One common tendency of players, especially at the lower limits, is to check and call with drawing hands. While this is of course often the correct play, there are situations that come up where it is correct to bet and raise instead of check and call with a drawing hand.
As an example, you are in a five way pot with QJs and the flop comes K T 6 with two of your suit. You have 15 outs to hit a flush or a straight by the river. In this case you are a favorite to win the hand even though you are on a draw.
Any time you are a favorite to win you have positive expectation for the hand, which means that in the long run every dollar you put into the pot will make you money. In addition, you will usually get action, especially if an opponent holds a King or better.
The other thing a raise can accomplish in the above situation is making the price for an opponent chasing a straight (if an opponent had QJ off suit) incorrect to call when one of the other players will bet and raise with you. If you can accomplish this, it can allow you to win the entire pot at times when you would otherwise have to split it.
The other situation involving betting a drawing hand is in combination with a semi bluff. I was involved in a hand a few nights ago that illustrates this. I was in the big blind with A4s with three limpers. The flop contained a four, as well as two cards of my suit. I checked and it was checked around to the player on the button who bet. I raised, forcing the two players in the middle to fold. My remaining opponent called.
The turn was a blank and I bet into my opponent, who called again. At this time I was rather sure that I was behind in the hand, but I wasn’t sure until now. This play was questionable on my part, but I felt he was weak because he didn’t re-raise my check raise on the flop and was hoping I could get them to fold with a turn bet. In addition, I had roughly 13 outs to improve my hand, even if I was currently behind.
I was fortunate to hit my flush on the river and win a fair sized pot, but the key point here is that if I had checked and called I would have had no fold equity. Fold equity is the possibility that an opponent will fold, allowing you to win the pot outright. Though fold equity is hard to translate into a number of outs, in the above situation when you combine my outs with the fold equity, I thought I was a favorite to win.
Don’t bet your weak draws unless you can win the pot immediately, but keep an eye out for drawing hands that allow you to become aggressive instead of passive. Moderate aggression combined with smart play is a winning formula.
Until next week, good luck at the tables!