Go for the Flush!
The flush – five cards of the same suit is an extraordinarily good hand in Texas Hold’em. Only quads (four of a kind), a full house (a set of one card plus a pair of another) or a straight flush (five consecutive cards of the same suit) can defeat a flush. Most of the time in high stakes no limit holdem the pot is won with hands of one or two pair, so if you can assemble a flush you have a good chance of taking the pot.
A flush draw, sometimes also called a ‘four flush’ means that you have four of the five cards you need for a flush. It is possible to come up with a four flush even if your hole cards are of different suits but it’s not very likely. With unsuited hole cards the odds are only slightly more than 2% of flopping a four flush. Take a look at the following example;
With only one club in your two hole cards you have flopped a flush draw. But even though you have flopped the four flush with unsuited cards it is not a very strong position because the Eight of Clubs is not a particularly high card. Any other player having a Club between Nine and King would beat your flush, and that’s assuming you even get the flush. Now look at a different flop where you have again flopped the four flush with unsuited hole cards but in this example you have the Ace of Clubs in your hand.
This is an excellent position to be in because if another Club comes up on the turn or the river you will have the ‘nut flush’, that is, a flush that no other player can beat. Not only that, if another player has the King of Clubs, that player will have a pretty high level of confidence that they have the nut flush. They will know that they can be beat by the Ace of Clubs but there’s a good chance that they will bet (wrongly) that nobody else has the Ace of Clubs and throw a lot of money into the pot which you can then collect. Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves however since we have already determined that the odds of flopping three cards of the same suit as one of our hole cards is not that great. Instead, let’s look at a more common occurrence where you have suited hole cards. As we mention in another of our articles there is about a 24% chance of being dealt hole cards of the same suit.
Here you see that you are holding the King of Clubs which is a very good card when looking for a flush draw that can’t be beat. It cannot however be used with the other hole card, the Eight of Clubs to form a straight and therefore the possibilities of improving your hand on the flop are somewhat limited. For this reason the King-Eight of Clubs are not hole cards that deserve a very large pre-flop bet, but if you can see the flop without spending a lot of money on these hole cards, then by all means go for it and see if you come up with the four flush. In contrast to having unsuited hole cards, the odds of flopping a four flush with suited hole cards jumps to almost 11%. Those are not outstanding odds, hence our warning about heavy betting before the flop. But if you do get the four flush you are in an excellent position. Let’s go to the flop and see what happens.
This is the outcome you were hoping for. With the Six and Three of Clubs on the table the 11% chance of flopping a four flush with your suited hole cards has come true, and now the greatest hurdle has been overcome. From here on the odds are very much in your favor and you should bet accordingly. At this point your chances of getting another Club are nearly 35% – that means that better than one out of every three times in this situation you will make your flush. Those are terrific odds. What if the turn comes and looks like this?
Now you need to think a little bit. First of all, there is a straight draw sitting on the table. Any other player holding a Five in his hole cards will have a straight already. A Five doesn’t sound like the kind of card that somebody would be betting too heavily on, but it’s possible that someone might have had a pair of Fives and been looking for either a set or a straight on the turn. Of course on the other hand, you now have a straight draw in addition to your flush draw since a Five on the river would give you an Eight-High straight that could be beaten only if another player had Nine-Eight or Ace-Eight as his hole cards.
The most important thing to consider here though is your flush draw. Even though you missed a Club on the turn you still have a chance for a Club on the river, and your odds are about 20%. So for every five times you go to the river looking for a club you will get it once. Those are not terrific odds but they are not bad either. If it doesn’t cost you too much compared to the amount of money in the pot (read our article on calculating pot odds) then you should probably bet on your flush draw. Remember however that saying your chances are 20% is the same as saying that the odds are 4 to 1 against you. Consider that carefully when betting the river for a flush draw.
Final note – in our example we were dealt a King of Clubs but you may elect to chase a flush even if neither of your hole cards is very high. If you do, just be very aware that you can be beaten by a higher flush, and pay close attention to the betting patterns of the other players especially watching what they do when the suited cards that you are looking for come out on the flop, turn and river. If you had a Nine-Eight of Clubs as your hole cards instead of King-Eight, and another player went all-in when a Club came on the river, you would have to strongly consider the possibility that they had a flush higher than your own.