Sports & Games

What Is a Flush Draw in Poker? 2 Ways To Approach Flush Draw Strategy in Poker

Written by MasterClass

Sep 9, 2019 • 4 min read

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In the world of professional poker and online poker, playing draws correctly is a fundamental skill that must be mastered before turning to more complex strategy work. It is essential that you master the details from both a mathematical and a strategic standpoint—it will significantly improve your game and help with both your preflop strategy and pot odds.

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What Is a Flush Draw?

A flush draw in poker, also known as a four-flush, is when you have four cards of the same suit and need only one to complete the draw and make five cards of the same suit. This can mean you hold two cards of the same suit and there are two on the board, or you hold one card of the suit and there are three more on the board.

In regards to poker hand rankings, a flush is in the fifth position as the best hand, after a royal flush; a straight flush; four of a kind; and full house.

The poker hand rankings are:

  1. Royal flush
  2. Straight flush
  3. Four of a kind
  4. Full house
  5. Flush
  6. Straight
  7. Three of a kind
  8. Two pair
  9. Pair
  10. High card

2 Ways to Determine the Strength of a Flush Draw

There are two main factors that determine how strong a flush draw is.

  1. How high is the highest flush card in your hand? It is catastrophic for you to make a flush only to lose to a bigger flush. For this reason, you must tread carefully when your opponent is representing a flush too in case they have the highest card.
  2. If you hit your draw, will a stronger hand be possible? If the board is paired, making a full house possible, then your draw goes down in value. Even if your opponent doesn’t have a better hand than a flush, they have the option of trying to bluff you off of one.

2 Ways To Approach Flush Draw Strategy

Chasing draws when it is not warranted, either mathematically or strategically, is a sure way to be a losing player at poker. This is a fundamental mistake that will cost you countless chips over the long run if you do not learn when you can and cannot continue.

While a flush is a strong hand, you are not always guaranteed to win the pot. You will also at times not be getting the requisite pots odds and therefore be relying on implied odds. This requires an accurate assessment of your opponent’s playing style and his hand range. A mistake here can turn your flush draw into a losing proposition.

Fundamentally, there are two ways to approach your flush draw strategy.

  1. Aggressively. This works best when you expect to have a lot of fold equity. Do not forget that even though if you make a flush you will win the pot most of the time, you are still not a favorite overall. This means that putting money into the pot without any chance of your opponent(s) folding will cost you chips. When taking a more combative approach, this can either mean betting when nobody else has or raising another player’s bet. Raising in this situation is known as a semi-bluff—where you are currently behind but have a more than reasonable chance to draw to what will usually be the winning hand.
  2. Passively. When you are facing an opponent that does not like to fold it is better to take a more circumspect approach. This generally means to check and call if you are getting good enough odds. It can also work as a defensive strategy against a good player who is overly aggressive. For example, taking an aggressive line against such a player by raising their flop continuation bet will often see you get reraised then mathematically you can no longer continue unless the raise is small. You are then forced to fold a considerable amount of equity in the pot.

This concept of understanding when you are able to be aggressive and need to be passive is crucial in a poker player’s development. It goes hand-in-hand with the concept of equity which is how much of the pot you “own.” In every pot you play, you will have some amount of equity.

If your opponent forces you to fold—and abandon your equity share in the pot—this is effectively a monetary loss for you. Think of it as a slice of a pie: if you are forced to fold around 20% equity on the turn you lose all of it. On the other hand, if you are able to see the river then you will pick up your 20% slice.

Want to Become a Better Poker Player?

Whether you’re an enthusiastic amateur or dreaming of going pro in Texas hold’em, mastering the game of poker takes time, wit, and cunning. No one knows this better than Daniel Negreanu, the biggest live tournament poker winner of all time. In Daniel Negreanu’s MasterClass on the art of poker, the six-time World Series of Poker champion delves deep into poker strategy, advanced theory, and hand-reviews of his winning games. Put yourself across the felt from Daniel and learn how to sharpen your mental game through demos on reading opponents and spotting tells.

Want to become a better poker player? The MasterClass All-Access Pass provides exclusive video lessons from master poker players, including Daniel Negreanu and Phil Ivey.

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