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Column: Kevin Haney's Introduction To Triple Draw Poker Strategy

Haney Kicks Off Newest Card Player Magazine Series With Triple Draw

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Possessing a marvelous blend of luck and skill, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw Lowball (27TD) is a great gambling game that produces a lot of action and large pots. Although it is very easy to learn, and on the surface appears to simply reward those who catch cards the best, this variant offers skilled players plenty of opportunities to reap their competitive advantage.

Being a one-winner game, the game moves fast and the swings will be large, so buckle up and try to enjoy the ride! Maintaining composure when the road gets a little bumpy is a critical skill as 27TD has had many a player unwisely chasing their loses in other games in the mix.

The game is played with blinds, and in these articles we will discuss it when played in a limit format. Typically, the game is played six-handed, although in some live mixed-games it is not uncommon to see it played with seven or even eight players.

As the name of the game implies, the best possible holding is 7-5-4-3-2 as aces are considered high and straights and flushes count against you. This hand is also referred to as “number one” or a wheel. Whenever a player ends up with a seven low, they will often call out their hand as no. 1 (7-5-4-3-2), no. 2 (7-6-4-3-2), no. 3 (7-6-5-3-2), or no. 4 (7-6-5-4-2). When making one of the eight lows, players will often announce their hands as “eight perfect” (8-5-4-3-2), “eight-six” (e.g. 8-6-5-3-2) or “eight-seven” (e.g. 8-7-5-4-2).

Since there are three draws, the average strength of hands seen at showdown will be much stronger than those in no-limit 2-7 single draw. At the onset of every hand your goal should be to try and make an eight low or better. There are a few exceptions that we will discuss later in the series, and worse holdings will often drag pots particularly heads-up, but this should be your mindset when entering a pot.

There are 18 different eight or better lows:

Holding
1 7-5-4-3-2
2 7-6-4-3-2
3 7-6-5-3-2
4 7-6-5-4-2
5 8-5-4-3-2
6 8-6-4-3-2
7 8-6-5-3-2
8 8-6-5-4-2
9 8-6-5-4-3
10 8-7-4-3-2
11 8-7-5-3-2
12 8-7-5-4-2
13 8-7-5-4-3
14 8-7-6-3-2
15 8-7-6-4-2
16 8-7-6-4-3
17 8-7-6-5-2
18 8-7-6-5-3

It’s very rare to be dealt one of these holdings from the get go, thus most of the time we will be starting with a one- (D1) or twocard (D2) draw in an attempt to build an eight-or-better holding. When stealing or defending blinds, we will also be playing three-card draws (D3).

Core Fundamentals of 27TD

The deuce is by far the most important card in the game and no other rank is even close. As you can see in the chart above, only four of the top 18 hands do not contain a deuce. If you get involved in a multi-way pot without a deuce you are chasing a card that is often in very limited supply.

Suppose from first position in a six-handed game, you make what is often considered to be a loose open with 7-5-3-X-X and get calls from the button and both of the blinds. In this situation it’s highly likely that a few deuces are accounted for, and without one the best possible hand you can make is no. 13 (8-7-5-4-3). The 8-7-5-4-3 is not a good hand to try and build against many opponents, thus you will often lose many chips chasing that elusive deuce or making a costly second best low.

Novice players will not fare well in these types of situations and tend to chalk it up to bad luck, whereas experienced players would have simply folded pre-draw without the deuce. Whenever you learn a new game it’s in your best interest to quickly identify the beginner mistakes that will cost you a lot of money and this is one of them.

Playing two-card draws without a deuce from early position such as 7-5-3, 8-4-3, and 8-5-4 are clear leaks. From later position, they are playable as it’s much less likely the pot will be contested multi-way and with players folding ahead of you the deuces you require are generally more live.

After the deuce there is no other specific key card, although it stands to reason that in order to make a seven- or an eight-low, somewhere along the way you must acquire either a seven or an eight. One card draws such as 5-4-3-2 and 6-5-4-2 are relatively strong, however with them you can only catch one of the remaining sevens or eights to make an eight-or-better low. In addition, you are also in danger of making a straight on the final draw and thus have no showdown value.

In contrast, draws such as 7-5-4-2 and 8-6-3-2 have three different ranks that will complete an eight-or-better low. Some players overrate a 5-4-3-2 draw. While it does look pretty, it is actually an underdog to most other one-card draws. Two-card draws such as 4-3-2 and 5-4-2 are still premium starting hands because when you catch a seven or an eight you have a really good draw, and when drawing multiple cards your odds of getting one of these cards is greater.

Position is very important in all draw games because not only must we decide whether to call, raise, bet, or check, but we must also choose how many cards to draw, if any. The in-position player is thus afforded more information, can make more money on their best hands, and over-realize their equity. Playing out-of-position in a draw game is somewhat akin to playing hold’em where every flop is destined to be “wet” or draw heavy. In hold’em on a draw-heavy flop the values of hands can alter drastically as the hand proceeds, and this is most often the case in 27TD.

A simple example can demonstrate just how important position is in 27TD. Suppose on the second draw two players were each drawing one card and they each end up with the same exact hand, 10-7-4-3-2. The first player to act has a somewhat tough decision on how to proceed because he does not know the result of his opponent’s draw, a ten-low is mediocre, and he has a premium draw underneath.

The strategic considerations are too numerous to get into within this introductory article but what will (or at least should) often occur here is that the first 10-7-4-3-2 will check and call his opponent’s bet and draw to the seven. The second 10-7-4-3-2, having the advantage of position, will see his opponent drawing and can pat the ten as a 60 percent favorite in the hand. Two players have the same exact hand; however, the value of position allows the second player to gain an equity advantage in what may be a sizable pot.

The ability to exchange reverse implied odds for implied odds is a very important concept in 27TD and will often guide our decisions particularly early on in the hand. For example, suppose a solid player opens from early position, the cutoff flats, and we are in the big blind with a hand such as 8-7-6-2 or 8-7-5-2. Our best play here is probably to simply call and draw two.

By doing so we are reducing the amount of times we will make an eight or better holding, however, building rough 8-7-6-X-X or 8-7-5-X-X lows out of position against multiple players is tricky business. In the long run we will probably fare much better just simply taking our pot odds and trying to make very strong holdings. If you are somewhat new to the game, this advice should help you out tremendously as you will more often have a strong hand on the turn as opposed to mediocre holdings which can be put into many difficult situations.

In the next installment we will begin to examine the various starting hands and the positions from where we can usually play them.

Kevin Haney is a former actuary of MetLife but left the corporate job to focus on his passions for poker and fitness. He is co-owner of Elite Fitness Club in Oceanport, NJ and is a certified personal trainer. With regards to poker he got his start way back in 2003 and particularly enjoys taking new players interested in mixed games under his wing and quickly making them proficient in all variants. His new mixed-games website Counting Outs is a great starting resource for a plethora of games ranging from the traditional to the exotic. He can be reached at haneyk612@gmail.com.