Draws Out of Position in Multi-Way Pots

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We have all been in this situation- We call a pre-flop raise with a speculative (drawing) hand and others come along for the ride. We flop a good but not great draw and are out of position with a few behind us- what is our play?

This article is about playing draws in multi-way pots as the non aggressor, a very common situation that players struggle with all the time. Most players will take a very standard check/call line- this article is about what you can do differently in these situations.

Assume the following scenarios are 100bb stacks and varying opponents. 6 or 9 handed NLHE.

Situation 1(6-max)

A middle position (MP) player opens pre-flop, the Button (BTN) comes along, and we call from the Big Blind (BB) with Td 9d. The flop is 5d Jd 2s. What is our play?

The Standard Play:

In many cases, the ‘standard play’ is to check/call in these situations. (We check, MP bets, we call). That’s not to say it’s a bad play, because it is not. There are a few advantages to check/calling-

  1. It allows us to see a cheap turn. By betting, we can get raised off our hand.
  2. We have good relative position (in that we can check, the pre-flop raiser can bet, the button can decide, and we can close the action). This can be advantageous when we hit our flush.

Problems with Check-Calling the Flop:

There are, however, a few problems with check-calling the flop. One concern is: How do we play the hand if we actually hit our flush? Say we check the flop, MP bets, BTN folds, and we call. The turn is the 3d. (Board reads: 5d Jd 2s 3d). We have two options on the turn-

  1. Lead out- Okay, we hit our flush, TIME TO BET! Oh wait…There are few hands we are doing this with other than a flush. Many players check-raise with sets or two pair on the flop and medium hands such as Jx typically check the turn again. Put yourself in your opponent’s shoes and realize that he probably should not be paying us off with any hand.
  2. Check (and call or raise) – This is not a bad option. The obvious problem is that it gives our opponent the option to check behind due to the turn being a ‘scare card’. This is one of the inherent problems with being out of position, however, and cannot be avoided. When we check-raise the turn we also run into the same situation as leading out- we are not doing this with many other hands other than a flush. Against better opponents, check-calling is superior in most cases.

Alternative Ways to Playing the Flop:

As we briefly discussed, one of the larger problems with check/calling the flop is that our turn action is difficult. This difficulty is not simply due to us having a drawing hand, but also because we are out of position. We may have the same difficulty with this hand if we had a marginal pair as well.

What are some things we can do to alleviate the difficulty of being out of position?

  1. Lead out on the flop- Also called ‘donking’ (betting into the pre-flop raiser); this is an alternative way to play your hand. What are some advantages to leading this flop?a. By leading, we disguise our hand strength. We would more often be doing this with a set or two pair than draws. We also get the chance of taking down the pot immediately.

    b. Our turn action is much more flexible. By betting into the pre-flop raiser, we have shown a vast amount of strength. We can either continue bluffing if we miss (and hit a nice card) or check and decide on other turns. If the actual flush card comes, we have a variety of options.

    c. If the pre-flop raiser raises our lead, we can typically fold. He will not be bluff-raising us very often and we will not be able to call his raise. Contrast that with us checking, him betting with every hand, and us calling- his hand strength is not clarified and ours is somewhat face up as a medium hand/drawing hand.

  2. Check Raising- Another option for our hand. Though this probably is not the best play given our equity against his range, check-raising is a play that one might make in various situations. This play would be more viable if the BTN bet the flop (ie. we check, the Pre-flop raiser (MP) checked and the BTN bet) – his range is likely to be weaker and the Pre-flop raiser is likely to give up). For one, check-raising helps us balance our range by doing it with draws instead of just made hands. We might check-raise this flop a fair amount with a set or other value hands. It also allows us to take the pot down immediately instead of playing the rest of the hand out of position.

Note: Check-raising might be a better play with a hand with weaker or stronger equity than what we have (T9d on Jd 5d 2x). In other words, it might be better with a hand such as A3o (over card + gutter, a weaker draw) or something like Kd Qd (two over cards and a flush draw, a stronger hand). Check raising T9d in this instance isn’t necessarily a bad play, but better options may be available.


In summation, leading in multi-way pots with draws can be an alternative way to play the hand. It is good for balancing our overall range (meaning we do the same action with bluffs as we do with our value hands), good for alleviating being out position, and good for flexibility.

Author Notes/Disclaimer: As with all things in poker, the advice above is very situational. There are many times in which check/calling the flop is the optimal play. This is often in super multi way pots in live games, where there are 4+ opponents in the pot. Another thing to note is that 6-max offers much more flexibility in terms of post-flop options (than full ring), simply due to ranges behind more marginal and the player field being smaller. With regards to the turn action, sometimes you will face an opponent who is so clueless that leading the turn might be the best play when we hit our flush (as in situation #1). So, in summation, ‘it depends’. The goal of this article is not to say “Oh, you must ALWAYS lead draws in multi-way pots,” but to make you think about alternate lines you can take in poker.