What is a ‘Backdoor Straight’?
A backdoor straight is a poker hand that contains three elements of a straight after the flop. To complete a valid straight, the player must find their missing elements during the turn and the river. Backdoor straights might become an ‘inside straight‘ or ‘outside straight’ after the turn, if one of the missing values was found during that turn. The term appears most frequently in hold’em poker, but is also sometimes associated with stud poker games.
‘Backdoor Straight’ Explained
In poker, a straight is a five-card hand that contains any run of consecutive values, usually ranked in ascending order. For example, a hand of 4-5-6-7-8 is a straight, as is a 8-9-10-J-Q hand. In a lowball game, A-2-3-4-5 (the ‘wheel‘) is the best straight hand; in a traditional game, 10-J-Q-K-A is the top straight hand. The high straight can only be beaten by a flush or royal flush hand – the royal flush is a straight using all of the top cards, who also share the same suit.
If a poker player is aiming to build a straight in their hand during a hold’em or draw game, they might find themselves holding a ‘backdoor straight’ after the flop. This is a hand containing three cards (from the board or in the player’s hand) which are part of a straight run – for example, a 5 in the hand and 6-8 on the board. If the turn and the flop find one each of 7 and either 4/9, the player has completed their straight – but the player is relying on hitting one of three values in just two picks.
Backdoor straights are hard to complete, but they might form part of a hand that could take a different direction. For example, the backdoor straight outlined above might fail to find the 4, 7 or 9 – but could turn up another 6 and 8. The player finds themselves with a reasonably strong two-pair hand in this instance, and can still risk the play.
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