Poker Equity and Drawing Hands


Drawing Hands Pot Equity

In my article on poker equity, I discussed how you should be betting for value to maximize your winnings when you feel you have the best hand. Normally, if you hold the best hand at one stage during the hand, it is typical that your hand stands the best chance of winning after all the cards have been dealt.

However, in some situations it is possible to hold an unmade hand like a draw, but still have the best chance of winning. Therefore in these situations you will have high equity in the pot, and it will make sense to bet for value even if your hand is not yet complete.

Drawing hand equity example 1.

You hold Qd Jd on a flop of Td 9d 4s.

If your opponent is betting heavily into you it is probable that do not hold the best hand, but nonetheless, you will have the most equity almost regardless of what you opponent holds.

Even if you know that you opponent has a strong hand like two pair with 9s 4d, your equity in the pot will be 52% despite the fact your opponent is the one with the made hand. The only hand that would have more equity in the pot than you at the time would be a set, but even in that particular situation you wouldn't be too far behind.

It is perfectly possible for strong drawing hands to have more equity than already made hands (like a pair).

Because you have such a monstrous drawing hand, there are a wide variety of cards that could help you to make a better hand that your opponent, such as a flush or a straight. Therefore you should bet for value even with a drawing hand in this situation, and look to get as much money into the pot as possible at this point.

Drawing hand equity example 2.

Now lets assume that in a similar hand where we hold Qd Jd on a flop of Td 9d 4s, there are now two players in the pot instead of one.

We know for a fact that Alice holds 9s 4d, and Bob holds Tc Th. If we run these hands through an odds calculator, it shows that we are no longer the favorite to win the hand.

The following is the equity each player has in the hand:

  Hand Equity
Hero Qd Jd 45%
Alice 9s 4d 1%
Bob Tc Th 54%

We can see that that Bob with his set of Tens is currently in the lead, and is most likely to win the pot after the turn and river cards have been dealt. So, seeing as we are not favorite to win, should we check and fold to avoid putting in money with the hand that has the worst potential to win?

Not necessarily, as the presence of the third player in the hand is making a big difference to our chances of making money from this hand in the long run.

(This is where it gets a little mathsy…)

A little math.

If we all continue with our hands and continue to build the pot, each player will have invested money to create 1/3 of the final pot, or 33%. However, our equity in the pot is 45%, so we would be investing 33% to get on average a return of 45%. Therefore as you can see, if all 3 players move all in at this point we will be getting a good return on our money.

The fact that we are not favorite to win the hand is irrelevant, because our equity and odds from all 3 players moving in on the flop means that we will be winning money in the long run. If our percentage equity is greater than the percentage of the pot we have invested money in, we will be making a profitable play. Which in essence, is the same principle as pot odds.

What happens to our equity if one player folds?

The only problem that could arise at this point in the hand is if Alice (9s 4d) folds their hand without putting any chips into the pot. This would result in us now investing closer to 50% to the pot with only 45% equity. Therefore it would be a slightly losing play to move all in unless our opponent is giving us the correct pot odds to continue with the hand to try and complete our draw.

Drawing hand equity evaluation.

These two examples appear to be very confusing and mathematical, but you are not expected to be able to work out these figures and percentages whilst sitting down at the table. The above examples are merely shown to highlight the fact that you do not always need the current best hand to have good equity in the pot.

If you ever hold a monster of a draw like an open-ended straight and flush draw, it is likely that you will have very good equity in the pot and should be looking to invest as much as possible into it.

Both of these examples work very closely with pot odds to help determine whether or not you should call in certain situations. Therefore if you would like to know whether or not you should be folding, calling or raising in the above examples, you should take a look at the article on pot odds.

As a general rule, if you have more equity in the pot than you are going to invest in it, then you should be looking to bet and raise as much as possible.

Go back to the awesome Texas Hold'em Strategy.


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