The Right Time To Chase A Straight
The Right Time To Chase A Straight
Brought to you by Rory Monahan
Chasing straights and draws will BURN you...
there's no doubt about it.
The term "chasing" means you stay in the hand...
hoping to catch a certain card (or cards) that
will complete your straight.
The problem with chasing is that the ODDS ARE
AGAINST YOU. And as you know, successful Texas
Holdem poker is all about keeping the odds in your
But sometimes chasing a straight IS the right
thing to do. SOMETIMES.
Let me explain...
First off, let's look at the two different types
of straight draws:
1. GUTSHOT - This is when you're trying to make an
INSIDE straight... like if you have 4-5-6-8 and
you need the 7.
2. OPEN-ENDED - This is when TWO cards can "make"
your straight... like if you have 4-5-6-7 and need
EITHER the 3 or the 8.
There's also what's called a "double belly
buster", which is actually like two gutshots at
once. We'll talk about this a little later.
OK, so how should you play a gutshot straight
draw? Let's look at the odds... if you FLOP an
inside (gutshot) straight draw, the odds of making
your straight are 16.47%. If you have an inside
straight draw after the TURN... with just the
river card to go... your odds are 8.70%.
So the odds aren't good. 16.47% might SOUND like
it's worth it... but you've got to ANTICIPATE the
bet after the turn card.
For instance, let's say you flop an inside
straight draw and someone makes a big bet. If you
call and then miss your straight on the turn, what
Your opponent makes ANOTHER big bet... do you call
to see the river card? You feel pot committed, but
you know the odds are against you...
This is how you get into trouble with gutshot
straight draws. You become pot committed and you
chase a hand that's not worth chasing.
As a general principle, you should NOT chase
gutshot straight draws... especially on the river.
When I flop a gutshot, I might call a small bet
but that's it. And that's only when the odds are
As we'll discuss in a moment, you must also factor
in the IMPLIED ODDS... but first, let's look at
how to play open-ended straight draws.
For an open-ended straight draw, your odds of
making your straight are MUCH better. If you flop
an open-ender your odds of hitting are 31.45%. If
you have an open-ender with just the river card to
go, your odds are 17.39%.
Notice that you have BETTER chances of completing
an open-ended straight draw just on the RIVER than
completing a gutshot straight draw on both the
turn AND the river. Interesting, huh?
OK, so what's the right way to play an open-ender?
Many players will just CHECK with an open-ended
straight draw... and then CALL any bets.
This is REACTIVE card playing... and it's the
WRONG thing to do.
You need to be PROACTIVE... and here's why:
Let's say you've got 6-7 of diamonds and the flop
You've got the top half of an open-ended straight
draw... either an 8 or a 3 will give you the nut
The NATURAL TENDENCY here is to check. You don't
have ANYTHING yet... no pairs, no high cards,
nothing. So obviously you'd LOVE to wait to see if
you make your straight before you risk any chips,
If you just check, you're making three dangerous
Mistake 1: You're showing weakness.
Mistake 2: You're not increasing the pot size.
Mistake 3: You're giving your opponent a read on
There's a strange analogy I like to use for this.
If you're ever in the forest or wilderness and you
encounter a bear, mountain lion, bobcat, or any
other PREDATOR, the NATURAL TENDENCY is to get
Most people would run away!
However... the RIGHT thing to do is to SHOW
AGGRESSION and NOT show fear.
I'm dead serious here.
The right thing to do if you see a bear is to make
a lot of noise, to raise your hands in the air and
possibly hold up a coat or jacket (in order to
appear bigger), and to snarl or growl.
It's counter-intuitive... but it's what you MUST
do if you don't want to get attacked (or eaten).
Now... back to Texas Holdem... Lol. Your OPPONENT
is your PREDATOR. Show them weakness and they will
likely attack you.
When you have an open-ended straight draw, you
want to see the next two cards... and you don't
want to risk a lot of chips to do so.
So the RIGHT PLAY is to BET or RAISE the pot.
In our example above, you want to throw out a
reasonably-sized bet. Your opponents might fold
right there. Or you might get one or two callers.
NOW, when the TURN card comes, your opponents will
probably check to you. So basically you're getting
a FREE CARD. You can check and see the river for
If you HADN'T taken control of the betting, your
opponents would have made you PAY A LOT to see the
river card. And you might of been forced to FOLD
your open-ended straight draw.
By taking control of the betting and coming out
strong after the flop, you're actually investing
LESS money overall to see the next two cards.
Now... the other reason taking control is
important is because it doesn't give your opponent
a read on you.
Say your opponent checks the flop and you also
check. The turn card comes and it's a 3... giving
you the straight.
Your opponent checks again and now all of the
sudden you come out betting strong.
Obviously, your opponent will SEE what's going on
here and will have a hunch that you just made your
straight... and he'll fold.
If you DON'T bet after the 3, the odds of you
making any real money off of this hand are slim,
and you've let your straight go to waste.
So the key is to bet EARLY... that way if you HIT
you're golden and you'll get paid. And if you
DON'T hit you won't have to invest any more chips.
Say you took control of the betting after the flop
and your opponent called with A-5. He's probably
putting you on the King, but isn't sure... He's
got middle pair along with an Ace.
The turn card comes and it's a 3, so you bet
again. Your opponent calls again.
Finally the river hits and it's an Ace, giving
your opponent TWO PAIR. By now he's confident that
you have the King... and not the straight... since
you were betting consistently after the flop.
So your opponent puts you ALL-IN with his hand...
not knowing that you've got him DOMINATED. You win
a big pot, all because you played the open-ender
There's also what's called a "double belly buster"
straight draw. A regular (single) belly buster is
simply an inside straight draw. A DOUBLE means
there are TWO different cards to make your
straight... but it's not open-ended.
For example, if you were holding A-5 and the flop
hit 3-4-7 you would have a DOUBLE BELLY BUSTER.
Either a 2 or a 6 would give you a straight.
Double belly busters are great because your
opponents will often never see them coming... and
your odds of hitting are the same as an OPEN-ENDED
When an opponent doesn't put you on a hand, THAT
is when you'll be able to win the most chips. This
is known as IMPLIED ODDS.
Implied odds means that when you make your hand,
you're going to get paid a LOT for it.
Implied odds is a very important part of making
decisions in Texas Holdem... just like regular
odds. Except the key distinction is that implied
odds doesn't necessarily involve numbers or math
Implied odds is more about getting a SENSE for
how big the pot will be if you make your hand.
When your implied odds are HIGH, you can often
bet more early in order to build the pot size.
An example of high implied odds is when there's a
straight draw on the board with HIGH CARDS. For
instance, let's say you're holding J-10 and the
flop comes Q-K-3.
You've got an open-ended straight draw... but you
might face opponents who have a REALLY GOOD HAND
right now... something like A-K, A-Q, or K-Q.
An opponent with a big hand is going to be very
aggressive with his bets... and if a 9 or an Ace
hits, you're going to win a ton of chips. Those
are high implied odds.
On the other hand, this type of flop is BAD for
you because it means you'll probably have to PAY
DEARLY to see the turn and river cards.
Be careful... don't chase the straight if it's
going to break your chip stack.
An example of a straight with LOW implied odds
would be when it's all low cards on the board.
After all, if no one has anything decent, no one
is going to give you a lot of action.
When you have an open-ended straight draw with low
cards and you sense weakness in your opponents,
the best move is to act aggressively and take the
pot down right there.
After all... nearly 70% of the time you are NOT
going to hit your straight. So if you can win the
pot by betting, do so.
If you do get a caller, that's OK too, because you
still have a lot of outs and a good chance at
busting your opponent (and now the implied odds
are higher since he's pot committed and must have
a good hand).
Another example of low implied odds is when the
straight draw on the board is OBVIOUS. This is
especially relevant when there's only ONE card
needed to make the straight.
For instance, let's say you have K-7 and the board
reads 3-4-5. And then the turn card comes and it's
Of course, with 3-4-5-6 on the board, your
opponents WILL be suspicious that someone has the
straight. This type of situation is sometimes good
for a check-raise... or a strong bet to make it
LOOK like you're buying the pot. (It just depends
on your table image.)
With straight draws, be extra careful to pay
attention to what ELSE is out there on the board.
You will often encounter hands that BEAT you and
wipe out your entire chip stack.
For instance... look for possible FLUSH draws. If
your opponent might have made a flush, back off.
Muck the hand if you need to and live to see
Full houses are dangerous too. If two cards on the
board pair up, be careful.
And last but not least, always think about what
OTHER straights are possible. For instance, if
you're holding 2-A and the flop hits 3-4-5, you
have the BOTTOM end of the straight. Someone could
have 7-6, or maybe 6-2, and would have you beat.
It's the same way with our double belly buster
example. In that example the flop was 3-4-7 and
you had A-5. Let's say a 6 hit the board.
Even though you have the straight (3-7), it's NOT
the best possible straight. Your opponent could be
holding 8-5... which would be the nut straight.
It's the same way with FOUR consecutive cards on
the board. If the board reads 5-6-7-8 and you've
got the 9, that doesn't mean you have the "nuts".
The nuts would be 10-9... which would give someone
the straight (6-10).
The possibilities are ENDLESS... and you'll soon
discover that the more you play Texas Holdem the
more IMPORTANT every possibility becomes.
For the most part, keep in mind that you want to
only "chase" a straight when the odds of hitting
are most favorable, when the implied odds are
good, and when you think you can see a cheap (or
free) river card.
Knowing how to INCREASE your winnings and DECREASE
your losses is the name of the game. Strategies
like these will also minimize your risk during
each pot... and help you secure a CONSISTENT
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