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Hand 2 Hand Combat -- Bernard Lee

Deuce To Seven For Dummies

by Card Player News Team |  Published: Nov 01, 2011


Good poker players hone in on what their edge is and utilise whatever that may be to bring home the bacon. It’s no longer as easy as it once was with the standard of play in Texas hold’em these days, and the fish who were once generous donators in pot-limit Omaha have, in most parts, learned by their mistakes or are beginning to do so.

Why not study another game and stay ahead of the pack? Bernard Lee suggests deuce-to-seven single draw and in this special edition of Hand 2 Hand Combat, the 2011 World Series of Poker $1,500 no-limit deuce-to-seven fourth-place finisher discusses the basics of the game, beginner strategy, the incredible importance of position, and much, much more.

Rebecca McAdam: So why deuce to seven Bernard?

Bernard Lee: I wrote a column on ESPN a couple of years ago and a part of that column was — “Is a World Series bracelet something you really want?” And I think for a lot of people that’s their goal, they come out [to the WSOP] and their goal is to win a bracelet and they’re playing in no-limit events. Well we’re breaking no-limit events every single time they have a $1,500 or a $1,000 [event]; 3,000 people, 3,700 people; you do the math, the odds are pretty slim that you’re going to win one, besides the fact that everyone knows how to play no-limit and you’ve got to make it through three solid days. So my comment was you better start learning some mixed games and PLO is another one of those games where there are just too many masters out there. So, there are a few games left and I think deuce-to-seven is one and stud is another because stud attendance has actually gone down. So I’ve really worked hard on my stud/stud eight-or-better because that’s what I grew up playing and then I actually looked at deuce-to-seven; I personally don’t like the triple-draw version as much, I don’t mind it but I really like the deuce-to-seven no-limit and the reason being is you can incorporate so many no-limit hold’em concepts to it and because I’ve worked on that game so long it’s really been a game that I think suits my personality very well. I just missed the money in last year’s event and I was really happy to make the final table this year.

RM: You’re saying there are similar concepts between the game and no-limit hold’em, is that why there has been a resurgence in the game’s popularity in the past couple of years?

BL: Yeah you get a lot of no-limit hold’em young players who kind of stumble upon it, they figure it out, they say, “Oh well there’s another no-limit event” and try it. They play it and at the end of it they say, “This is my favourite new game.” If you play it and you don’t mind the draw aspect of it, the no-limit version of it, the aggression, position, all of this, it’s so much fun and it’s a new game, and after a certain point you want something different to hold’em, so I believe there is going to be a resurgence in this game and don’t be surprised in a few years if it has more people playing in it than stud.

RM: So now is the time to get in there…

BL: Yeah and really learn the game because in hold’em you sit down and everyone knows the concept, the tournament director isn’t on the mic explaining the directions of the game. In deuce-to-seven, they’re explaining the directions of the game, there are people who really don’t know how to play the game and in a lot of respects there is some dead money out there and there are very few events at the World Series that are that way. There are a lot of people who really don’t understand a lot of the strategies to the game.

RM: Let’s get down to business, what are the basic rules of the game?

BL: The basic rules of the game are very similar to no-limit hold’em in the sense of first there are only seven players, you can’t have nine or ten because you’re drawing, you have five cards each. There is a small blind, a big blind, and there is a button. The one major difference is you can’t limp in to the pot predraw or preflop, you have to raise. The only situation is if it is 25-25 and the small blind can check the option. Then you get five cards, after the first predraw betting is done, you go by position, so the earlier position players have to say “I want one” or “Pat”; pat means don’t take a card. You can draw up to five if you really want — I actually saw a player draw four three times in one day which is ridiculous but we’ll let that one go. Typically, you’re not drawing more than one or two, there are situations where you might draw three — it’s like defending your big blind kind of thing, especially if you think the button is just trying to steal. Then after the draw you have a post-draw bet, and it’s no-limit so you basically have to bet the minimum of the big blind or you can shove all in, so that’s pretty much the basics of deuce-to-seven no-limit.

RM: Tell me about the importance of position.

BL: Position is everything! The reason why it’s so important is in no-limit hold’em you get to see what they do act-wise in betting, in deuce-to-seven you get to see what they do drawing and that’s so huge because if they draw one, it might change what you do in your hand, if they draw none, it might change what you do with your hand. One of the golden rules in that is the odds state that if someone throws one card away, you should hold with a jack pat or better, if they throw away two, you should hold a queen pat or better.

If you’re going to draw, it would be better to be drawing to a “something smooth” than a “something rough” and what I mean by that is I would almost rather have say J-5-4-3-2 than 10-9-8-7-2 and the reason being is if the first person does take one card, you can keep with a jack-smooth but if they stay pat, well I’m throwing away the jack and I’m drawing to a 5 where I could get a 7 or an 8. If you have a 10-9-8- something, even if you throw away the 10, your best drawing is to a 9, and so that’s why having smooth draws is so important, and again, add that to position, now I can determine whether I’m going to draw for that or I’m going to wait, depending on what the first person does. That’s why position is so key in no-limit, there are a lot of hands I’m just going to muck in early position that I might easily raise with in later position.

RM: What happens then if you have position and you draw a card and you pair your hand, what should you do as a beginner?

BL: Well, I think as a beginner you need to let it go because you’re just going to get yourself into trouble. If the person bets out in front of you, you have one of two options, you’re never calling there, the odds of you winning on a paired hand is slim, so you’re either going to try to raise to get the person off the hand or you’re just going to fold. If you’re a beginner, fold; let’s be honest, to make that raise you’re really going to have to know the player to say “will that player lead out” etc., so as a beginner, just fold.

RM: Do you see a lot of bluffing?

BL: A ton, absolutely. That’s really what makes this game so interesting. I was fortunate enough to have talked to Billy Baxter, who is the master, for three or four hours, I actually spoke with him right before the final table, and asked him for some advice. He said it’s the purest game of poker, you either have it or you don’t. What makes it very interesting is because of the aggression of a lot of the young online players, they obviously have a tendency to bluff more, which also means they have a tendency not to believe you as well. So you may be pushing with a hand that looks like you’re bluffing and they may call you with a queen because they don’t believe you and then you flip over a decent hand. It’s a very interesting dynamic; you’ve got the old school players, the Billy Baxters of the world, the Chris Bjorns, and then you have all the young Internet players who are trying to utilise aggression more than the real, old-school strategies.

RM: For a beginner like me, is there an easier way to think about what hands I should be playing?

BL: Yeah, I’ve always said you should never try to draw to more than one, it’s just really pointless. Sometimes, maybe if you’re defending your blind and you have 7-3-2 which is a great drawing, that’s a different story, but I try to say to everyone try to draw to one, and if you’re going to be drawing to one, you realy want to be drawing to 9 or better, 10 is still a stretch. I tell everyone a number combination that I think if you remember it, it will really help you; 4,5,9. There are four 7’s, there are five 8-5 or 8-6’s, and there are nine 8-7’s. There are 18 hands that are eight-or-better. Now you think about it and say, “Ok, what if I have a nine?” There are 38 nine combinations. There are more than double nine-combinations than there are eights ands sevens, so you can see how powerful an eight or a seven is. Let’s not even get into 10s.

That’s why if you have a nine, especially a nine smooth like a 9-6-5-3-2 you’re still in the top 25 number of hands, so for me, I like drawing to the 9. I’m probably a little bit more conservative than the players out there, but if drawing to a 10 you want to be drawing to more the smoother end to the 10 than say 10-9-8, if you have 10-9-8 it’s a much harder draw.

RM: A lot of hold’em players probably wouldn’t have heard the term “snowing”, can you explain it?

BL: To be brutally honest, snowing is a term that is more for triple draw than for single draw. This is something that a lot of young players make a big mistake with; they think you can snow in deuce-to-seven single draw, it’s really very hard to do that. To take a step back, in triple draw if you don’t have a deuce or a seven in your hand you almost don’t play because it’s really hard, you have to have an 8 or a 7 to really win in triple draw because you’re drawing so many to get there. But if I have 8-6-5-4-3, I have a great hand in deuce-to-seven single draw, I don’t care if you have four deuces, I don’t go out of my way to look for a deuce in single draw, of course it helps but I’m not going out of my way, whereas in triple draw you are going out of your way to look for that card. I saw somebody try to snow and they said, “I had three 6’s and two 4’s.” So what? I don’t really get it. I literally said, “Oh yeah, I guess that’s the best way to play the hand” and just left it at that. Maybe I shouldn’t be saying it… but snowing in single draw is much harder than in triple draw.

RM: What is the best way for a beginner to improve in the game?

BL: Obviously to practice, and now the problem is it’s hard to; I would say to anybody outside the U.S. go online, they’re now on all the sites and it’s a good opportunity to practice. Kind of get a feel for what’s good and bad because I think a lot of people put a lot more equity into jacks or 10 pats and try to shove with them and not realise well maybe if he drew one he could be drawing to a good hand. I would read up; there are some strategies out there but you really have to play the game and get a feel for it and then you’ll have a better feel to potentially play a World Series event. ♠