Calling an All-In with a Flush Draw

Calling an All-In with a Flush Draw

One of my followers recently sent me a hand on twitter (@JonathanLittle). His analysis of the situation seemed to be so result oriented and he seemed so afraid of losing a big pot and his tournament life that it moved me to write this article.

With blinds at 400/800-100, a tight aggressive player with 22,000 raised to 2,000 from first position. An unknown player in second position called 2,000 out of his 8,500 stack. The player in third position folded and Hero looked down at Ad-Kd in the lojack seat. With a 24,000 stack, he decided to 3-bet to 6,000.

I am fine with this play, but I think both calling and pushing all-in are better alternatives. I usually shy away from 3-betting tight first position raisers because their range should be quite strong. If I do elect to 3-bet, I usually want to go all-in if my stack permits it because if the initial raiser calls a 3-bet to 6,000, I will usually be in only marginal shape and will have to invest significant money after the flop on most boards with a marginal holding. Also, when I happen to make top pair, my opponent will usually have an under pair that will fold to any aggression. If the initial raiser pushes all-in over a 3-bet to 6,000, I am forced to make a reluctant call. I think that by going all-in instead of 3-betting to 6,000, I force the initial raiser to fold many hands that have roughly 45% equity, which is a great result. Of course, I will be in marginal shape when I get called, but I think the times I pick up the pot preflop is worth the risk of getting it in slightly bad versus a range of A-A, K-K, Q-Q, J-J, and A-K.

Everyone folded around to the small blind, a tight passive player, who put in 2,000, not seeing the 3-bet to 6,000. After putting in 2,000, he decided to put in 4,000 more, leaving 13,400 in his stack. The initial raiser folded and the player in second position called 4,000 more, leaving only 2,400 behind. At this point, it should be clear that both opponents almost certainly do not have premium hands. It is difficult to say exactly how wide their ranges are, but they probably do not have A-A, K-K, Q-Q, J-J, or A-K.

The flop came 9s-7d-5d, giving Hero a flush draw and two over cards. The small blind pushed all-in for 13,400 into the 21,700 pot and the player in second position called off for his last 2,400. At this point, Hero has to call 13,400 to win 37,500, meaning he needs to win 26% of the time to justify calling. For all practical purposes, you can ignore the player in second position because his stack is so short that you are always getting the right price to call against him.

The player who posted this hand told me that he put the small blind on exactly a set. While I find it impossible to not think this player would also make this play with T-T, 9h-8h, and Jd-Td, let’s assume that he only has sets in his range. If he only has sets, the flush draw will win 25% of the time, meaning the decision is break-even. If he ever makes this play with the other hands, mainly over pairs, pairs plus straight draws, and flush draws, Ad-Kd jumps up to 48% equity. Since in reality, Ad-Kd is somewhere between 25% and 48%, it is an incredibly easy call.

Most likely, the person who posted this hand lost the pot and then second guessed himself as to whether or not he should have made a “big call” with a “drawing hand” for effectively his tournament life. When facing an all-in is mandatory that you stop thinking of hands in terms of “draws” and “made hands” and instead look at how much equity you have. In order to excel at poker, you must get away from thinking in blanket terms and making huge generalizations as to what is acceptable play and what is not. Since many players have been taught by other amateur players to never call off their stack with a drawing hand, they assume this call must be suspect whereas in reality, any play besides calling is a huge error. Always take the time to analyze these situations away from the table so you know how to tackle them when they arise at the table.

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Author: Steve Bowman