What is a flush draw in poker?

What is a flush draw?
Posted on: September 26, 2022 09:02 PDT

The universal goal for any poker player is to come up with the best hand possible and take home the pot. In the process of building a strong hand, you’ll eventually have a draw or a drawing hand, meaning a hand that’s one card away from a ranking or valuable hand.

Drawing hands can occur in any poker variation, including 5-card games, Texas Hold’em, and Omaha.

While draws often happen with several of the top ranking hands, we’ll explore the nuances of flush draws: what they are, how to play them, their potential strength, and other flush draw variations, strategies, and tips.

What is a flush draw?

A flush draw is a poker hand that’s one card away from being a flush. As a refresher, a flush is the fifth highest ranking hand, though specialized flushes like the royal flush and the straight flush take the top two ranking spots respectively.

To achieve a flush, you’ll need any five cards within the same suit. For example, Q❤️8❤️6❤️4❤️3❤️ or K♠9♠7♠5♠3♠. A flush draw is when you have four cards within the same suit, like T♦️7♦️6♦️2♦️, and only need one additional card to complete the flush.

Four flush vs four flusher

A flush draw is also often referred to as a four flush. However, be careful about referring to a poker player as a four flusher, because it has negative connotations about being a braggart or making empty bluffs.

Backdoor flush draw

If you play poker variations that use community cards like Texas Holdem or Omaha, you may have heard the term “backdoor flush draw.” This type of flush draw occurs when you only have three out of five suited cards for a flush going into the turn, so you’ll need both the turn and the river to provide your two final flush cards.

How to determine the strength of a flush draw?

It’s easy to feel optimistic when you have a flush draw but not all flush draws will result in a winning hand. It’s important to examine your cards to decide how to proceed.

Assess your highest ranking cards

While a flush draw can certainly have a big payoff in your favor, it can also lead to losses even if you manage to complete your flush. 

Remember that to win with a flush hand, you have to have the highest ranking flush at the table. Flush rankings are determined by who holds the highest card followed by the second highest and so on. 

If your flush draw consists of low ranking cards, you may want to bow out and save your chips. If you have an ace in your starting hand, then you’re likely off to a good start.

Keep an eye out for potentially better hands

Watch out for community cards that can help other players beat your flush. 

For example, if you have a flush draw consisting of A♣Q♣ from your preflop hole cards and the cards on the table at the turn are T♦️T♣8♣6♣, you do have an ace high flush, but your opponent may have an even better hand like a full house thanks to the pair of tens.

What beats a flush draw?

A flush draw on its own isn’t a complete hand because it’s one card short of a flush, but depending on what cards you have in your flush draw you can be well on your way to winning the poker game.

In terms of overall hand rankings, we already mentioned that a flush is the fifth strongest hand in poker. Even if you get an ace as the high card of your flush, you will still lose in showdown to a full house, four of a kind, a straight flush, or a royal flush.

That said, depending on the cards in your flush draw, you may be on the verge of pulling out one of the two highest ranking hands possible. If your flush draw is one card shy of a royal flush or a straight flush, you’d be wise to see your hand through in any poker room.  

Flush draw probabilities

The odds of drawing a flush are a bit different in a five-card poker game compared to a seven-card game. Here’s how your chances break down in each situation:

Five-card poker variations

There are 1,277 different possible flush hands per suit (not including royal flush or straight flush). In a five-card poker game, like five-card draw, the probability of drawing a flush is 0.1965%, or roughly 509 to 1 odds. 

Seven-card poker variations

In a seven-card game like Omaha or Texas Hold’em, the odds of drawing a flush are much better. Overall, the probability of getting a flush (not including royal flush or straight flush) is 3.03%, or about 32 to 1 odds.

If your starting hand is suited, such as two spades or two diamonds, the probability of getting a flush on the flop is 0.82%. If you’re lucky enough to have two suited connector hole cards, then the probability of getting a flush or better on the flop increases to 0.94%.

Your chances of getting a flush draw on the flop are much better than a flush. If your hole cards are suited, your probability of achieving a flush draw on the flop goes up to 10.9%. Once you have a flush draw, the probability that you’ll complete your flush hand on the turn is about 19.1%, while the probability on the river is 19.6%.

Poker strategy: how to play a flush draw?

An important part of determining your strategy with a flush draw is examining your implied odds. Flush draws that use both of your hole cards have better implied odds than if your flush draw only uses one card from your starting hand. 

If your flush draw only uses one of your hole cards, then that means three suited cards came from the flop. If any of your opponents have either one or two cards from that suit, then they’re either in the same position as you or they’re at an advantage and already completed their flush.

You should also pay close attention to whether the board has any pairs from the flop. If any pairs exist, then your opponents may be on their way to getting a full house.

While it’s not a great idea to chase after a flush draw if the stakes are high, you should consider pursuing any possible combo draws that could result in either a flush or a straight.

Count your outs

Counting poker outs is a helpful technique that gives you a better idea about the strength of your hand. 

In poker, an out is a card that would make your hand better than your opponent’s hand. Knowing how many outs there are for achieving your ideal hand lets you calculate probabilities quickly so you can make fast betting decisions.

For example, if you have a flush draw of spades made up of hole cards and community cards from the flop, then four spades are already accounted for. Since there are 13 total spades in a 52-card deck, then there are nine outs remaining to help you complete your flush.

To estimate the probability of completing your flush on the turn, multiply your number of outs by two. So 9 outs x 2 equals 18%. There’s an 18% chance of completing your flush on the turn. To calculate your odds for getting a flush on either the turn or the river, multiply your outs by four. 

This method isn’t as precise as a formal probability calculation, but it does give you an idea of how likely you are to achieve your intended hand.

Fold equity: re-raising vs calling

Another important component of strategy is determining how confident your opponents really are and calculating their fold equity

Each player who remains in the game has a percentage of equity in the total pot. In a game with five players, each player has 20% equity in the pot. If there are three players, each player has 33% equity. All remaining players will need to decide if they are willing to increase their fold equity by re-raising the pot.

If you’re lucky, you can scare some opponents out of the game before the river by re-raising instead of calling. This technique is especially useful when it’s down to you and one other player.

What to do if your opponent calls?

If the aggressive approach of re-raising doesn’t seem to deter your opponent, you’ll need to decide how serious you are about your odds, especially if the turn doesn’t reveal the card you need to complete your flush.

If you still only have a flush draw after the turn, your outs give you an 18% chance of getting the final flush card on the river. Consider how aggressively your opponent is playing. Is there a pair on the table? Are there suited cards on the table? Even if you complete your flush, you may still lose to a stronger hand.

If they call your re-raise, you may as well check. If your opponent also checks, you’ll be able to see if the river will help you at all, making your decision that much easier.

Unfortunately, there’s no one right answer for how to handle a pot that’s increasing beyond your comfort zone. That’s why experience, the ability to read people, and a realistic understanding of odds are all such important factors for poker players.

The takeaway

While a flush draw in poker may seem like a path toward winning, there are a few important factors to consider in your strategy. 

The sooner you get a flush draw, the better your odds of achieving a flush. Having a high card like an ace or a king will help the overall value of your flush if you are up against another flush at showdown.

If you’re not sure how to respond to other players’ bets, pay close attention to your outs and the other community cards on the table. If you’re lucky, you can turn the fifth ranking hand into a significant pot win.