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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17 thoughts on “Calling an All-In with a Flush Draw”

  1. Overall you’re ahead here i’d say. A tight player UTG calling a 3-Bet with 44?? even if they have it this hand isn’t blocking your flush outs. 66 with a spade, AA, KK, 77, 2-pair Ax hands only have a small amount of combos compared to weaker draws (QJs/J10s etc), weaker Kx hands and bluffs like 99-QQ. However, I would assume villain has at least one of my outs when calculating equity. You’d need a direct price of 5.25:1 which you’re not getting. (8x outs = 16%) You do have an excellent bluff catcher too with top pair/top kicker.

    If the player was in mid/late position or looser i’d be tempted to fold because they’d have more draws that have got there.

    Also, If you’ve aloud this aggressive player to exploit you in this manner before you should be calling in my opinion and should defend here 75% of the time!!

    I’m no pro but this is the way I see it 🙂

    1. 8 outs is ~30% equity facing an all in on the flip, which puts you way into the green for calling with direct odds

  2. I just had a similar play in a live cash game. AKc in middle position I raised pre flop and got 2 callers. I had about $200 left in my stack on an active 1-3 table. $60 i the pot. F-QTc4 and the early caller went all in for $300 covering my stack. With a player behind I tanked a bit but made the call. The other player folded. Turn X blank, River 7c for the nuts. He turned up QTo for 2 pair. I had too many outs to fold but I also was putting $220 in play. Keep in mind this is 1-3 small stakes. Did I play it right? Forget the results.

    1. I am not sure how $60 got in the pot (unless you raised to $20, which is almost certainly a mistake), but as played, I would tend to call off unless I thought my opponent’s range was only two pair and better. If your Ace or King are ever live, or if your opponent can have a draw, you should call. Really though, this is a simply equity calculation that you can run in one second on Equilab. Check it out so you definitively know the answer next time.

  3. The $20 was a preflop bet and 2 callers. What would you have bet preflop in an active 1-3 live cash game?
    If I read you right, if I put him on 2 pair or better I should fold ? Is that right ?

    1. Your bet pre imo should be a open to $10 with blinds at 1/3 regardless of how active the table is, I am happy if someone aggressive style 3 bets to like $40 with perhaps a call behind and at this point with a stack of $200 I am happy to get the chips in pre or take the pot down pre without being contested depending on your image. Your opening almost 7x the bb which is a mistake pre.

  4. Starting with the preflop play; the hero’s raise to 6,000 is too small. I always ask myself, What am I trying to accomplish with the raise. With AK, my goal is to take down the hand preflop. With a 3-bet of 3x, both the initial opener and the the caller have pot odds to call. I want to fold out all non-premium hands. Also there are too many players behind that can enter the pot. I like Jonathan’s shove, but I would also consider 12k for a raise. It looks extremely strong, hoping the other players think I am repping AA.
    I call the All In.

    Another great hand, thanks again Jonathan

  5. In response to “Jeff”

    I’m not sure if I understand “I want to fold out all non-premium hands.” We have a premium hybrid hand therefore, going to a flop with multiple players is fine. With your raise size recommendations, you invite small pairs (<= QQ) to go with the hand which isn't ideal.

    I follow Little's logic in All-In or fold for precisely the reasons he gave. Personally, if the original raiser is indeed tight, I like a call. A call may induce a squeeze play and when the original raiser gets out of way you can call and many times have your opponent in deep poop OR you see a muti-way flop with a hand that's going to provide fairly easy decisions post-flop.

    But admitingly, I've always liked limit and pot-limit games because of their post-flop play. So many players I feel avoid post-flop decision making in NL and I wish that weren't the case. However, that in itself is exploiting their opponents when up against better hand readers. So who knows?

  6. In Sal’s thread, he described a hand where he had AKc and was faced with a $300 bet into the $60 pot on the QcTc4h flop. Sal asked whether his call would be correct, and you (Jonathan) said it would be correct “unless [the] opponent’s range was only two pair and better”. Sal had $200 left, so it would cost him $200 to win $460, and he would be break even at 43.5% EV. According to PkrCruncher the EV of AKc vs a range of QT, QQ, TT, 44 on that board is only 39.3%, so folding is correct against that range. It is clearly worthwhile to analyze such situations off-line in order to make better decisions in the heat of battle

    1. If the range is exactly effective nuts, you should fold. That said, many people who jam effective nut hands also jam some strong draws and also weaker, but still decently strong, made hands.

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