Playing your drawing hands in poker can be difficult at the best of times. Being primarily an MTT grinder, one misplayed draw can cost you the tournament and the chances of a deep run.
At the micro/low buy in MTT's I often see costly mistakes made by players usually on the flop and/or turn when holding a drawing hand. These mistakes are usually in the form of overplaying a draw against a tight range and not playing aggressively enough against a wide range.

I want to point out that I am primarily targeting micro stakes MTT's in this blog because I believe that the general low calibre of player you find there actually restricts you from making moves in certain situations. I will expand on this point later.
I think it would be fair to say that the general micro stake player is recreational and therefore lacks sound fundamentals and poker knowledge e.g. poor hand reading skills, stack size play, calculating pot odds and equity, assessing players ranges, distinguishing between relative hand strength and actual hand strength  etc. Therefore they tend to act irrationally and very spewy at times. They are obviously very profitable to play against and your implied odds can be significant when an opponent cannot release a hand but they can often put you in awkward spots if you’re not careful. When you have a drawing hand it is important to remember you have nothing but equity in the hand are likely to be holding the worse hand at the current moment. This means you need to rely on fold equity to push your opponent off better hands or hand ranges or to make the best hand before showdown. At the micros it seems almost second nature for every player to go to the felt with their draws and they often usually overplay them against opponents who are clearly holding strong hands. If you are automatically check raising every draw you hit on a flop, you are going to find yourself either calling off with incorrect pot odds and no fold equity or having to fold all the equity in the pot at that moment. With a draw you never want to be the last person to put money in the pot you always want to be shoving and increasing fold equity. You have no fold equity when you are calling off.


When might you fast play a draw?

A good time to fast play a draw is when your opponents range is wide but is still likely to be holding a better hand than yours at the current moment. An example of this would be defending 65s from the BB vs a Button min raise and the flop comes 34J rainbow. Your opponent is likely to cbet such a dry flop with their entire range, all of which is likely to be ahead of your 6 high. Even if your opponent suspects you are making a move, it will be difficult to withstand a lot of action unless they are holding a strong J. Another time to fast play is when you flop a massive draw such as a straight and flush draw. Against almost any hand you are actually likely to be a favourite and are encouraged to start building a pot. Another time you may consider fast playing is when you are able to apply ICM pressure or bubble pressure. I use this sparingly at the micros and pick my opponents carefully. This is mainly because the bubbles are not big enough for people to care and in general no one likes to fold their hands. I find it difficult to believe any micro stakes player is going to fold QQ+ on 789 when I hold 67, even on a final table when ICM pressure is high.

When might you slow play a draw?

I have found it best to slow play a draw when you are facing a tight range. I have found this to be much more valuable at the lower buy ins. This is because your opponent will lack the ability to distinguish between actual hand strength and relative hand strength compared to better players at the med/high buy in MTT's. Let me give you an example. Let’s say you open Qh Jh UTG+1 off 75bb and an unknown 60bb micro stakes player 3bets you from the cut off to 2.5x. You decided to call and the flop comes 2c 4h 6h giving you a flush draw. Putting your opponent on a reasonable range of TT+ and AQo+ you decide to check. Your opponent can obviously have 3bet bluffs in their range, some of which you could even be ahead of but it is irrelevant as you are never going to be able to take your Q high to showdown. Your opponent c-bets around 60-75% and you decide to check raise 2.5x. You realise that this board is very unlikely to have hit your opponent and you want to fold them off their AK/AQ hands that are ahead of you. When you are check raising here you should be aware that there is very little combination of made hands you can have at this point that you would have opponent with UTG+1 then called a 3bet with.  Therefore you are representing a set, a flush draw or a pure bluff. I would say that 80%-90% of the time the micro stakes player will just rip it in your face here. They will fold you off all your equity. Now if you took this same scenario and applied it to a high stakes game you are likely to see the 3better just call the flop check raise rather than jam. This is because they understand the range of hands you are representing is making their AA look like a bluff catcher. Therefore that’s what they will do they will allow you to barrel off if they think you are making a move rather than jamming and allowing you to play perfectly by raise folding. And this is what I mean by low calibre players restricting you from making moves. If your opponent is not capable of thinking about hand ranges then you cannot bluff/semi-bluff them off equity or marginal hands. You can spend a fortune on training sites and coaching but if your opponent cannot think on a level near you then you are only playing cards, not poker. This is why they say ABC poker wins the money and at the micro stakes this is very true. You will find some micro players that are thinking on multiple levels but they are usual a dime a dozen. On occasion you may see the cut off click 4bet the flop. This is either going to be a bluff or they feel they have a read their opponents is making a move and the want to induce more action. This is when the “he knows that I know he knows I know” levelling wars begin. I could go into depth in this much more but what I want you to take away is that semi bluffing draws OOP at the micros when your opponent has represented strength preflop is usually going to result in you getting 4bet stuffed on. Even if it’s for 10x the pot its irrelevant to recreational players.

Ranges and HUD Based Reads

Understanding what a 60% button steal and a 13% 3bet range looks likes will greatly improve your ability to gauge where you are in a hand before you have even seen a flop. Something I have implemented into my game recently is the HUD statistics of players’ c-bet %, turn bet % and river bet %. Comparing these 3 statistics can show exploitive tendencies and a players playing style. As a general rule we say that a well-balanced player should have a c-bet percentage of around 60%, a turn bet of 40% and a river bet of 38%. So if we know that a player only hits the flop 1 in 3 times then if they were playing only their cards their HUD statistics for flop turn and river bet percentage should only look like 33%,33%,33%. This meaning they only bet when they have it. When I first learnt this technique I realised that through thousands of hands I had developed exploitive tendencies. According to my HM2 my flop turn and river were 60%, 33%, 33%. I was pleased that my c-betting was balanced but I was a one and done kind of player. I was only ever continuing in a hand whenever I was strong and was not 2 and 3 barrelling enough. If a player wanted to exploit me they could start floating a lot of flops knowing I only bet turn with a hand and they could take the pot away on the river. This is probably a result of my ABC style poker I have developed at the micros. Players who like to 2 and 3 barrel a lot can be good candidates for slow playing or maybe fast playing draws against (75%,60%,60%). Check raising draws may stop aggressive players from barrelling good turn cards but these players may well try and represent the draw you have when it hits on the turn or river. Needless to say never fast play huge made hands against them either. Why check-raise a set when they love to barrel?!

Being Balanced

Being balanced is an advanced term you hear good players use a lot. Long story short it means to make plays in certain spot with certain ranges that are un-exploitable to good players. For instance if a player only ever leads the turn with strong made hands then good observant players can exploit this by folding to your turn leads and barrelling the scare cards the times you don’t lead. To be balanced a player would need to be leading as a bluff a small percentage of the time and a semi bluff with perhaps an open ended straight draw or back door nut flush draw to get paid off the times they lead *****d hands etc. When you apply this concept to all aspects of poker you realise that the game is much more complex than you probably first thought. This concept of being balanced however goes completely out the window at the micros simply because players will either not be good enough to realise or exploit what you are doing and two, with such large fields it’s not important to be as balanced against players you do not play with regularly. If you were a high stakes heads-up cash game player where the player pool is very small, being balanced is extremely important.


Before I wrap this up I just wanted to let the people following my 2015 40K challenge I have made some small adjustments. Instead of officially starting the challenge on the 6/01/15 I have decided to start tomorrow 01/01/15. I also may blog update more than once a week depending on the circumstances but once a week is mandatory. I am also currently Silver Star VIP on stars but I would like to reach and obtain at least Gold statues. Platinum would be the real target but after messing around with their VPP calculator I realised at the beginning I am just not playing big enough games to reach it without putting in unrealistic volume. Even binking Gold Star will be difficult with my average buy-in. I also realised that it’s impossible the reach Super Nova Elite playing the highest of MTT’s with the craziest of volumes. Super Nova is only obtainable with high volume at $100 and over. I guess that’s why people choose the cash game and hyper turbo route.

That’s all folks happy new year. Want you to know when you all are waking up with a sore head in the morning I will already be on the MTT grind. Here is to a bloody good 2015!!!!