Hand Review: Nut Flush Draw

Since at least half of the fun of playing on Replay is thinking about how you could have played a particular hand, here is one of my hands for your assessment. https://www.replaypoker.com/hand/replay/612485731

Preflop is a pretty easy call of the initial raise IP with A9s. The open is tiny. You could 3-bet because the original raiser opens a respectable range (not the usual KK+ you see on Replay), but that would be turning the hand into a bluff with blocker value, and it has a respectable amount of equity to call in position rather than risk getting bet off it.

Now the other player min-3-bets, which to me reps massive strength. Some players might do this with a lot of hands just to take the initiative (didn’t have a lot of info about this player), but most Replay’ers just want to make the pot bigger and prevent opponents from folding. In my opinion almost any min-raise is a huge mistake, and this one is no exception because you allow it to go multiway and potentially get outflopped. So I call getting a great price. I don’t like calling out of position, but it’s a good price even against a nutted range and I want to try to flop a monster and make someone pay for overvaluing a big hand postflop.

The flop is where it gets interesting and shows the risks and benefits of a hand like A9s. Flop the nut flush draw on a QJ3 board, and it checks to the raiser. He bets pot, and UTG calls. I could call behind to get a decent price to chase the flush, but value could be lost if the flush hits without having the initiative in the hand. While he could be trying to buy the pot (a pot size c-bet is also generally a bad idea in my opinion), I expect him to have AA/KK/QQ or even JJ a lot of the time. The UTG player can have a much wider range to call with like AQ/AJ/KQ/KJ/QT, which really should not be able to call a shove, and I have plenty of outs against KK, Qx, and even AA/QQ/QJ. But this is where the Replay factor comes in. It is not a good idea to expect anyone here to fold AA or top pair top kicker, so I was expecting to get called most of the time. But my hand has plenty of equity against the 3-bettor’s AA/KK and if the other player might call with a Qx hand then it just becomes more profitable.

What is weird about this hand is that shoving seems like the right play even knowing it is unlikely to get both opponents to fold. Maybe it could be argued that my skill edge makes it unwise to go for stacks with only a small profit margin, but how else can the hand be played? Fold pre? Fold flop? Call and maybe not get paid? What it really makes me think is that I should also be playing flopped sets and 2-pairs the same way on draw-heavy flops and just going for maximum value. Adding monster hands to semi-bluff shoves should be extremely profitable. What do you think?

For the record, if I am in the exact spot the 3-bettor is in getting shoved on by an unknown on Replay, I may very well fold AA because there is so little bluffing going on. The bet is very polarizing, so it would be foolish but not unheard of to play AQ/KQ this way, so if it is a bluff then it is likely a flush draw or combo draw that has a lot of equity, and if it is for value then you are drawing very thin against QQ/JJ/33/QJ.

The preflop cold call is fine since replay players don’t know how to 3-bet properly to punish loose cold callers. You have to call the 3-bet due to pot odds.

When CO pots the flop, he likely has AA, KK, QQ, JJ, AQ or AK. When UTG calls, I expect him to have at least two pair or a draw. Qx in my opinion should be a clear fold with a person behind and facing a large bet. Qx has nearly zero equity against CO’s value range and CO’s bluffs have two overs and a gutshot. UTG should have sets, two pair, flush draw or open-ended straight draws, (and maybe some top pairs because replay players are calling stations). I assume UTG folds his gutshots.

I don’t like the shove. CO should call with QQ and JJ and fold everything else. If CO has a set, your equity is really low since sets has outs to full house. If CO folds, then UTG is getting a really bad price to call with a draw. You are ahead of UTG’s flush draws and want them to improve and way behind UTG’s value hands. You only get better hands to call and hands with almost no equity to fold. By shoving, you lose the opportunity to win a large amount of chips from a worse flush.

The exception is if UTG calls CO’s bet very lightly with top pairs. This is the only situation where you can get enough better hands to fold to justify your bluffs.

Even if you can get enough fold equity to be +EV, you have to compare it to the EV of just calling.

I think the shove should be reserved for 55 (which does not block QJ) and combo draws without the nut flush draw. With a combo draw, you have more outs and want to fold the better flush draws.

CO’s call is just horrible. He is so far behind your value hands and your bluffs have a lot of equity. You showed a lot of strength by shoving over a raise and a call.

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You make a good case for just calling. There is really nothing wrong with paying to try to hit a big draw, which might also have top pair outs rather than going all in when only hands that are ahead of you will call. I could have combo draws that make better bluffs than the nut flush draw.

What’s tricky about it, and maybe Replay specific, is that I put CO on AA/KK (and maybe QQ), so he is really supposed to at least consider folding unless he thinks I would do this with a draw. And while UTG shouldn’t really expect to be ahead when calling the initial flop bet, it would not surprise me at all if he had Qx. He got a good price to call pre and he couldn’t just fold to one bet. So the pot was already inflated by his call, and he should often be folding against the shove. When facing the shove, CO likely has an overpair, but he has to consider that UTG already called his bet and still has to act behind him. Something about the idea that they both should have folded makes the shove seems like the right play. Check-shoving here for value when you do flop a monster would work because people won’t fold an overpair.

I don’t know about just calling there. If you do, what are your plans moving forward?

Calling kinda looks like a draw, unless you’re trapping with a set or top 2 (for some odd reason). If you make your flush on the turn, it’s hard to get paid, and if you miss, you’re facing another big-ish bet.

Maybe a quick min x/r on the flop slows him down some on the turn?

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Check-fold if turn is blank and CO makes a big bet.
Check if flush comes and bet river.

UTG showed a lot of strength of calling the flop bet against a strong CO range and a person left behind to act. I would think UTG would call with top 2 pair to keep CO’s AA,KK, and AQ and induce another bet. Raising with top 2 pair would likely just end the hand. UTG would be raising into a person still to act who could still have the nuts on the board, which makes the raise seem really strong and a bit ambitious for a weak draw like T9 with no flush draw.

Facing 2 callers, I don’t expect CO to make another big bet. AA or KK, facing 2 callers, is really just a marginal hand at this point. If CO is too aggressive and barrels, then play your nuts the same way and stack CO off.

CO should fold most of the time and shouldn’t be an issue. The main issue is with UTG and his strong range. If he has AQ and KQ, then yes, you will have enough fold equity and the line seems fine.

Nothing you can do about CO calling with AA unless you have played with him before and know his tendencies. Just take notes and play the same way with the nuts next time.

~100bb effective, no ante: A9s in the HJ is a fold (default) or 3! (exploitative) vs LJ open. It is not a flat from this position unless you have absolutely no respect for any of the players left to follow. Vs the small size and assuming a wider than optimal range, a 3! is called for (if you can buy the BTN a decent amount of the time). If LJ is opening a fairly standard range, A9s is a fold from the HJ and CO and a 3! from the BTN at some frequency. Flatting from the HJ does not guarantee you position and opens you up to being squeezed. Just as bad, you wind up multiway in an awkward position.

Postflop in this situation I’d probably peel the flop bet and let the 3rd player subsidize my call. Even with the pot sized bet, the overcall gives you almost correct direct odds to flat. As you noted, the pot sized bet (terrible) is very polarized. Raising into a polarized range isn’t the way to go, especially when you are holding the key card for the nut flush draw, moving V’s range to value. I’m also thrilled to let the other player come along with an inferior flush draw or straight draw that is going to pay off on the right runout.

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Shoving seems wrong when the logic is: players overvalue AA/KK, so there is no fold equity. Basically the shove is trying to force him to make what he perceives as a big lay-down when I should know going in that he probably isn’t capable of doing that. The exploitation is to be value heavy check-raising here, which I probably am not. With a call or both calls it might be slightly +EV getting it all in, but definitely not the kind of high variance play that needs to be made. The other way I was thinking about it is trying to create a shoving range with both value and some semi-bluffs, but I wouldn’t generally bet this big for value, there is no need to be balanced anyway, and there are combo draws that make better bluffs (KTs,T9s, 98s). That’s why this is helpful to think about.

In terms of preflop, it is interesting to look at it as a 3-bet or fold. Calling is a way of getting sucked into the passive fish-schooling getting-a-good-price logic that creates these awkward situations. But, the way Replay goes I just find it hard to 3-bet as a bluff almost ever. It usually only works against the best players who play semi-realistic ranges. Players often only open or 3-bet with KK+, so you just get blown off it, or they get sticky with any pocket pair so you end up running expensive bluffs or going to showdown and losing to 99 or 66. So, I guess it is just a fold, but the number of times that an open like that goes multi-way to the flop just makes it tough to throw away a hand as strong as A9s.

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Agreed. I’d much rather raise a hand like T/9s, trying to get better flush draws to fold than use the nut draw as my semi-bluff. You are holding the hand you want them to have. This hand also shows the value of dumping A9s preflop. Just 1 pip higher and you have a gutshot along for the ride and can more comfortably call or raise. A9s just doesn’t flop very well and will struggle to continue on many boards. This puts you in a spot where you have to overbluff to realize enough equity to justify playing these hands.

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I don’t mind the preflop call since people on replay rarely 3-bet and when they do, they only 3-bet premium and they often make it a bad size. Once people starting 3-beting more than just QQ+ AK, then A9s is a clear fold.

I think you should 3-bet bluff even on replay. If they call too much preflop, punish their weak ranges postflop. With top pair or better, exempting the occasional slow-play, you should look to bet bet shove on clean run outs and add in your bluffs according. You can’t triple barrel everytime you have air. On the flop, your bets are mostly bluffs, but on the river, your bets are mostly value.

One of my favorite plays against a loose caller on a favorable board is to cbet 1/4 and pot/overbet turn to threaten a river shove. The cbet forces the caller to fold out a lot of their range that missed even with the small bet, giving a good price to bluff. The large turn bet puts a lot of pressure on the marginal non top pair hands. If villains, only calls with top pair, then villain will not meet minimum defense frequency.

Unless people start calling 3 streets with second pair or top pair rag kicker, your bluffs should be marginally profitable. It is normal to call 3 streets with top pair second or third kicker to meet defense frequency.

If people call too lightly pre and postflop, then you need to start 3-betting with a merged range and include a lot of thin value.

Basically, 3-bet the * out of people until they start 4-betting you or tightening up their opening ranges. Then, punish their wide ranges postflop unless they are a calling station, which you can stack off whenever you have top pair or better.

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I can get behind a wider flatting range from all positions as an exploit vs the population (I have no flatting range HJ vs LJ as a default). However, hands like A9s would not be in that range from this position for me except in the rarest of circumstances. Even if people aren’t 3! enough and attacking dead money, they will overcall with all sorts of garbage once you have priced them in with your call. So, when you flat, you should only be playing hands that are manageable multiway. Aside from the nut-flush potential, A9 has nothing going for it multiway. For this reason, I’d favor a fold preflop or an exploitative 3! to isolate a player opening too wide and who can’t defend properly. Even if the IR was opening too wide, a 3! from this position with A9s is still very very loose. 4 more players to act leaves a lot of room for someone to wake up with a monster.

Maybe I’m just a boring player? When opponents are giving you open lanes as frequently as most do, I don’t need to drive up on the soft-shoulder to make a move on them. I am more than happy to make profitable exploits but I don’t need to make life miserable for myself by doing so with hands like this one. Vs bad players, there are many better spots. Vs good players, making moves like this is suicidal.


I try not to get into these positions, but here we are. With that flop, I’m looking to see the turn and river as cheaply as possible. So, I’m thinking how I can best accomplish that.

My first consideration would be leading into the preflop raiser, but this isn’t a great flop for that, so onto plan B.

In the tournies I play, a pot size c-bet isn’t that polarizing. It’s almost always an overpair or a hand like AQ or KQ. I rarely see sets bet like that, and it’s almost never a bluff or draw. Sort of polarizing, sure, but not “very polarizing.” It’s usually a made but vulnerable hand.

A x/r there, even a small one shows a lot of strength. I wouldn’t expect it to get through as a semi-bluff, especially against 2 opponents, but it does disguise the fact that I’m on a draw, and if I hit the flush, I’m getting paid a lot more often. I also don’t expect to get re-raised that often, if at all.

If I blank the turn, I will mostly pause/x, and hope he checks behind. This happens way more than you might think, probably because people hate to get check-raised, especially twice in a row.

This line lets me see the turn and river more often, for less chips, and will often still get me paid if I hit. Yeah, I get that this isn’t theoretically optimal in a ring game vs better players, but I’m not operating in that environment. In the player pool where I swim, it’s a different story.

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This would be very easy to play against, especially if you aren’t being re-raised when you make small semi-bluffs. If this is what’s going on, then its a matter of your direct odds to continue and all the implied odds are just gravy. Are you giving up on the draws that don’t get there or are you finding it profitable to bluff rivers vs players who behave like this with overpairs/TPTK?

River bluffs against overpairs or TPTK (or even any top pair) just don’t work very often, so bluffing isn’t really an option. On the other hand, they pay off way too much with that sort of hand vs sets or whatever.

I’m not dismissing the theory, but I’m not married to it either. Having played thousands and thousands of these tournies, I think I have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t. I’m running over 28% ITM for MTTs, with a ROI over 30%, though ROI is down from my usual 35%+ because I haven’t been playing well the last few weeks. My point is: whatever I’m doing seems to be working.

I try not to let theory get in the way of a win.

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Good to know. This would be a strong argument for calling the flop bet rather than shoving/raising in the hand posted here. I guess your further exploit would be to slow down the aggressor on the turn by using a small raise on the flop. Just try to realize your equity all the way.

Right. A small x/r on the flop will often get the IR to check behind on the turn, letting me see the turn and river for the price of a small raise. (Every now and then, I win the pot right there) If I just call, I will probably face a larger pot-size bet on the turn and have to fold.

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I had a chance to go over this with a really good player last night and its something he uses regularly (flop and turn). When villains won’t/can’t exploit these types of moves, they are really effective. If there is an observant player at the table, these moves will open you up to being exploited. Every time we step out into the exploitative realm, we open ourselves up to being countered.

Agreed. However, a theoretical deficit will be exploited by good players and make you a target. Having a sounder strategy when sitting with good players takes the target off your back. You do not want to be in the crosshairs of the best players at the table - you want them to focus their attention elsewhere.

I couldn’t watch your stream because I’m not part of that poker school thing, will you it be posted somewhere?

Playing exploitatively opens you to exploitation, sure. This is where “guided exploitation” comes in. If you make an easily exploited move, you should know what adjustments your opponents will make. If they correct to exploit you, they have to deviate from optimal play, and if you know these deviations in advance (because you forced or guided them) it’s easy to exploit the exploiter! haha

This works really well in the games I play because most players drastically over-correct. There are several ways to make this happen, including “throw away hands” and so on, but those are mostly top secret!

You didn’t miss much - lots of technical problems and I wasn’t a large part of the 3+ hours of game. Playing against that particular pro is like trying to catch a fedora-wearing rabid weasel. He just puts people in the most disgusting spots over and over again. If I didn’t beef up my technical game, players like this would run me over. Anyway, we’re talking about setting up a private cash game (or SnG) that we can stream. I’ll post a link if we can get that going.

Leveling wars give me a headache. That being said, targeting players who will make large mistakes is always a profitable play. If you can force them to make even larger mistakes than they would on their own, that’s just the dream scenario.


If you need any pointers on high level strategies, just let me know!