Moderate Commitment Due To A Draw

No Limit Texas Holdem

January 1, 2009

In the previous discussions of commitment here, here and here the examples of hands that commit you always were a strong made hand - top pair or better, or in the case of the preflop example an AK.  That’s no accident - the most common way to become committed in NL holdem is when you hold a strong made hand.  What may not be obvious is that commitment can result from a draw or the combination of a draw and and weak made hand that probably isn’t best.

No limit holdem is not by and large a draw-heavy game.  Compared to stud and omaha games there are far fewer good draws.  However, draws in holdem can occasionally be more powerful than they initially appear.  Sometimes a draw, even when some of the outs may be dead, plus a weak made hand can combine together to create a powerhouse holding.  The easiest way to illustrate this is with an example hand I played:

The game is $1/2 NL holdem.  This orbit was being played with a $4 live straddle (or third blind) to the left of the big blind.  It was a home game.  Most of the stacks were in the $100-200 range, so with the straddle play was rather shortstacked.  I was in the straddle, and 4 players limped in front of me.  The players who limped has stacks on the smaller side - none bigger than $150.  The blinds folded, and I looked down and saw Jh5h.  Obviously I checked.  The flop was 9h5c2h, and I was first to act.

Now, I have kind of a strange hand here - middle pair, weak kicker, a non-nut flush draw, and and a draw to two pair or trips.  More experienced players however  will realize that this hand is a favorite or at worst a small dog against nearly anything my opponent could hold.  It’s at least a solid 2:1 or better favorite against anydraw my opponent could hold.  It’s a small favorite or even money against any top pair type hand unless it includes a heart bigger than Jh, in which case I’m a few percent dog.  I’m either a slight favorite or slight dog against any two pair hand - I’m a slight dog if one of the pairs is fives.  The only hands that have me in bad shape are sets.

The reason this hand is very solid against nearly all possible opponent holdings is that the deficiencies of the draw and the made hand are mutually exclusive.  If the draw is mostly dead (say someone holds AhTh) then the pair is currently the best hand.  If the made hand is beat (say someone holds TcTs) then the draw is almost always completely live.  The sets are the big problem since they are a better made hand, kill the two pair/trips draw, and have a chance of outdrawing a flush with the other board card.  But even there all 9 flush outs are live, so while the situation is bad it’s not horrible.

What all of this means is that I’m moderately committed on the flop. That may suprise a lot of people since I have no reason to believe I have the best hand right now.  Let’s think about the genie’s dilemma: there is $23 in the pot.  Effective stack depth is $150.  I have basically no clue what my opponents hold - they probably don’t have a truely horrible hand like 93 offsuit, but beyond that I know nothing.  Given the size of the pot vs. what I would have to risk and given the fact that I’m a favorite or even against most everything they could hold, and when a dog not a big one (often times less than the $23 overlay) I’m clearly committed.  Furthermore, with stacks only 6x the size of the pot, no action on this street is going to convince me anyone has the set that puts me at a serious disadvantage.  So I’m at least moderately committed.

But I’m not strongly committed.  Suppose action continued to the turn after a reasonable bet, and the turn card did not improve me (which would be the case with 33 of the 47 outstanding cards).  Then my hand would look MUCH worse - I’d suddenly be a huge dog to nearly everything my opponents could have called the reasonable bet with except a pure flush draw.  So clearly future cards off the deck can very much hurt my hand.  I’m just moderately committed.

If you’ll recall the article on playing when moderately committed, one of the key factors in deciding how to play your hand is the number of bad cards that can roll off the deck vs. the number of good cards.  This is about the worst situation you will see - despite the strength of your hand the vast majority of cards will likely de-commit you.  The strategy in that situation was simple - plan to move in this street, possibly with a check-raise to trap money in the pot.

What I actually decided to do was simply to move in on the flop and skip the check-raise.  The reason was that if I did get called, I did not want to get called by more than one hand.  While my Jh5h was solid against nearly anything my opponent could hold, it could be a huge dog against a combination of two hands - specifically a better made hand and a better flush draw.  By moving in I made it very unlikely a flush draw would call, and thereby avoided that potential trouble.  While check-raising might have trapped additional money, it would also have made such a multiway call much more likely.

The point of all this is that moderate committment due to a draw is not really any different than “regular” moderate commitment - you still make your decision on how to proceed in the same way.  However, you do need to be aware of the number of bad cards that can come off the deck, as this will often make it more correct to take a one street move-in approach rather than the wait-and-see line that is often effective when the moderate committment is caused by a made hand.


This article is part of Project Cash Game No Limit Holdem - You can find more great strategy articles there.
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