ISF – There’s No Such Thing As a Made Hand: Part 2
posted in No Limit Hold'em, Poker Strategy on 7 August 2017 by

In an article from a few months ago, I explained the real differences between draws and made hands. In summary, draws and made hands weren’t simply names for hands, but actually each of them have certain equity qualities versus different ranges. Made hands were then renamed as a hand that had variable equity across ranges and stable equity through streets. Draws were the opposite. They had stable equity across ranges, and variable equity through streets. Last time I didn’t tell you a lot about what this all meant, I let you do the thinking. But now, I’d like to tell you what these definitions mean for our poker game. And I’d like to explain the application in terms of some of the most difficult hands we play: weak made hands and draws.

When it comes down to it, poker is all about getting our money in with better equity than our opponents. Yet, you can play hands in such a way that will have better equity than others. That’s because as we change the way we play a hand or a hand range, our opponents calling, betting, folding, or whatever-ing range changes.

But in what ranges do we want to play against, and what ranges do we not want to play against? When examining this situations, what I like to do is compare the equity of a single hand that is representative of a range versus another hand that is representative of another range. For example, on a K74 flop, a hand like 87 can represent mid and bottom pair type hands, and AA can represent nut hands (a little better than top pair, a little worse than a set). So when exploring these concepts on your own, try it out.

Sorry to shuffle around, lets get down to it! Lets start with draws, and a draw representative of pretty much all draws, a flush draw. So first off, lets examine the hands that will have the best equity against a flush draw. The worst equity a flush draw has is clearly against a better flush draw, around 15% on the flop, as we can still pair up and win. Next would be nut hands, followed by mid pair type hands, etc. However, the differences in equity between nut hands and weaker made hands is not very high as you may recall from my previous article.

So what does this tell us about how we should play our draws? As I said earlier, poker is all about getting our money in with better equity than our opponents, which means the converse is also true, as we want to get as little money in when we are behind our opponents. So first off, we want to get in as little money as possible versus higher flush draws when we have a weak one, in other words, we want to keep the pot small and keep our opponent passive with his flush draws, and only with his flush draws if we can. Oddly enough, when we have nut flush draws we want to do the opposite, because our equity advantage is so good. We want to make the pot as big as possible and force our opponent to be aggressive with a worse flush draw.

Doing this sounds hard, but it’s really not as bad as it looks. Here’s a hypothetical example to help you out. We have 53hh on the CO in a. 5/1 6 max game, we raise preflop to 4, and get threebet by an aggressive player to 13. We elect to call. Just ignore whether our decision was good or not. The flop comes Qs7h2h, and our opponent bets 16 into the $26 pot. Now I know this is hypothetical, but lets say we know if we raise that our opponent will shove over us with any nut hand, including any top pair, and a flush draw. And let’s say we know that if we call the flop, he will always bet the turn with his flush draws, but never check them, while its unclear how he will play his made hands.. This is a situation where we may want to just flat the flop, and go for a turn bet if he checks. That way, we play our hand against a range where we have good equity, and put less money in the pot versus hands (bigger flush draws) we have bad equity against.

Now made hands are a lot different. Strong made hands or nut hands are easy to play, and don’t take much logic to figure out how to play. We just try to get our opponent to call or raise with the widest range possible. With weaker made hands, its not that easy. (Note: Since bottom pair and hands that are really weak will almost never get value, they are essentially draws with show down value.)

With made hands, are equity changes a lot versus different ranges. Versus better made hands, we our crushed. And versus weaker made hands, we are the ones crushing. So our goal with made hands is to try to get in the most money versus the weaker made hands, and less money against the better made hands. This sounds really simple, but there are some interesting applications to it.

Common situation. A regular opponent raises preflop to 4 in that same .5/1 6 max game, and we call his CO raise from the blinds with 88. The flop comes T74 rainbow, and we check, our opponent bets 6 into the $8 pot. Using the weak made hand concept from before, it would make absolutely no sense to raise here. We blow out all weaker made hands, and we put ourselves against a range of better made hands. Calling, however, makes perfect sense. The times our opponent checks behind the turn, we can bet the river and expect value against a lot of worse made hands, and also expect him not to show up with a lot of better made hands. The same thing applies to T8s here, or any made hand that isn’t going to play well against our opponents stack off range. With weaker made hands, we almost never want to put our entire stack in unless we are forced to by an opponents bet or raise, and when want to try not to allow our opponent to do that anyway.

But conversely to made hands, with draws we actually want to get our money in versus really strong hands. We don’t want to play them against a wide or weak range, as it has just as much value versus that range as it does against a range of purely nut hands. That’s why draws are such good balancers to our nut hands. Their entire value is pretty much giving us more action on our nut hands, because what range they are facing makes so little difference.

So when your examining how you want to play a certain bet, examine what ranges you will be up against with many different lines you could take, and you will find your game improving ten fold!

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