Understand How to Play a Drawing Hand

When playing Texas Hold’em, you will often find yourself in a situation where you have a potentially strong hand which needs one specific card to make it complete. This is called drawing a hand since you are drawing to a particular card (or cards).

If we are honest, these kind of hands can be tricky to play, especially if you are facing raises and bets and you need to decide between calling and folding.  But be this as it may, by the end of this article we shall convert you into a pro. As part of learning how to get better at poker, you will understand how you need to play and handle drawing hands – when you should call and when you should fold during a bet.

Straight draws and Flush draws

These are, by far the most common types of drawing hands. When you are playing a drawing hand, you will need to evaluate the likelihood of completing the hand with the next hand that you draw. You can make this calculation by considering the ‘outs’ that you have in the game. To do this you need to know the poker hand rankings.

So what are Poker Outs?

Good question. An out is simply a card that is needed to complete a player’s hand. For instance, if you have a diamond flush draw, an out is any diamond card. With this in mind, we should also point out that the more outs you have, the higher your chances are of completing the hand on the next draw.

Let’s consider the same example used above. If you have normal diamond flush draw odds, or any type of flush draw, you have 9 outs. Here’s the math; there are 2 diamonds in hand and another 2 in the flop. And since a deck has 13 diamond cards in total, it means that there are nine diamond cards left in the deck that will make your hand. If one of the cards you are holding is the ace, then you are drawing to the nut flush, which will be the best flush. If you don’t have an ace, and there is no ace on the board, another player might be drawing to a better flush than you. You need to bear this in mind in your calculations too.

Are There Other Poker Outs to Consider?

However, in addition to the flush draw odds, if you have the right cards you might also be in a position to calculate and include the number of outs and percentages of completing the hand for a straight draw. Remember that with straight draws we need to consider that there are 2 different types – an open-ended and an inside straight draw (gutshot straight draw). Open-ended straight draws are when you can hit either card on the end of the straight to yield a complete hand.

For instance here is an example of a straight draw and how it may play out.

Say you have the seven of hearts and an eight of clubs and on the board is a five of hearts and a six of diamonds. You can either hit a nine or a four to complete your hand and have a successful draw. On the other hand, with an inside draw you will be looking to get a card that’s in the middle of the straight to get a complete hand. If you had the seven and eight, and the board had the four and five, to get the gutshot straight draw you would need a six to complete your hand.

That means that an open-ended draw in the above example has eight outs while the inside straight draw only has four outs. You can see that the inside straight draw is always harder to complete, and is rarely worth chasing unless there has been no raise or betting.

Hand Outs % To Hit On The Turn % To Hit On The Turn and River Combined 
Gutshot 4 8.50% 16.50%
Open-ended / Double Gutshot 8 17.00% 31.50%
Flush Draw 9 19.10% 35.00%
Flush Draw + Gutshot 12 25.50% 45.00%
Flush Draw + Overcards 15 31.90% 54.10%
Flush Draw + Open-ended 15 31.90% 54.10%

Working out the Number of Poker Outs

We’ve already pointed out that the higher the number of outs available the higher the chances of completing the hand. However, the actual value of the figures lie in working out the specific odds of getting the winning hand. Using the odds, you can determine if it’s worth calling a particular bet of size to try completing the hand you have or to fold.

Fair warning: the next section of this piece has quite a few numbers. Follow closely. However, we should point out that the calculations aren’t difficult.

Calculating whether you should fold or call using Flush Draw Odds

By working out the number of outs you have, you can calculate the odds of getting the winning hand.

In the case of the diamond flush draw, you’ll have nine outs to try and make a flush. This means that there will be 38 cards on the deck that will not complete your hand. Here’s the math for that. A deck has 52 cards in total. When you minus five cards that you have in your hands, only 47 are left on the deck.

And since only nine cards are of the same suit as your cards, then there are 38 cards in the deck that will not complete your hand.

If we were to put these figures into ratios of cards that we don’t want to those that we do want, the result is 38:9. Simplifying this math yields a rough 4:1 ratio. What this ration means is that for every 4 times you don’t get your hand on a turn you will get it one time. Now you know the odds of making your hand are 4:1. Using this ratio, you can determine whether you should call a bet or fold.

Using the Flush Draw Odds

So say an opponent contributes $20 to complete a $100 pot, it means that you should call $20 to try your chances of winning $100. But the question is, should you make the call?

If you consider the ration of the bet to the pot, you have 100:20 which is simplified to 5:1. This means the pot odds are better than the card odds – you’ll be making more each time you make a hand. As such, you should call. So here’s a golden rule of thumb – when the pot odds are better than odds of creating a winning hand, call because in the long run, the play will be profitable.

Do note that the probabilities and odds above change every time depending on the type of draw you have and the amount bet in the pot. Although the whole process may seem complicated and tedious, it’s easy to understand. If you use it often, it will be in your system in no time. And if you think about it, it’s empowering always to know whether it’s in your favor to call or fold.


So why is this important? Surely I just want to get out there and have some fun? Who cares about odds and outs and percentage chances and using my brain?

Poker is a great game and the idea is that you make money out of it. If you don’t pay attention to the odds and outs, you are going to be the one who loses all their money on the poker tables. If you only play one poker game in your life, these are still relevant. If you play lots of games, its even more important. This is because winning money in poker isn’t about the hand you are in now, the games you play this week or this month, its about your long term poker life. If you play according to the odds and outs above, in the long run you will make money, and come out ahead. And that is what poker is about. Having fun, and making money!

So to learn how to get better at poker, learn the poker hand rankings, start working out the odds and outs, stop relying on luck, and have a great game tonight!

Jack Diamond
Author: Jack Diamond