Playing Speculative Hands in NL Hold’em
When you are playing No Limit Texas Hold’Em there are hands that are sometimes worth playing for deceptive purposes. The reasoning behind playing speculative hands is that when you do hit them you can often stack your opponent.
There are several different types of speculative hands. What we are talking about are hands that have some equity in the pot, but are not likely to be the best at the moment. These hands include Over Cards with either backdoor Straight or Flush draws. Gutshots, Pairs with Flush or Straight draws, and pure Over Cards.
Gutshots and Bellybuster Straight Draws
This is a deceptive draw, but one that can get you into trouble if you play it wrong. Essentially, this is an inside straight draw. You will need to catch one of 4 cards to make your hand. For instance, you might have 7c8s and the flop is 3c-4d-6c. You need to catch a 5 to make your hand.
If there are several people to the flop you need to play these hands cautiously. In the example above you have over cards, but they might not be good with a multi-way pot. Also, there is a flush draw that could kill your hand. If the turn is a 5c then you make your hand, but you might lose to any two clubs.
However, when you are heads-up, a Gutshot with overcards is a good hand to play. If you do hit your straight you can oftentimes win a large pot off of a player holding an overpair, a set, or even two pair.
The ideal situation with a Gusthot is to have backdoor outs. This is why professionals recommend playing suited connectors as opposed to offsuit cards. For instance, if you have 7d-8d then you would add a backdoor flush draw to your hand.
When the river comes and there is no flush possible, and the board does not pair, then you have a chance to win a big pot. If your opponent is holding something like pocket Jacks, two pair, or a set, they will be hard-pressed to toss their hand. This will allow you to put in a large bet or even check-raise the river.
Over Cards are good speculative hands to play heads-up. Over cards can be very powerful. They are best if they are suited and connected. This allows you to have straight and flush outs. But oftentimes the overcards are enough.
If you have Kh-Qh then you have a powerful hand on a low flop. When the flop comes 2c-5c-Th, you are going to want to continue on with the hand for a reasonable bet. You have 6 out as well as backdoor straights and flush cards. If the turn is any Jack, Ace or Heart you will increase your outs.
Of course, it needs to be said that you have to take pot odds and player stacks into consideration. You never want to chase a costly draw for the wrong odds. Also, it is important to look at the other player’s stack. If they are short stacked and you call a bet from them on the flop, then their turn bet might be quite large, even all-in.
Likewise, if they are deep stacked, then you are getting good implied odds. If you do hit the nut flush, or the nut straight, you are sometimes going to win their whole stack. This is why it is essential to keep the other person’s stack in mind when calling or betting.
There are many types of straight draws. The best is to have a pair and a straight draw or an open-ended draw. The open-ended draw is even better when you have a flush to go with it. A hand like 7s-8s with a flop of 5s-6s-10d is great as you have an open-ended straight flush draw. Against a random hand, you have around 65% equity. Against bottom two pair, you are a slight favorite. Against top two pair or a set, you are only a slight dog.
Some people like to play these hands super fast and check-raise for stacks. You will likely get it in against overpairs (Aces, Kings, etc…) and sets. Depending upon your opponent you might also get it in against Ax-Tx .
Other people like to slow play and call, but if the turn does not improve your hand your equity drops considerably. This is why you will often see people try and get their stacks in on the flop. If your opponent is pot controlling they likely have an overpair and are looking for a safe turn card. Then, they will feel safe and put the bets in.