In this article, we’re going to take an in-depth look at a very specific type of hand in poker - the Flush.
A flush hand is certainly a good hand to have, but one that is often overvalued. While a flush draw can be strong, it is sometimes underplayed. We’ll share advice on how to combat these problems, plus other tips for playing flush draws that will improve your game.
But to kick things off, we should start from the very beginning…
What Is a Flush in Poker?
Before we get into the strategy of how to play a flush draw, let’s start with the basics. If you’re not completely new to the game, feel free to skip this section!
A flush is a five-card poker hand where each card is from the same suit. For example, a hand of A K 9 6 2 is an ace-high flush, since all five cards are diamonds.
If multiple players hold a flush, the highest individual card breaks the tie. So, the above example would beat a hand of Q J 9 6 2 since an ace-high flush beats a queen-high flush.
Where multiple players share the same highest card, ties are broken by the second best, then the third and so on. So an ace-high flush with a king kicker would beat an ace-high flush with a jack kicker. If both hands are identical, the pot would be shared proportionally.
How Good Is a Flush?
If we look at the poker hand rankings, it’s clear that a flush is quite a strong hand in absolute terms. In all standard poker games, it beats these hands: straight, three-of-a-kind, two-pair, one-pair, and high card. In fact, a flush hand only ranks behind a full house, a four-of-a-kind, and a straight flush.
The relative strength of a flush depends on the specific poker game involved. If jokers and wildcards are used, it naturally becomes easier for all players to form a flush. In a game like Texas Hold’em, where community cards are used, you’re more likely to see multiple players holding a flush than in a game like Five Card Draw.
Throughout this guide, when discussing stats or strategy, we’ll focus specifically on Hold’em.
Fun Facts About Flushes in Poker
There's a reason why a flush is such a strong poker hand - they don’t come around all that often. Assuming a standard deck of 52 with no wildcards, there are 5,108 different ways to make a flush. Given that it’s possible to make 2,598,960 unique hands from the same deck, you can see how rare a flush is!
Using the figures above, we can determine how often we should expect to make a flush. 5,108 divided by 2,598,960 gives us 0.1965%, or roughly once every 509 hands.
Whenever you have two suited cards in your starting hand, the chances of flopping a flush are just 0.82%. But even the probability you’ll flop a flush draw - as in four cards of the same suit - is just 10.90%.
With a four-card flush draw on the flop, the likelihood of completing your draw by the river is 34.97%. So you can only expect to hit a little over one time in three, even with such a strong draw.
In certain versions of Short Deck Hold’em, a flush is actually ranked higher than a full house. That’s because it actually becomes harder to make a flush, with all of the cards 2 through 6 removed from the deck.
How to Play a Flush Draw
Determining just how to play a flush draw, like many aspects of poker, depends on multiple factors. Relative stack sizes, the tendencies of your opponents, and your position at the table are just a few considerations.
However, there are some simple, general tips that you can successfully follow regardless of the situation.
#1 - Overplaying Suited Trash
It’s a very common mistake to overvalue a flush, particularly when you’re first starting out as a poker player. The old “but they were suited” joke really rings true, as weak players look to get involved with any two hole cards of the same suit. Whatever you do, don’t go check-raising and splashing chips around chasing weak flushes.
The thing about flushes in Hold’em is that, although they are strong hands, other players get to share the same community cards. So if there are three or more of one suit on the board for you to have a flush, it’s plausible that someone else might also have one.
When drawing to a flush, or indeed any kind of draw, you really want to have the strongest hand when you hit. You certainly don’t want to be calling every street with junk like J 6, for instance. The probability of being dominated is too high to make it worth chasing.
There are exceptions, of course. If there are multiple limpers and few left to act behind you, speculative suited connector type hands like 8 9 can be worth a look. Particularly when you’re in the big blind. But generally speaking, a suited trash hand is still a trash hand.
#2 - Consider Your Pot Odds
When drawing to a flush, make sure you’re getting the correct odds, just like making any other call at the poker table. Making bets at the wrong odds is a guaranteed way to lose money in the long run. Even if you win the pot, you’re not going to be paid correctly.
If you have flopped a flush draw, there are 47 cards in the deck which are unknown, 9 of which complete your draw. 9 in 47 is 19.15%, meaning you’ll make the flush almost exactly one time in five. So in order to draw, the pot must be paying odds of at least 4 to 1.
However, you should also factor implied odds into the equation. If you’re playing with particularly deep stacks and put your opponent on a big hand, you might expect a better-than-normal payoff on the river.
Implied odds can sometimes justify some unusual calls. If you’re up against a weaker player, or one who is especially aggressive, they might be happy to pay off your made flush. Especially if they have a high straight or three of a kind, for instance.
#3 - Raise Strong Flush Draws Often
Another common mistake among weaker poker players is to underplay their strong flush draws. In truth, it’s always good to mix in some bets and raises with a flush draw on the flop anyway. But the problem comes when someone plays back and puts you in a tough spot.
The way to handle this is to break your flush draws into two categories, strong and weak. Nut flush draws, king high draws, and those with two overcards to the board are your stronger hands. Any other kind of draw is considered weak.
Make sure you’re betting and raising much more often with the strong category of flush draw, than the weak. That way, if someone fights back, you’ll be much more confident continuing than if you had a draw that could end up dominated.
#4 - Weak Draws Are Good Bluffs
Continuing the theme, if you make it to the river and have missed your draw, you’ll need to consider bluffing. Your best hands with which to take a stab at the pot are the weaker flush draws.
Consider your hand against their range. If you’re holding a missed nut flush draw, you’re blocking the opponent from having it. And if you’re going to bluff, that is exactly the type of hand you need them to have! So you’ll probably have more fold equity bluffing with a weaker flush draw that’s missed, than a stronger draw.
Besides, ace- and king-high type hands might have showdown value on their own. There’s nothing to say your opponent hasn’t got a weaker missed draw. If you bluff here and are raised, you have no choice but to fold. Sometimes there’s no harm in checking with ace high and hoping to realise your equity.
#5 - Flush Draws Make Good Probe Bets
Imagine you’ve called a preflop raise and have flopped a flush draw. You check to the initial raiser, as is the standard. Unexpectedly though, your opponent checks back. What do we make of that?
Don’t overthink in this spot. Make a probe bet almost every time. If your opponent has literally nothing and has given up early in the hand, your bet can take down the pot. If you find a call, you’re still drawing to a very strong hand. But this way, you are able to control the size of the pot to your liking, plus you are now in the driving seat.
The exception here is with the very strongest flush draws. You don’t mind mixing in checks with the nut flush draw, since it’s a good enough hand to justify a call if your opponent fires. But it has much more showdown value than a weaker draw.
Flush Poker Hand Guide - Final Thoughts
A flush is certainly a strong poker hand, but it’s often overvalued by newer players. At the same time, a flush draw is also very strong, yet for some reason, many players don’t play them aggressively enough. Fixing these two holes in your game, as well as following the rest of our tips, will undoubtedly lead to better results.
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