There are not a lot of poker topics more subtle than that of backdoor draws. Folks who are too loose and commonly get out of line are more than likely to use it as an excuse to overplay a hand. In contrast, folks who are just learning to play correct disciplined poker think it’s a joke when people talk about backdoor draws. The truth is it does have a legitimate place in poker that we’ll touch on today. I’d also like to give you some examples from non-holdem play as once you have four cards (or more) instead of two, backdoor equity becomes quite a substantial consideration. We’ll talk about non-holdem next time but today let’s start with Holdem. 

The thing about a backdoor draw in Holdem is that it only changes your raw equity in the hand by a small number of percentage points. So can it really matter much if your hand only has 4% better equity? In all poker games, but very much so in no limit Holdem, equity realization is a big issue. When the opponent is putting pressure on multiple streets it’s hard to get to showdown. If you can’t get to showdown you forfeit whatever non zero amount of equity you had. But instead think about what happens on shallow stacks especially in a tournament and how really stupid hands often scoop big pots. The reason that happens is that on shallow stacks even fairly mediocre hands find a way to showdown because SPR is so low (made even lower by the big blind ante bloating the pot). It’s not necessarily bad play when stacks are shallow, in fact it can be quite good play. At showdown sometimes Ace high is good, sometimes bottom pair is good, not to mention getting your full ability to suck out by hitting a 5 outer 2 pair for example. On shallow stacks you make it to showdown more often. The risk versus reward pencils out to just see if you win.

On deeper stacks it is common for those kinds of hands to be unable to make it to the river.

But on deeper stacks if you fold every time you “miss” the flop you are typically folding too much. Continuing when you “miss” makes a lot more sense when something good can happen on the turn and that’s where back door draws come in. They give your hand more playability to continue to the turn with a speculative hand and when the turn is good enough it gives you more playability either to set up a bluff or simply a way to get to showdown on the river. If you suspect 2nd pair might be good it’s a lot easier to find out when you pick up a draw on the turn and then maybe it goes check check on the river after you called two streets and your opponent gives up. You might have folded that same hand without the backdoor draw because it would be too hard to call the 2nd barrel.

So in Holdem it’s quite a bit less about the raw equity improvement to your hand of going runner runner and more about the combination of getting to showdown more often with speculative hands and occasionally being able to win the pot with a bluff. 

H's Weekly Newsletter

Join a community of like minded poker enthusiasts and get a new poker topic delivered to your inbox every Thursday.

You have Successfully Subscribed!