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06/01/2006 No.29
he Guardian Poker Column
Victoria Coren
Friday January 6, 2006
How to play poker
(How to play has been running from issue 16)

Last week we talked about suited connectors - consecutive cards in the same suit - and how these hands offer a variety of ways to hit a good flop. A "drawing hand" is when you are pretty sure you're not currently in front, but further cards could come down to give you a hand that you are confident is winning.

So if, for example, you decide to play with 6 7, you are drawing to hit a straight or a flush - or a variety of pairs - on the flop. But you are more likely simply to hit a better drawing hand. A flop of 4 5 J would still be good for you here, even though you are highly unlikely to be winning at that point, since, if you make your straight (with any 3 or 8), you will have "the nuts": the best possible hand. 4 5 J would be even better: with a flush draw and a straight draw, you would be the favourite to win the pot over most other hands - even though, on the flop itself, you have nothing at all.
There are various ways to play a drawing hand. You can bet or raise with it, attempting to disguise what you are up to. The idea of this is either to make your opponent fold (for immediate peace of mind), or to hit your hand without your opponent being able to credit you with it. Or you can check or call with your draw, to keep your liability small in case you don't hit.

But the easiest thing is probably to remember when you should not continue with a drawing hand. You should not draw to a straight alone, if there are flushing cards on the board. You should not draw to a flush if there is a pair on the board. Why? Because you might hit your draw and still be losing. Some of the cards that make your straight might give your opponent a flush. In the latter case, if you make a flush, you might lose to a full house. This is very ugly. Putting your money into a pot without the best hand, gambling to hit cards which still might not give you the best hand ... that is willingly putting yourself into a right mess. Don't go there.