How to Play Gutshots in Poker

A gutshot (or inside) straight draw is when you hold a draw to a straight that requires one specific card for you to make your hand. For example, if you hold K-Q, and the flop reads 10-9-4, then you would need a Jack to complete your straight. These hands are obviously less advantageous than if you were holding that same K-Q on a board that read J-10-4 because then you would be open-ended with either an ace or nine completing your straight.

Inside Straight Draw Odds

No reason to sugar coat it, your odds of hitting a gutshot straight draw are not great. You have an 8.5% chance of hitting your draw on the turn, and a 16.5% chance of making your hand on the river. 

When it is Best to Check

If you hold the lower cards that could complete your gutshot straight draw-  for example 8-7 on a flop dealt J-10-2 - then you are in a further position of weakness. You should simply check, in the hopes you see another card for free that could be the nine you’re looking for to make a straight. If you were also to hold a flush draw with a suited hand, then it could be a good spot to semi-bluff from depending on your position and the reads you have on your opponents since you have many more outs.

Going for Gutshot Straight Draws When You Won’t Hold the Nuts

If your gutshot straight draw won’t make the best hand - even if you get there on the draw - then you’re at a further disadvantage because you don’t hold the nuts. A good example of this is if you hold 5-4 unsuited and the flop reads 8-7-3 rainbow. Even if you find the six, anyone with a 10-9 or 9-5 will have you beat. It is never ideal to try for a gutshot straight draw in the first place, outside of certain situations, but this is an even worse spot to do so and it ties into the next point well - the dreaded dirty out. This all goes to say that if you chose the risk of going for a gutshot straight, at least be drawing to the nuts when you get there to make your opponents pay you off.

Inside Straight Draws; Dirty Outs

Beware the dirty out! That out you need might not be the card you’re looking for after all. A pretty obvious example of this is when you hold Js 10s on a flop reading 8h 7h Kd. Your opponent might be holding suited hearts, so if the nine you were looking for on the turn or river just so happens to be the 9h then your hand is counterfeited. This is an unlikely scenario for sure, but just something else to be aware of when you’re in the risky situation of playing a gutshot straight draw in the first place.

When You’re out of Position in Multi-Way Pots 

This one is rather obvious, but while a big pot may look juicy in terms of paying off your draw when it gets there, it most likely won’t come to fruition - and you’re just going to waste your stack as a calling station along the way. If your opponents give you a free pass by checking, then by all means continue for sure, but fold your hand quickly if you face any bets.

Playing as a Preflop Aggressor

If you bet the flop with an inside straight draw, you don’t always have to follow that aggression with a bet on the turn. You can check in the hope the river card brings you that last card you needed if your opponent gives you a free pass, and if that card falls on the river you should be able to make one last good value bet to pay off the risk you took in the hand. 


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