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Poker Strategy: The Fundamentals of Snowing In Triple Draw With Randy Ohel

by Steve Schult |  Published: Sep 23, 2020


The World Series of Poker is typically the one time of the year where all of poker’s variants, not just no-limit hold’em, are on display at the highest level. Randy Ohel is a fixture in those other games. He is a successful regular in the high-stakes mixed game scene, both in tournaments and in cash games.

Ohel has a WSOP bracelet from his victory in the $2,500 deuce-to-seven triple draw in 2012, and has cashed in several other variants, including runner-up finishes in the 2018 $10,000 deuce-to-seven triple draw, the 2016 $10,000 seven card stud hi-lo championship, and the 2014 $10,000 HORSE championship.

The Florida native and Las Vegas resident has more than $2 million in live tournament earnings, almost exclusively in mixed events. Ohel has delved into the coaching realm of poker and is currently taking students to learn non-hold’em games. He can be found on Twitter @RandyOhel.

In an effort to provide readers with a solid fundamental strategy of mixed games, Card Player sat down with Ohel to break down a hand he played himself at the final table of his deep run in the 2018 $10,000 deuce-to-seven triple draw championship.

Four-handed at the final table, action folded to Randy Ohel in the small blind. Ohel raised and Nicholas Seiken three-bet from the big blind. Ohel four-bet and Seiken called. Each player took one card. After the first draw, both players checked and each took one card again.

After the second draw, Ohel bet and Seiken called. Ohel stood pat and Seiken took one. Ohel bet the river and Seiken called. Seiken mucked his hand when Ohel tabled his 8-low.

Steve Schult: There were four players left in the tournament and action folds to you in the small blind.

Randy Ohel: The first thing I want to point out is that the number of players dealt in, in triple draw, matters. Not all small blinds are created equal.

SS: Why?

RO: Because folded cards are not random. They are selected. So the types of cards that are folded just have a smaller proportion of low cards, particularly deuces, than random cards do. The remaining cards are richer.

SS: Does that mean in triple draw that you’re going to have fewer steals in what would be considered more traditional steal spots in hold’em?

RO: You’re obviously going to open weaker than you would from up front. You can play a wider range when you are opening the pot three-handed on the button, than when it is folded to your button six-handed, just as an example.

SS: You raise from the small blind, Nicholas Seiken is in the big blind and he three-bets. You make it four bets and he calls. Just to touch on starting hand selection, I noticed you didn’t have a deuce in your hand, so which four cards are you likely to have started with there?

RO: I could have had any four of those five cards except for 3-4-5-6.

SS: I’m assuming you can’t have that hand because of the abundance of straights it makes?

RO: First off, if I had 3-4-5-6, I would call the three-bet, draw two and pitch the six. It’s just a terrible draw.

SS: Would you be four-betting any two-card draws?

RO: Absolutely not. It’s my entire pat and one-card draw range. There are no one-card hands that I am only calling with and there are no two-cards that I’m raising with.

SS: From Nick’s position in the big blind, would he be three-betting some of the better two-card draws?

RO: He should be, yes.

SS: Is there ever a reason to five-bet and cap it with a one-card draw if you were in Nick’s position from the big blind?

RO: No. Any five-bet is going to be only pat hands.

SS: If you were Nick, what do you expect your hands that just call the four-bet to look like? Is it going to be stronger or weaker than your draw?

RO: I think it will be similar. He might have a few more four-card nines and I could have some of those too. But once I face the three-bet, I would probably pitch the nine and draw two, so I shouldn’t have too many of those. He should have some four-card nines without a deuce. Maybe 9-7-5-4 or 9-7-6-3.

The reason for that is that he hopes that I’m drawing three and I’m more likely to be drawing three than I am to be drawing one. And he’s likely to win the pot on the flop or the turn. And he’s in position, so he can control the betting a little bit. Meanwhile, the draw isn’t very good if you break off the nine. So some of the rough nine draws should be played as a three-bet draw one there. Not any 9-8’s really, but 9-7.

SS: You both check after you each draw one. I’m assuming this means that neither of you improved. Is there any merit to betting if you don’t improve?

RO: Those spots tend to play pretty straightforwardly. There is certainly no sense in betting as the out of position-player. Some people like to bet occasionally in position in those spots, but if I’m up against someone who is going to do that, I’m going to check-raise them sometimes.

Most people will generally play pretty straight-forward in those spots and it’s generally correct to do that.

SS: You decide to bet the turn. Given your flop check, does this mean that you improved and you’re going to be pat here?

RO: Not always. There’s a chance that he raises behind me and I break, but my intention is to pat.

SS: How often is he going to call and then pat behind? Is that something that is generally done in this game?

RO: Definitely. That’s called a “freeze play” when you just call their bet and then pat behind their pat.

SS: Is that going to be a stronger or weaker range from that player in general?

RO: It’s much less polarized than a raising range. I would say it’s overall weaker, but its primary characteristic is a lack of polarization.

SS: What types of hands would tend to use the freeze play?

RO: Rough eights and a lot of nines. Whereas some of the better hands than that and all of the worse hands are going to raise. So it’s very linear, as opposed to the raising range is more polarized.

SS: You pat and he takes one. You bet the river. You’re representing a pretty strong hand at this point. What is roughly the worst hand you could have here?

RO: Somewhere in the 8-7 range. And I obviously have snows.

SS: How do you have many snows here? If you four-bet it pre, draw one, check, draw one, bet, and stand pat, I wouldn’t think you have very many bluffs. What types of hands would you be snowing? Just hands that made pairs with good removal?

RO: We didn’t learn anything about my hand based on my flop action from my preflop range. And nor did we when I four-bet and drew one. All that means is that I have a hand that I want to draw one with. My range going into the turn is the entire range of hands that I want to draw one with. It hasn’t narrowed at all and it hasn’t had to because no action has been out of the ordinary.

I could have anything from 2-3-4-7 to the worst four-card hand. They are all perfectly likely at this point. I am uncapped both on the high end and whatever you would want to call the low end.

SS: But if you were snowing, why would you have checked the flop then? Wouldn’t you want to put pressure on Nick with your bluffs?

RO: Snowing doesn’t mean that I decided to snow from the jump. Most snows are not hands that you’ve decided to snow from the go. Most snows are hands that have progressed into snows.

You’ll tend to take the weaker part of your drawing range and if you start to pair it a couple times, you turn it into a snow. Suppose I started with 3-3-4-5-7. I caught a six and threw that away and then I caught another pair or a six. Maybe now I’m going to snow. Because I’ve seen a number of good cards and my draw is weak because I have a straight draw. That is the prime sort of hand that you would want to snow with.

It’s typically not a decision that one makes pre, although it can be at times.

SS: I guess I’ve always thought about snowing in the sense of you start with something like 2-2-2-K-J and just run with it.

RO: I wouldn’t snow that. I would tend to snow something like sixes full of fives. Or like deuces full of eights. Like full houses or something like 8-8-8-7-5, so its trips, but a bad draw.

The hands that you want to snow with from the jump are hands that would not otherwise be playable. That is the biggest takeaway from this.

SS: When I was looking at this hand, I was assuming that you can’t really be snowing this river, but you can.

RO: I don’t think you’re thinking about how snowing works in the right way. You are limiting it to one particular type of snow. And it’s really the least common. It’s hard to get a full house or trips.

SS: In the updates, it was reported that Nick tanked for two minutes before calling. I was under the impression that this was a faster paced game.

RO: Yeah, it’s very rare for someone to tank that long.

SS: Given that he tanked for so long. What kind of hands do you think he’s considering? Since he called and mucked, we don’t know what he had, but what is your best guess?

RO: I have no idea. If he thinks that I’m bluffing, then a pair of deuces is as good as a 10. It could be any sort of bluff catcher.

SS: You said that a pair of deuces and a 10-low have roughly the same showdown value against your bluffs. What is considered a bluff catcher in this spot?

RO: It should be more based on the blockers that he’s seen because those hands have equal value against my range. A 10 and a pair and a pair of deuces have the same value against my range because of the polarization of my bet.

SS: So he needs to be thinking about which cards he threw away on previous streets?

RO: Right. And which cards I should be bluffing. The point I was making before about how we turn bad draws into snows… the types of cards that a person should have in their hand if they are snowing are fives, sixes, and sevens. And more accurately, it should not have a deuce in it. You are less likely to snow if you have a deuce.

And for that reason, if you want to call a bluff, a pair of deuces is a better call than a 10. Because in this particular spot, it limits the number of times I have a deuce in my hand.

What I’m saying about calling with the deuces is not a hard and fast rule. It applies in this situation because this is a blind on blind battle. But there are many situations that it doesn’t matter how many deuces you’ve seen, unless it’s four of them, because your opponent always has one.

For example, if in a full ring game, I open under-the-gun and draw two, my entire range has a deuce in it. It doesn’t matter if you’ve seen three deuces. I have the fourth because there are no hands that I could have had that don’t have one.

But in this spot, we are in a situation that I very often don’t have a deuce. My range is much rougher than an under-the-gun open in full ring. In this spot, it’s a very relevant blocker. In that spot, it’s not, which is a concept that I think most people don’t realize. ♠