Gutshot straight draws are among the weakest drawing hands in poker and among those you want to play carefully and conservatively in most cases. However, these hands often end up being amazing bluffing candidates on certain board textures and can also allow for some profitable calls and big paydays when you hit them.
If you are the kind of player who often doesn’t know exactly what to do with their gutshot straight draw, keep reading and find some good tips on how to play these types of hands.
Keep in mind that there are many scenarios in which you can have a gutshot straight draw and that each warrants a different approach, but some things still apply to most situations.
So, the first question we have to ask is, what is a gutshot in poker, and how do we recognize that we are holding such a draw?
A gutshot straight draw, or an inside straight draw, is a type of drawing hand that can improve into a straight with exactly one card rank.
For instance, on a board of 4h5sJd, holding any 78 combo would mean you have a gutshot straight draw, as any six would make you a straight.
Quite clearly, this type of straight draw is much weaker than an open-ended straight draw, as it only gives you four outs instead of eight. Yet, four outs to what is often the nuts are not nothing, and you should not completely disregard gutshots, as players used to do back in the day.
In fact, such draws can be quite powerful bluffing hands, especially if you hold overcards to the board or a back door flush draw along with them.
Holding a gutshot straight draw in a game of poker gives you exactly four outs to make your straight if we disregard any other outs that might also give you the best hand.
When the calculations are done in full, the odds of making your gutshot are 8.5% to make it on the turn, and 16.5% to make it by the river, assuming you hold your inside straight draw on the flop.
However, using the rule of 4 and 2 is a much easier way to calculate your odds in poker, and it can also be applied to your gutshot draws.
The rule is very simple to use, as you will multiply the number of outs you have with the number 4 if you are looking for odds for both turn and river and by 2 if you are just looking for river odds.
In this case, you have four outs, which would give you 16% odds for turn and river combined and 8% odds for river only, which is very close to the true odds of a gutshot straight draw.
However, this formula allows you to quickly calculate your equity in cases where you have a flush draw or overcards to go with your gutshot, making it a very handy tool to use.
There are quite a few ways you can have a gutshot straight draw in a game of poker, and they are certainly not all the same.
For example, holding 3s2c on a board of 5c6dKs gives you a gutshot draw, which will be completed on the turn or river by any 4.
However, apart from hitting the 4 specifically, no other card will really help your hand much. Making a pair of 2s or 3s will not count for much in most scenarios, and you don’t have any other draws to lean back on.
What’s even more, even hitting a 4 will not give you the nuts, as you will be in danger of losing a huge pot to any opponent holding 78 for a higher straight.
On the other hand of this spectrum, there are situations where you hold a hand like QsJs on a board of 4s8c9h for a much stronger straight draw.
In this scenario, any T will give you the nut straight, the best possible hand, while any Q or J will make you the top pair, which will often also be the best hand. In addition, the 4s gives you some chance of making a flush by the river as well.
It is important to recognize the difference between these types of straight draws when playing the game and everything in the middle and make sure not to overplay the former or disregard the value of the latter.
Now that we have fully established what a gutshot straight draw is and what types you can have, it's time to talk about how you can actually play this type of hand for the most profit.
The first thing to recognize is that gutshots are not your strongest draws, as both open-ended straight draws and flush draws give you more outs and, thus, more equity in a hand. However, there are plenty of scenarios where a gutshot can be a hand to play past the flop, turn, and even make big river plays with.
For that reason, let’s go into a few different examples of how a hand might develop when holding a gutshot straight draw and how you may want to play it for the most profit.
Gutshot straight draws in poker have the most value as bluffing hands. Since they don’t have that much pure equity, winning some pots with them without going to the showdown is important.
The best chance you have to do so is when you are the pre-flop aggressor, which means you have the betting initiative which you can use to win the pot on the flop or turn.
For example, let’s assume you opened QsJs from the cutoff in a tournament, and the player in the big blind calls your min-raise with an effective stack of around 50bb.
The flop comes: 9c8s2d
There are 5.5bb in the pot, and your opponent checks to you, as they usually will. You have a very clear bluffing candidate here, as your hand has so much equity, and your opponent is so likely to have missed the board.
You fire out a bet of 2bb, and your opponent calls this bet. At this point, there are many different hands they could have, including any pair and numerous straight draws, as well as various floats that don’t have any real equity at this point.
Note that your opponent will often fold on this type of board as well, which is why the flop bet is mandatory, not just with this hand but with most of your opening range.
The turn comes: Ad
This is the ideal turn card for you to keep barreling on. With 9.5bb in the pot, you can go ahead and fire 6.5 or 7bb. Your opponent will be forced to fold most hands that looked decent on the flop and only be able to continue with hands that the Ace actually improved for the most part.
This example shows the power of a gutshot straight draw as a bluffing hand. If your opponent ended up calling the turn, you would still have a chance to catch a T for the nuts on the river and a J or Q, which will sometimes be the best hand against a pair of nines or eights. On top of that, you can fire another bullet on the river since you will have a clear range advantage.
Let us now consider a different scenario where you flop a gutshot as the pre-flop aggressor. You open the hand with 8c7s from the hijack, and the button calls your raise, other players get out of the way.
The flop comes: ThJhKc
You have flopped a gutshot straight draw, and any 9 will give you a straight. However, there are quite a few negatives to consider as well.
For starters, hitting a 9 on the turn or river doesn’t mean you have the best hand, as any hand with a Q would make a higher straight. What’s even more, the 9h also completes the heart flush.
In this scenario, your opponent is likely to have hit something, having called on the button, but there are certainly still hands that have missed this board in their range.
Yet, on a board like this, you may want to check your gutshot and let your opponent decide on their best action. If they should check the flop, you may still be able to win the pot on the turn or river.
It is also incredibly important to be very careful if you get a free card and make your straight, as this is not a hand you will be able to bet for value very heavily.
We have discussed a couple of examples where we have a gutshot and the initiative, but let us now consider an example in which we are not the last preflop raiser.
Playing a $2/5 cash game, UTG+1 raises to $15, we call on the button holding JhTh, and all other players decide to fold, making the pot $37.
There are several different flops that you can hit in this scenario that will give you a gutshot straight draw, each of them putting you in a different situation.
Flop 1: 7dKsAs
Flop 2: 5d9hKs
Flop 3: 4c7h8h
On Flop 1, we have flopped a straight draw but with two undercards to the middle card on the board. Additionally, the early position opener’s range hits this board quite a lot, so you should proceed carefully.
On a board like this, calling a small flop bet in position can make sense, as turning a straight would give you a chance to win a big pot against a hand like AA, KK, AK, or AQ.
However, should your opponent c-bet for a larger size, you could even go ahead and give up right away. This hand is quite an easy fold when facing more aggression on the turn.
On Flop 2, your straight draw is a bit stronger. Both your cards can make a pair that can beat some of your opponent’s hand, and you have a backdoor flush draw to go with it.
In this scenario, you may often want to turn your hand into a bluff. Facing a bet from your opponent, you may take the aggressive line and go for a raise right away.
Should your opponent call, you can bet again on turns that give you a flush draw or check back cards like J, T, or any other card that doesn't improve your hand, thus seeing a free river.
On Flop 3, you have flopped a monster draw and can choose how to proceed. Both the aggressive and the passive approaches make sense at some frequency.
Not only do you have outs to the nut straight and a very strong flush, but you can also often make a top pair hand that will be good by showdown.
Electing to call a c-bet some of the time and raise some of the time is the best approach, but you will always want to continue with a draw this strong and often put some heat on your opponent if you end up bricking out on the turn.
Traditionally speaking, a gutshot straight draw is not the kind of hand you hope to make in poker, but it is one you are often left holding when the flop is dealt. For that reason, it is very important to learn how to play these types of draws both in and out of position and both as the aggressor and as the defender.
Always remember to count your outs right, calculate your equity, and try to plan the hand for turn and river before you make any flop decisions.
If done right, bluffing with gutshots can be a very profitable strategy, while these draws can also make you a huge profit when calling small bets in multiway pots and getting lucky to make your straight.
In all cases, make sure not to invest too much of your stack on a naked gutshot straight draw, and look for some backup before you start making any big bets or raises.
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