It came up in a hand review thread that there should be a thread to discuss how to play monotone boards. This is what I got. I find that this is hard to put into practice, but maybe just by writing it all down it will help me to play these situations better.
Never tell me the odds!
- The odds of being dealt suited hole cards are roughly 1 in 4: your first card being whatever suit it is, the second having a 1 in 4 chance of matching the first. Actually, it’s slightly worse than 1-in-4, since one of the possible cards of that suit is already spoken for, being in your hand already. But 1-in-4 is close enough.
- The odds of a player’s suited hand aligning to a suited board (either 4 to a flush or flopped flush) is therefore about 1/4 * the odds of the board flopping two to any suit, or monochrome to any suit. (Again, since two of the cards of the desired suit are already in your hand, and thus spoken for, the odds will be slightly diminished from this approximate amount.)
- The odds of a player who is 4-flush on the flop filling by the river is about 35%.
Another way to think of it then, is that the odds that a 2-tone flop will give you flush problems by the river is about 35% * 25% * 25%, or about 2% if you’re heads-up vs. one opponent. This agrees with the fact that suited vs. unsuited hands are only about 2.5% stronger.
Against multiple opponents, this 2% chance increases with each additional hand at the table. Each one will have that same 2% chance of being on a draw.
One thing to think about, the above is merely the random odds, against any two random cards. We know that poker players tend to play hands selectively, folding weaker hands and playing more desirable hands. Players tend to play suited hands more often than non-suited hands, so we should probably adjust these numbers by the human bias to play suited hands and fold non-suited hands. This varies by player, so I can’t give an exact amount of weight, but it is certainly non-zero.
It’s worth keeping in mind, too, that weaker players will often make the mistake of playing any suited hand (often from any position), while stronger players will tend to fold out some of their suited hands, keeping only their suited Aces, Kings, some Queens, and connectors only.
If you can work out your opponent’s range, you should be able to figure out the percentage of that range that is suited, and thus you will know the bias factor. I leave this as an activity for the reader.
Thinking about how flushy boards play out, I think we can classify these hands into a few broad categories, as follows:
First thing to ask is: are we multi-way, or are we heads up? Multiway, flush possibilities multiply. Put enough players on the hand, and the odds are good that someone will have at least a flush draw.
In multi-way pots, it’s more likely someone has hit a flush or is drawing to it. Accordingly you should proceed with caution if you’re not at least drawing to a strong flush yourself.
If you’ve hit the flush, you can safely call most of the time, or check-raise, watching out for paired boards.
Keep in mind that a lot of boards will be two-tone, eg two of one suit, and thus four-flush for a suited player matching the board. Two-tone flops are is very common, and being four-flush is therefore not all that uncommon either. (See “Never tell me the odds!” above.)
This means that suited players who match the dominant suit of the flop will be drawing to a flush, and if they’re out there, they’re going to fill it about 35% of the time.
This means to make it -EV for them to continue the hand, if you’ve hit for a pair, you’ll want to bet big enough that their pot odds are worse than 35%.
Unfortunately this means paying off all the two pair and set hands who are already crushing you. Maybe just take up macrame instead. You can probably check/fold to most bets with even a strong top pair, and maybe check-call smaller bets.
Once in a while, such as in late position against a heads-up opponent who checks to you, you might want to try semi-bluffing top pair, but keep in mind if you get called, it’s probably by a hand that either is already beating you, or is on a draw to beat you 35% of the time.
So how often should you be betting top pair when checked to? And how should you size that bet? Well, the sizing should make it difficult for your opponent to know your hand strength. They may not know what hand you’re holding, but they will know what hand they’re on, and if it’s a flush, or a draw to a good flush, they’re going to call you or raise you. Now you can fold, satisfied that you tested the strength of your top pair. Good job, you just cost yourself extra chips and made the flush pay off. Or you can just fold it. Or you can check it, and risk them running a bluff at you the next turn. Whatever. Pairs suck on flush boards when you’re not drawing to the flush yourself.
HU, it’s a lot less likely that your solitary opponent has the flush than against multiple opponents. You can sometimes bluff these hands, and probably should some portion of the time, even with air if your opponent checks to you. You may want to defend with your top pair, two pair, sets, and pocket overpairs, particularly if you also have a draw to the flush to go along with them.
Your hand’s strength:
A flopped nut flush can play more passively and let opponents try to catch up to something made but worse than the nut flush that they might be willing to bet. If the action on the table has been pretty wild, you might only just need to call. If the table has been especially tight/passive, you might not get any calls or bets into you no matter what you do.
Position. In early position you will want to check-raise more, or bet weak to induce raises that you can then re-raise. Weaker flushes should sometimes bet bigger in order to close the hand, preventing being outdrawn by players hoping to connect to fill a bigger flush. But often players will not fold high flush draws, and if they hit, they hit. You can punish them when they miss by making it expensive to call, but this comes at the expense of paying them off when they do fill.
Flopped flush draw
- Nut draw vs. near nut draw vs. non-nut draw
- suited draws vs unsuited draws
If you’re suited, you’re drawing to a flush when at least one card hits your suit on the flop, and backdoor draws aside, it’s really only a draw if you’re you’ve got four cards to the flush at the flop, and just need one to fill it.
If you’ve only got one card of the board color, then you can only hit if the board is four-flush to your suit. These are only decent opportunities if you happen to hold the Ace; sometimes a lone King can be good when you make a flush, but you’ll be filling the flush last, after suited hands (if any) have already made theirs. So you want to make sure if you’re playing an unsuited hand that you’re at least drawing to make a better flush than any previously-made flushes that can be out there.
Strong made hand on a flush flop
Sets: Sets can’t draw to the flush; the two cards in your hand are not of the suit that’s flushing on the board. You can draw to quads and boats though.
Two pair: You’re also drawing to a full house, which is great, but two pair hits full houses much less often than sets do. So maybe not so great. But at least you’ve got four outs in the deck. Possibly some of those outs might even be counterfeit flush fillers for your opponent. It’s great when you improve to a full house while your opponent improves to the nut flush with the same card. When that happens, it’s all but certainly going to be a big pot.
Keep in mind, too that not all two pair hands are created equal. There’s three ways to make two pair:
Pocket pair with a board pair; One hole card pairing the board, plus a board pair; and each hole card pairing with the board. Usually, if you’ve paired each of your hole cards, your hand is more disguised, stronger, and doesn’t help your opponents who might have used a board pair to fill a set into a boat. On the other hand, a pair on the board will signal danger to players sitting on flushes and flush draws, so can slow the action more than a concealed, “one of each” two pair made with both of your hole cards.
Pocket overpairs. Depending on whether the pocket pair is drawing to the flush, you can continue with these hands, or fold them. If you made a set or two pair with a pocket overpair, see the bullet points above for playing sets and two pair. If your pocket pair is not drawing to the flush, treat it like Top pair, below, but keep in mind it could be a bluff catcher if your flush-drawing opponent misses their draw.
Top pair: usually safe to fold, unless you happen to be drawing to the flush in addition to holding top pair, then these are pretty good hands to play. You’ve got some showdown value from your top pair, plus the nut advantage from the flush draw (especially if your draw is to the nut flush).
Four-flush boards vs. 3-flush boards
Obviously, flushes are less common on boards with 3 suited cards than on boards with 4 suited cards. When the board is 3-flush early (solid flop, or three to the flush on the Turn) your suited cards have hit their flush, and the draws are likely to call.
Strong flush draws are more likely to sustain larger bets than weaker flush draws, for obvious reasons. Stronger draws are draws holding the Ace, and especially suited Aces. Lesser draws are pretty much everything else. K-high and Q-high flushes win too, of course, and even a 6-high flush can be a winner, but you’ll see weaker flushes checking, betting smaller, and usually calling smaller.
Weak flushes are usually strongest when they fill late, because the stronger draws may have folded, and single-card draws will have missed if there’s only 3 to the flush on the board at the river. Weak single cards filling with a 4-card flush board are almost not worth playing, for how likely it is that another player will happen to have a higher flush made with the board and one random card in their hole
Once in a great while you’ll see a board flush, all 5 community cards are of the same suit. This can be great if you have card that improves the board flush. Generally you should never bluff or call board flushes if someone puts in a big bet, it’s probably because they have a better-than-board flush. Usually you do not chop unless both players check, and then neither has a card that improves the flush.