight draw is only 17% (or 4.88:1 against), so you should only chase inside straight draws if you’re getting sufficient pot odds or implied odds on a call.

2. Calling with gapper hands preflop

One-gapper and two-gapper hands have a lower chance of hitting a straight post flop than connector hands.

Another problem with calling with gapper hands preflop is that you’ll often run into kicker problems post flop, meaning you run the risk of your hand being dominated.

3. Disregarding the relative hand strength

A completed straight is only a strong hand in relation to the board runout. 

Depending on the board, the strength of your straight can range from the stone-cold nuts to a pitiful bluff catcher.

Don’t overplay your made straights on boards with potential flushes or paired boards with potential full houses.

4. Playing straight draws passively

Most draws don’t complete in no-limit hold’em, so you shouldn’t rely exclusively on hitting your outs to have profitable sessions.

Consider raising your strong drawing hands on the flop instead of calling and praying to hit.

This way, you’re giving yourself more than one way to win the hand. Remember, you don’t need to hit your outs if you make your opponents fold right away.


This article was written by Fran Ferlan
Poker player, writer and coach
Specializing in live and online cash games

For coaching enquiries, contact Fran at email@franferlan.com
Or apply directly for poker coaching with Fran, right here

Lastly, if you want to know the complete strategy I use to make $2000+ per month in small/mid stakes games, grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

4 Straight Draw Mistakes Fish Always Make