Flush draws and made flushes are hands that you come across all the time in poker, and playing them right can make you a lot of money in the long run. Likewise, approaching them in the wrong way can make a pretty big dent in your bankroll, so learning how to play your flush in poker to maximize your EV is quite essential.
Learning all there is to know about this can take quite some time, since it is an extensive strategic topic that interacts with many other areas like pre-flop hand selection, figuring out your opponent’s ranges, etc. However, even some simple and straightforward tips can significantly improve your general play in these scenarios, and that’s what I want to cover in this article.
Don’t be afraid to take aggressive lines with big flush draws
One of the best things about flush draws, especially the ones to the nut combinations, is the freedom they give you. With the nut flush draw, you know that hitting your hand will give you the best combination almost 100% of the time, so there is no reason to shy away from betting big.
This allows you to take some creative lines and really put your opponents to the test.
Of course, this isn’t to say that you should go crazy every time you flop a draw and just try to pile your chips in the middle. But, balancing between flat calls and some well-timed check-raises will improve your win rate and make you much trickier to play against.
Playing nut flush draws aggressively lets you win some pots even without making your hand or reaching the showdown, which is always a nice benefit to have and one of the reasons why aggression wins in poker.
Tread lightly with non-nut flushes
One of the biggest mistakes that many beginner players make is treating all flushes and flush draws the same. However, there is a world of difference between nut flushes and all other flushes. A nut flush will often give you the best possible hand and, even when not, it is definitely the biggest possible flush.
Non-nut flushes, by contrast, can be very dangerous because of reverse implied odds. If you routinely play huge pots with small flushes, you’re probably losing money, unless you play in poker freerolls or other very soft games.
The reason is quite simple. Even an inexperienced player won’t miss the fact there are three cards of the same suit on the board. So, if they’re willing to continue facing a big bet or even put in a raise, you need to ask yourself a question: what kind of hand are they doing it with? If you’re holding a 10-high flush, for example, there multiple better flushes out there that could beat you, and relatively few that you can beat when facing significant action.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t go for value with your flushes, of course. In general, even the smallest flush is a fairly strong hand, but you must be aware of everything that’s going on. If someone is willing to give you a lot of action on a flush board and raises when you bet on the river, you need to take a step back and think about why this might be the case.
Be wary of paired boards
When the board pairs, a flush loses a lot of its value. Paired boards create a potential for full houses, and you can’t simply ignore that fact and just hope for the best. Even the nut flush draw isn’t nearly as strong on a paired board and should be played slower most of the time.
Players will often give you a lot of value with trips and other types of hands as well, so you should not be afraid to bet when you make your hand. With that said, you need to stay alert of important changes to a board texture, and this certainly qualifies as such.
In these scenarios, you must take time to carefully consider the board and think about the opponent you’re up against. Knowing their general tendencies can help a lot in these spots as having an idea about their range will help you figure out how (un)likely they are to fill up on a particular board. This knowledge can provide you with opportunities to get some thin value in spots where you’d otherwise have to stay on the cautious side.
At the same time, without this kind of information, you need to be very careful in spots involving paired boards and a lot of action. Without specific reads, you’re probably better off staying on the conservative side and taking a passive line. Sometimes, you’ll lose a bit of value, but you’ll gain the information about your opponent’s tendencies, which you’ll be able to utilize later on.