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Breaking Down the Non-Hold’em Games Part 2

In Part 1 of this series we looked at the more common non-Hold’em games like Omaha and the Stud variations. Now it’s time to dive into some of the more obscure games, including all of the draw variations like 2-7 Triple Draw, 2-7 Single Draw, Badugi, and 5-Card Draw. Draw games are often referred to as the "purest form of poker" because the only information you have is your opponent’s actions. There are no community cards as in Hold’em or Omaha and there are no door cards like you find in the Stud variations. You will never see any of your opponent’s cards in these games until showdown. This one factor creates some incredible game dynamics which include a lot of bluffing, light calldowns, and other interesting plays.

Deuce-to-Seven Single Draw Rules

The game currently in vogue by the high-stakes elite is No-Limit Deuce-to-Seven Single Draw. Deuce-to-Seven is a "low-ball" game where the goal in any pot is to make the worst possible hand. Unlike in Razz or Hi/Lo games where A-2-3-4-5 is the nut-low, straights as well as flushes count against you in 2-7. Therefore the best low hand possible is not 2-3-4-5-6 but 2-3-4-5-7, or commonly referred to as "#1". There are four possible "sevens" one can make in 2-7 draw

#1 – 7-5-4-3-2

#2 – 7-6-4-3-2

#3 – 7-6-5-3-2

#4 – 7-6-5-4-2

As you can see the hands are ranked from highest card to lowest. In the example below the 8-7 beats the 9-5 because the 8 is better than the highest card. If both hands contain the same highest card then the next lowest high-card will determine the winner, and so on and so forth:

9-5-4-3-2

8-7-6-5-3

Being a single draw game means there are only two betting streets in each hand and just one draw. Each player will be dealt five cards face-down and the action will revolve around the dealer button just like in NL Hold’em. There will be two blinds posted and the person to the immediate left of the Big Blind will initiate the pre-draw action. Players have your basic betting options: fold, call, or raise. Once this betting round is complete players will then decide how many cards they want to discard. This begins with the player immediately to the dealer’s left. Each player with a hand will then decide whether to draw anywhere from 0 (standing pat) to 5 cards and the action will then be upon the first person who drew. Another round of betting will commence and then a showdown. The best low-ball hand scoops the pot.

Deuce-to-Seven Single Draw Strategy

2-7 NL Single Draw is a game of reading your opponents, abusing position, and fearless aggression. Starting hand selection is somewhat important especially in looser games where you will need to showdown strong hands to win multi-way pots. Strong starting hands include draws to an 8 or better, without the possibility of making a flush or straight. For example:

7c-6c-5c-4c-Ah

The hand above looks much better than it really is. Any 8 or 3 are dead because they make a straight which beats practically nothing and clubs are dead as well because they make your hand a flush. If the action is folded to you on the button you could raise this hand trying to steal the blinds and then, if called, read your opponent’s action to determine if your Ace-high low is good enough or you will need to draw to improve. Conversely, the following hand is a great starting draw:

7c-5h-4d-2c-Ks

This hand is extremely strong and gives you a great draw to #1 as well as many other cards which can easily make you the best hand. In a heads-up pot a Jack-low is consistently a winning hand against someone drawing at least 1 and you can have as many as 24 outs with the above hand to complete a strong low. Those familiar with "semi-bluffing" will realize just how good of a draw that is and will want to play this draw aggressively. Not only can you win the pot without a showdown, but you will also give yourself the opportunity to win a big pot were you to make your draw.

Reading your opponent’s actions is a great way to get a good feel for their hand strength. Observe who raised before the draw and who just called. This information, along with how many cards each player drew, should be enough to get a feeling for each player’s hand strength. This is another reason why playing the majority of your hands from late position is a must in draw games. Not only do you get to see your opponent’s actions pre-draw, but you get to see how many cards they drew before it is your turn to discard. On top of these two advantages you again get to see their post-draw action before it is your turn. This combined with all of the other information can make hand-reading a breeze. It will take some time and practice to perfect your hand-reading skills, but once you learn to focus on the game and break down your opponent’s actions you should be able to beat the game.

Trusting your instincts in Deuce-to-Seven Single Draw is vital to your success in the game. You will need to make some tough decisions without a lot of information which can make the game seem like a glorified guessing game. Stay aggressive, put your opponents to difficult decisions, and use your position at the table to your advantage.

Where to Play Deuce-to-Seven Single Draw

Currently PokerStars is the only major online poker site that offers 2-7 Single Draw. If you are in Las Vegas some card rooms such as the one at the Bellagio might run higher stakes games.

Limit Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw

2-7td is a watered down version of 2-7 NL Single Draw. It is still an intriguing game that appears to be more popular online than its more aggressive counterpart. The game is spread in a lot of high-stakes Mixed Games including PokerStars 8-game which is available in cash game, SNG, and MTT formats. It is not uncommon to see multiple $1,000/$2,000 triple draw games running at the same time.

Limit Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw Rules

There are four betting rounds in triple draw games, one before the first draw and a round after each subsequent draw. The hand rankings are the same as in 2-7 single draw where flushes and straights count against the player and the best possible hand is 7-5-4-3-2. This game is commonly played in a fixed-limit format where players can bet/raise a pre-determined amount on each street. For example, in a $10/$20 game the blinds will be $5/$10 and players can bet/raise in $10 increments before and after the first draw. The final two streets will see the increments double to $20. Action begins on the player to the left of the Big Blind before the first draw and after each draw the player to the left of the dealer will be the first to act.

Limit Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw Strategy

Starting hand selection is important in limit 2-7 as is taking advantage of your opponent’s actions. You want to start with good three-card draws to an 8-low at the worst. In later position you can open up your stealing range to include good two-card draws that include a 7. For example, say it was folded to you on the button and you were dealt:

Kc-Qh-Ts-7c-2d

This hand would be more than acceptable to open because it does have strong hand potential and you will have position on your opponents throughout the entire hand. If your opponents are uncharacteristically tight you could raise even more hands expecting to take down the blinds without much of a fight. Betting after the first draw depends a lot on the cards you catch and how many cards your opponent drew on the previous street. If you are a card ahead of your opponent you should keep betting even if you have not a made hand. For example, you raise in the cut-off and the SB calls. You draw two cards and he does as well. If you improve to a 1-card draw, you should bet when he checks. This gives you the chance to win the pot immediately or charge the SB to draw against you. If he calls and draws two again you should bet after the second draw even if you are still drawing one because you are ahead of his possible holdings.

If you are fortunate enough to make a pat-hand (one that requires no more draws) you should be willing to get a lot of bets in the middle to charge opponents to draw. Even if you make a nut hand you should always bet it because slow-playing does you no good in 2-7. First of all, your opponent will get a free draw that he more than likely would have paid for, and even if you give him a free card he is still an underdog to improve to a hand that will pay you off. You should bet these hands to balance the times where you might "snow" your opponent, which is standing pat with a really bad hand and feigning strength by betting or raising. Snowing is best done when your hand contains a lot of blockers to potentially strong hands. The following example is a great spot to "snow":

Deal: 7c 7d 2s Kh 2c

First Draw: 7c 2s 2d 8h Qc

In this spot we’ve now seen two 7’s and three 2’s, which are the cards most players need to make strong hands. Because of this we can stand pat and represent a strong hand all the while knowing it will be very difficult for our opponents to either have a strong enough hand to continue with or draw to cards they need to complete their hand. This tactic is great in games against thinking players as well because even if you are caught snowing it can pay off in the long run, now that your opponents feel you are capable of bluffing.

Remember to play looser and aggressive in position and tighter and more straight-forward when you are out of position. You can loosen up your stealing range when tight players are in the blinds and even raise a wider range from the cut-off when a tight player is on the button. Against looser players value bet even your mediocre made hands as one of their major leaks will be calling with weak hands. Take notes on your opponent’s tendencies and figure out who can value-bet thinly and who cannot. This can go a long way in deciding whether or not to call post-3rd bets because players who do not value-bet hands like 9-lows will be more likely to be bluffing after drawing one.

Where to Play Limit 2-7 Online

The best site for 2-7 Triple Draw action is without a doubt PokerStars. It seems Stars is the best for all of the obscure mixed games as their large player base can populate even the lesser-known of games. Carbon Poker claims to spread 2-7 as well but the jury is out on the action over there.

Badugi

Badugi is an intriguing draw game where players are only dealt four cards. You might have heard the term "Badugi" thrown around poker tables when a rainbow flop hits, because that is the name of the game. Players are looking to make the worst four-suit hand. The hand rankings resemble a hi/lo game rather than 2-7 as the best hand possible is A-2-3-4 of all different suits. Having a rainbow hand is a must; even the worst rainbow hand will beat a hand with two of the same suit.

Badugi Rules

Badugi follows an identical betting structure to that of Deuce-to-Seven Limit Triple Draw. There are two blinds and the action is on the player to the left of the Big Blind. The first two betting rounds will have the same betting increment and the last two will be double the first two. In a $10/$20 Badugi game the blinds will be $5/$10 and players will bet/raise in $10 increments pre/post-1st draw and in $20 increments after 2nd and 3rd draws. Players will then showdown their hands and the "best" Badugi hand wins.

Determining the winning hand can be a bit difficult, but just like other lowball games it is done looking at the highest card in your hand first. In Badugi the Ace is low and the nut hand is A-2-3-4. Here are some examples to help clarify the winning hand at showdown:

2c-5h-6s-9d>Ac-2h-3s-Jd because the 9 is lower than the Jack

9c-Jd-Qh-Ks>Ac-2h-3s-4c because the latter hand is only a 3-card hand due to the Ac/4c being the same suit

As-5h-Tc-Td>Ac-3s-3d-Qh because A-5-T is lower than A-3-Q

A four-card hand will always beat a three-card hand, and so on. This can seem confusing at first (because it is) but after some time you will get comfortable determining which hand is best at showdown.

Badugi Strategy

A lot of the strategy used in 2-7 Triple Draw will apply to Badugi. You should play aggressively when in later position and attempt to steal the blinds as much as possible. If you are playing in short-handed games you should up your aggression even more as players will be less likely to have a Badugi and will not be able to stand multiple bets. In full-ring games you will need to play stronger hands that have solid showdown value. When drawing to a Badugi you will only have 10 cards that can complete your hand, which can be less than good draws in 2-7. However, making even a queen-high Badugi can be a very strong hand which will do well at showdown. If you are fortunate enough to be dealt a Badugi or draw one early your goal should be to get as much money in the pot as possible. The same can be said for good three-card draws such as Ac-2s-3h. You have more than a 50% chance of making a Badugi after the third draw which will more than likely win you the pot.

Where to Play Badugi Online

The only sites boasting Badugi games are PokerStars and Carbon Poker. PokerStars spreads games from $.25/$.50 up to $400/$800 blinds. The lower stakes games will have a few tables running at each level but the higher stakes games are fairly barren.

Five-Card Draw

Five-Card Draw is one of the most popular games to play because of its exposure in a lot of old movies. Without a doubt most have seen movie scenes in westerns with five-card draw being played for big amounts of money. In these games it seems to take a royal flush to win each pot but I can assure you that is not the case. Just like the draw games illustrated above, five-card draw is all about reading your opponents and using position and aggression to your advantage. Players who can pick the correct spots to bluff and figure out when to value bet their made hands will be big winners in even the toughest games.

Five-Card Draw Rules

Five-Card draw is a simple game with simple rules. Each player is dealt five cards face down and a round of betting occurs. In most games there is a dealer button that moves around to the table, as well as two blinds. The player to the left of the Big Blind begins the action pre-draw and the player to the left of the dealer button is first to act after the draw. There is only one draw in five-card draw and players can draw anywhere from 0 to 5 cards. In a $10/$20 game the first round of betting will be in $10 increments and after the draw the bets/raises must be in $20 increments. There are Pot-Limit five-card draw games that play a bit differently from the fixed limit versions as players can bet/raise up to the size of the pot at any given time.

Standard Hold’em hand rankings apply to five-card draw. The best possible hand is a Royal Flush and the worst hand is just a high-card. After the action is completed players will show their hands and the best five-card hand wins!

Five-Card Draw Strategy

Not to beat a dead horse, but the best strategy in Draw games is aggression and late-position play. That is no different in five-card draw as you should try to use position to your advantage as much as possible. Starting hand selection is also key as even the best players will be unable to overcome constantly being up against stronger hands. In games with an ante it is important to loosen up your starting hand requirements and attack the dead money relentlessly.

The worst hands to open pre-draw will be high-pair hands. Even hands like A-K-x-y-z should be discarded as they will not improve to the best hand nearly enough to become profitable. Opening jacks-or-better is a sound strategy along with your pat (made) hands and strong draws such as four-card flush draws and even straight-flush draws. These hands are best played when you will have position on your opponents and can manipulate the size of the pot to your advantage. The best five-card draw players are incredibly observant and use all the information available to make the best informed decision possible. Just like in stud games it is difficult to play more than one table at once because you need to remember each and every action during a given hand. If you find yourself losing focus at the table take a break and come back at a time where your mind is fixed on the game at hand.

Where to Play Five-Card Draw Online

Five-Card is slightly more popular than the other card games and that can be seen in the number of rooms offering the game. PokerStars again is the leader offering a wide variety of stakes in both Fixed Limit and Pot-Limit five-card draw. Other sites such as Poker Room and Paradise Poker will run five-card draw, but you will not find too many games going at once.

In Part 3 we will look into the most obscure card games around, including pineapple and Chinese poker.

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