Swimming With The Sharks: Flushing

Posted at 12:01 2009-06-04
For those that aren’t up to speed yet, this is part two of my three-part series on Omaha draws. The first part, Wrap It Up, can be found in the PNW Poker Strategy section. This is part two, where I shall discuss level two, the flush draw. If you are unsure what I am talking about with my level theory, please read Wrap It Up, as it summarizes what I mean.
Let’s get to flush draws. Now, before I begin discussing strategy, I’d like to point out the mathematics behind this draw. Generally when holding two cards of the same suit on a board where two cards of that suit are featured, you will have a maximum of nine outs to your flush, as there are nine cards of that suit remaining. Of course, this number can be less, however because we do not know our opponents holdings, we will assume that we have nine outs. Nine outs is roughly 36% on the flop, and 18% on the turn. What this means, is that with a bare flush draw, you will most likely be a 2-1 underdog at best. And while that may not sound too great, the flush draw is often the biggest winner of pots in Omaha.
Flush draws, by themselves, are quite weak. It’s important to play them aggressively, but to also time your aggression so that you hopefully don’t commit yourself to chasing a weak draw. In Omaha, playing a pot chasing just a flush draw is called chasing a ‘naked’ draw, as you do not have any other cards that could help your hand. Don’t be surprised if you hear people talking about playing ‘naked’ aces, because this also means the same thing, but instead of playing a flush draw with no other cards to help, they are playing pocket aces with two other ‘danglers’ (cards that do not connect with your best two cards).
I often suggest that if you want to play for stacks with a flush draw, have something else with it. Whether that be a wrap, set, straight draw or even maybe just top pair, it is important because those extra few outs you get might make the difference in the end.
Now, in an earlier article I discussed the importance of ‘nut’ draws, which are – for those that didn’t read that article – the draws that you have that if you hit, you would hold the nuts. Now, nut flush draws are very important in Omaha. In a cash game where players are seeing many cheap flops, I highly recommend that you play as many nut flush draws to the flop as possible. Of course, this doesn’t mean that every time you get a nut ace and two completely disconnected cards you play, because again, you need to have some redraws to make the hand worth your while. Let’s use an example. You hold {Ts} {As} {4d} {6c}. You call a raise and the flop is just what you wanted: {Qs} {9s} {2d}. You get it all in, and your opponent turns over a set of nines. Now, at this point, you are roughly 32% to win the pot (only 8 outs, as the {2s} gives your opponent the full house). Not great odds. However, let’s change your hand to now read {Ts} {As} {4d} {Jd}. Now you still have that nut flush draw, plus an up and down straight draw, giving you an additional six outs. I’ll throw in an extra percent for the backdoor diamond draw, and your percentage now looks more like 45%. What that means, is that against a set, you are essentially in a coin flip situation, despite only having ace high.
The best part about flush draws is that they are the easiest draw to represent. Players with sets are cautious when the flush gets there. If you think your opponent has a set, or a wrap draw, or at the very least hasn’t hit a flush, play your hand aggressively. Representing the flush can often win you pots you didn’t even think about taking. In cash games, it is not uncommon to see players win big pots when all opponents fold and they give of a sly smile and show that they had the ace of the flush out there, but no flush. This bluff is effective, because if you do hold the ace of the suit of a made flush, then you know no one can have the nut flush. Make that bluff part of your game.
One major mistake that many players make is that they often fail to conceal their flush draws. I often suggest mixing up the way you play your flush draws. One hand choose to play it aggressively, and the next, slow play it. This will mean your opponents won’t know whether you’ve flopped a set, made a move with a flush draw, or have absolutely nothing. The beauty of Omaha is that every flop poses multiple draws, so there will never be a lull in activity.
I hope that this has helped a little with how to play the flush draw. Remember to avoid playing naked flush draws as much as possible, and you should do alright. Next week will be part one of my two part (yes, two part) series on sets! As always if you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact me via the PokerNetwork forums. Until then, I wish you all the best of luck at the tables.
- Michael ‘TheSharkBoy’ Palti


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