Draws are an ever-present theme of poker. The mathematics of the game mean that we typically won’t have a ‘made’ hand to go with when the Flop arrives, or if we do it might not necessarily be strong enough to be the best by the River. This is because the Turn and River bring with them so many possibilities that draws are common.

In fact draws – or, more accurately, the possibility of draws being hit – are a major factor that needs to be considered as soon as either two cards of the same suit (thus introducing flush draws) or cards that co-ordinate in terms of rank (creating straight draws) appear.

Draws, then, are an integral part of the game whether we or our opponents are (or could be) looking for outs. However, when we think about draws we tend to consider only the aforementioned flush and (open-ended) straight variety, but an interesting one is the so-called Backdoor draw, otherwise known as a Runner Runner draw.

For those not acquainted with this type of draw, it is seen when the required cards need to be hit on both the Turn and River. There is a distinction to be made here between this specific characteristic and those of, for example, a flush draw, where just one card is enough, meaning that with the more conventional draws players actually have two bites of the proverbial cherry compared to needing ‘runner, runner’ cards over both streets for a Backdoor draw.

Backdoor Draws – the good news

We could be forgiven for thinking that Backdoor draws aren’t worth bothering with due to the less favourable odds and what we have to pay, but there are positives, too. Crucially, unlike flush/straight draws, where the very existence of the draw is there for all to see by virtue of the relevant cards being present, Backdoor draws are well hidden. This results in the implied odds increasing, which affords us the possibility of raking in an enormous pot with our well disguised hand when we do manage to hit.

Let’s say we’ve called a pre-flop raise with Qh Jh and the Flop comes Ah 9s 2h. Anyone still involved in the hand who isn’t holding two Hearts has already been alerted to the possibility of one or more of their opponents being on a flush draw. Should a heart subsequently appear on the River, for instance, it will inevitably have an impact on the dynamics of the hand to the point that players with strong hands will simply slam on the brakes and be understandably cautious. If the last card were the Kh, a pre-flop aggressor holding As Kc for top 2 pair would be hearing those alarm bells that started to ring on the Flop now growing way too loud. Even someone with a set would be absolutely capable of finding a fold to a shove here. This is a very typical scenario, and one in which the player hitting their flush can consider themselves lucky should they be paid off. Indeed, especially at lower stakes, it’s almost a given that a possible filled flush is tantamount to an acceptance of an actual filled flush!

But a Backddoor draw doesn’t come with this potential passion-killer. Using the same sample hand as above, let’s make a slight adjustment to illustrate how a Backdoor draw might bring about a quite different result. We have the same hole cards – Qh Jh – but replacing the 2h with the 2d gives us a Flop of Ah 9s 2d rainbow, the critical difference being that now there is no flush draw. We’ll concentrate on the cards rather than get into the complexities of the betting because we’re concerned here only with the outcome of the actual completed hand(s). The Turn throws out another heart. Of course, this introduces a flush draw, but coming a street later the potential implications simply don’t have the same urgency – it’s so unlikely that anyone remaining in the hand has done so in the hope of catching a runner-runner flush. The River is again the Kh, filling our flush. This time around the opposition, while well aware of this being a possibility, will be far less worried – if at all – of such an outcome and, consequently, far more likely to have more confidence in the same hands that in the previous example required caution to commit to. Not only would 2 pair or a set provide sufficient confidence to make a concerted effort to take down the pot here, but even if we were to shove following the good fortune of the runner-runner hitting, there’s a good chance that we might not be believed and instead be seen as trying to capitalise on the scare card with an outright and fishy-looking bluff.

And therein lies the well hidden potential of a backdoor draw…



AngusD switched from pro chess to poker two decades ago and has been professionally involved in the game on numerous levels since the very beginning of online poker, including playing as a poker ambassador both online and at major festivals around the globe. He has written much about the game over the years, and brings to YPD a wealth of experience in all aspects of the poker industry. Meanwhile, his many years on the pro chess circuit (he’s an International Master and prolific author) afford him an interesting perspective on the psychology of poker.

· Published 11.03.2021 · last updated 11.03.2021

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