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Stack Management in Limit Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw Tournaments Part II – The Consequences of Reducing Variance

by Ben Yu |  Published: Feb 05, 2014


In last month’s article, I introduced a play to reduce variance in the late stages of deuce-to-seven triple draw tournaments. It involved not betting in small-edge situations with no fold equity. The most common scenario to use this was when drawing one without improvement while up against a premium draw-two holding, resulting in a check instead of a bet.

Not wagering in these spots makes sense in a vacuum, but changes how subsequent streets are played. Checking transports you to an alternate universe where your hand appears weaker and the pot is smaller by one bet for each player who would have continued.
Let’s examine a deuce-to-seven hand I played at the 2013 World Series of Poker to see how these dynamics work in Bizzaro Triple Draw Land.

It is day two of the $2,500 deuce-to-seven triple draw lowball tournament. Forty-six people remain, of which 30 will make the money. While we aren’t on the bubble yet, we are close enough that there is some value in reducing variance, especially when I’m piloting an under average stack.


It is folded to David Chiu on the button who raises. An unknown player calls from the small blind. I have 7-5-4-2 in the big blind. This is the first time in the hand I have the option to minimize gambling by just calling, as no one rates to fold to a reraise. However, either opponent could still be drawing three cards, so I went ahead and three-bet. Despite wanting to avoid variance, the upsides of betting are large enough that it is worth pumping more chips into the pot. In a more extreme situation, such as on the stone bubble, calling (or even folding) are reasonable alternatives.

First Draw

The small blind and Chiu both drew two, while I pitched one, but bricked. When the small blind checked to me, I checked, and Chiu also rapped the table. In this situation, the payoffs for betting have shrunk. Both opponents only drew two and are roughly 56 percent favorites to have improved. A bet here no longer reaps the immense value that my predraw three-bet did.

One of the consequences of playing my hand in this fashion is that opponents will read it for being weak. When a player reraises predraw, discards one, and then slows down on the next betting street, they are telegraphing a marginal holding such as 7-5-4-3 or 8-7-5-3. By trying to keep the pot small, I have given my rivals this signal, even though I actually have a premium hand. Astute players are more likely to try and bluff me, snow, draw at a worse hand they would have folded otherwise, or payoff with a bluff catcher assuming that my hand strength is capped.

It’s great to be in a situation where you hold cards no one thinks you can have, though most players take this idea too far and end up playing poorly. It’s usually not worth forsaking the best play to deceive opponents because this duplicity can turn out to be irrelevant or even unhelpful. However, my priority here isn’t to trick anyone — it’s to play well and account for tournament factors — but having my hand disguised is certainly a nice bonus.

Second Draw

The drawing repeated itself as we drew two/one/two again. The small blind now bet out. I had bricked and faced a pivotal decision, though I was definitely not folding.
The small blind had just drawn two on the second draw into a weak-looking draw-one player. I would expect his range to contain more rough made hands (such as a nines or tens) than normal. With these, he is likely to fold immediately or break if raised.

When facing two bets, Chiu would also find himself in an awkward situation if he improved to a draw one or a pat nine or ten. However, because of the way I played the last street, he may still continue with these hands or even respond with a snow. This situation illustrates why it’s not worth going to great lengths to deceive your opponents. While we were excited to appear vulnerable one street ago, it’s now more difficult to credibly represent a strong hand.

Even though we have not told a consistent story, most players are incapable of continuing with marginals hands or aggressive snows in this situation, so I still recommend a raise. It’s just important to consider how checking on the last street can affect our fold equity in similar situations.

Why is it suddenly OK to pump the pot on the turn with marginal equity when this entire discussion has focused on reducing variance? Unlike our two previous betting decisions, it’s possible for our opponents to fold, or at least break here. We are not simply shoveling money in the pot under the illusion of value, our plays have other goals — to get our opponents to fold and break.

I raised, Chiu folded, and the small blind completed the action by calling. Let’s compare how this probably would have played out had I simply bet the previous draw. Both players would have called then, and checked to me here. Assuming at least one of them was still drawing two, I would have bet again. In this scenario, Chiu would not fold a made nine or most draw ones. This result isn’t evidence that checking after the first draw was a superior — it just happened to be one of the ways the hand resolved. Checking the flop was a good play because we reduced variance without losing much value, and raising the turn happened to be a separate good play.

Last Draw

The small blind thought considerably before exclaiming “I break, I break!” and pitching one. I was left to decide whether I should also draw one or turn my hand into a snow. If I held weaker cards, I may have tried to win the pot without showdown, but with a wheel draw, position, and superior skills in the draw one/draw one mini-game on the river, I elected not to bluff.

There is a reasonable argument to be made for a snow here given the pot size has swelled to 8.5 big bets already, but I was already happy that my opponent had broken. If he pitched a ten, I had already bought a flip from what was supposed to be a 40/60 in his favor. A broken nine would have been even better, as he rated to be 70/30 if he had stayed pat.

Integrating These Tactics Into Your Game

This hand only showcases a single branch of the decision tree planted by an unconventional first-draw check. If Chiu had decided to continue or the small blind had not bet into me on the last draw, this hand and article would have germinated quite differently. In all of these situations, players will be ill-equipped to deal with this new technology, because all of them are rooted in a check they are unaccustomed to.

While you may also be uncomfortable adopting these plays, that feeling will dissipate with more experience. As the player engineering these situations, you will acquire more exposure to these lines than your opponents will. Players will be forced to play on your terms. Like deception in a poker hand, this is not something I would sacrifice too much for, but it is a great situation to put yourself in when the opportunity presents itself. ♠

Ben Yu attended Stanford University but knew even before finishing that he wanted to embark on a journey to become a one of the finest professional mixed-game players. He made his debut onto the tournament scene in 2010 with a second-place finish in the World Series of Poker $1,500 limit hold’em shootout and followed it up in 2011 by leading the WSOP with seven cashes across six different games. In 2012, he moved to Rosarito, Mexico in order to continue playing online and was enthralled to perform well at the World Championship of Online Poker, including a final table appearance at the $10,300 poker 8-Game High Roller, and a cash in the main event.