Perhaps one of the best ways you can both get value on your draws, confuse your opponents, and take down a fair share of pots uncontested is to bet out on your straight and flush draws on the flop. Of course, you should follow some guidelines and mix up your play to avoid giving tells to your opponents, but I have found this, if done properly, to be an excellent weapon at the table – especially no-limit ring games.
First of all, let’s outline what you’re trying to accomplish: getting proper value when your draws hit, winning the pot right away, or gaining a free card on the turn. How do you go about accomplishing these lofty goals? First, you should stick to a set of guidelines before you go semi-bluff betting your draws.
Most important in this situation is position. You want to act after your opponents, which gives you the most power and control in the hand. You can get into trouble if you get raised by a powerhouse hand behind you, so I wouldn’t recommend betting your draws very often with more than one player to act after you.
You can do this successfully with any number of opponents in the hand, but realize that you probably won’t win the pot on the flop against several players since one of them is likely to have a decent holding. This move is also most effective when used after your opponents check, but you might try a semi-bluff raise occasionally. They key to semi-bluffing is giving yourself the right odds to hit your draw. More on that later…
To begin with limit ring games, you won’t be able to control the odds as much as no-limit ring games since you are, by definition, limited in what you can bet. However, let’s say that you just called the big blind from the button with: Ah-9h. The flop comes out 5h-Jh-2s and there are 3 other limpers in the pot. If you get checked to, try betting. If there is a minimum bet out already, raise it. Hopefully you don’t get reraised. If you do, you’ll have to make the call anyway because of the pot odds. You have position and the nut flush draw. If you hit another heart on the turn, bet/raise it again. If you don’t, hopefully you get checked to out of fear and you can check on behind them and see the river for free. Simple!
However, where you can really make big bucks with this move is in no-limit ring games. Let’s say that you called a minimum raise of $4 from the button in a $1/2 NL ring game with Jd-10d. There are 2 others that stay in to see a flop of Qd-10h-4d and a $12 pot. This is a great spot to semi-bluff with your middle pair and flush draw. Let’s say that they check to you. Since your odds are about 2:1 to make your flush by the river, bet out $6 and build a pot while still giving yourself the right odds to draw. If they both call you, great! You’ll be getting even better pot odds. Again, you can continue your bet on the turn if you hit your flush (or sometimes even if you don’t to mix things up) or check to see the river for free. Sometimes you can even check on the turn when you do hit your draw to look completely timid and beg to be bet into on the river.
The real beauty in this move is that you’ll be completely throwing off your opponents. While they may still suspect that you’re on a draw, most players simply don’t put betting players on straight or flush draws. If they see two suited or connected cards on the board and a player betting aggressively, they’ll assume that you are protecting against the draw. If the draw is completed, they will often bluff with a big bet since they assume that you don’t have it. Of course, you’re sitting back with your straight or flush ready to call/raise as much as possible. Also, you should note that open-ended straight draws (which can be completed with either of 2 cards) lay you about the same odds of hitting as a flush: 2:1 by the river.
While there are many more variations of draws and semi-bluffs that are best suited for their own articles, this should give you a solid foundation of betting with your straight and flush draws. Used effectively, you can often win extremely large pots from opponents bluffing you when the draw is completed or just value betting what they believe is the best hand. Often, you’ll win the pot uncontested on the flop with your semi-bluff bet.