Playing Backdoor Draws

In poker a backdoor draw, also known as a ‘runner runner’ draw, is a draw where you need two more cards to complete your hand. Due to the low chance of hitting one of these draws they are very weak by themselves but can add value to hands that already have some equity.

Example hand 1

You have Ah Kh on a board of Ks 8h 3d. You have top pair top kicker and a backdoor flush draw. Two more hearts (or ‘running’ hearts) will give you a flush. In this example your hand is already very strong but the backdoor hearts give your hand a little boost in equity.

Against an opponent with Ad Kc which has the same current hand value (top pair top kicker) this backdoor flush draw is enough to boost your equity by 2.273% up to 52.273%. In this way you are said to be free-rolling your opponent because you can’t lose but there is a chance you will scoop the whole pot. This is one of the reasons why suited hands are so strong.

In the above example your hand is strong already and the backdoor flush draw just adds a little value to it. Sometimes your hand will consist of several weaker draws.

Example hand 2

You have Qd Jd on a board of Td 6c 2s. Here you have two over cards, a backdoor diamond draw as well as a backdoor straight draw. There are a lot of turn cards (10 diamonds and 3 non-diamond aces, kings, nines and eights) that will improve your equity by giving you a flush draw, a straight draw or both and you also have 6 outs to hit top pair.

Backdoor draws in different games

In limit games the price of calling a bet can often be small compared to the total pot size giving you the opportunity to continue with backdoor draws more often. In no limit and pot limit games the size of each bet can vary between a big blind and your whole stack. How you play backdoor draws in these games will vary based on your opponent’s tendencies, the pot and bet sizes and any other strength that your hand has.

When your hand has value other than your backdoor draw (like in example 1) you can often call bets or bet and raise yourself no matter what the structure of the game you are playing is. If however your hand consists mainly of weak draws the ability to continue in the hand will vary.

Backdoor draws summary

Players will often complain of a ‘suck out’ when someone hits one of these draws but usually the backdoor draw was not the only way the player could win. Remember to consider any backdoor draws when trying to estimate how much equity you have. Your opponents will often not put you on a flush or straight that has been backed into so use this to your advantage when trying to extract maximum value on the river when you hit.

For more strategy tips, check out the rest of poker strategy section.