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Poker Strategy With Kevin Haney: Triple Draw Lowball Starting Hands

Haney Continues His Latest Card Player Magazine Strategy Series

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Check out Haney’s Introduction to Triple Draw Lowball here.

Proper hand selection is critical to your overall success in Deuce-To-Seven Triple Lowball (27TD) as it is in most draw games. Once you enter a pot the odds are often to correct to remain and keep drawing thus any errors in judgment on the first betting round will often compound upon themselves. In this issue we will begin to examine the various holdings that you can play, and from what position in a six-handed game.

Pat Hands

A pat eight or better is obviously quite a good hand and you will be dealt one of these around .71 percent of the time. As a point of reference, in hold’em you are dealt aces or kings around .90 percent of the time thus being dealt one of these pat hands is slightly rarer than that.

Against one player any pat eight should be kept, however, when up against two or more opponents one should strongly consider breaking a hand such as 8-7-6-5-2 and draw to a seven. Our hand is very rough and with multiple opponents drawing to beat it we will often face difficult decisions down the road. In close decisions we should tend to choose the action that will gain us implied odds in lieu of reverse implied odds particularly when it is still early in the hand.

Pat nines should most often be broken, for example, holdings such as 9-7-5-4-2 and 9-8-5-4-2 are clear breaks because with three draws you are a favorite to end up with the same hand or better by the end. Patting one of these nines with such a smooth draw underneath is a clear mistake and every time you do so a baby sloth dies. Don’t do it!

Unbreakable nines such as 9-7-6-5-4 and 9-6-5-4-3 are folds from the first two positions (reverse implied odds) but are opens and pats from the cutoff and later.

One-Card Draws

The value of these hands varies considerably although any holding that we choose to play as a one-card draw should be played aggressively i.e. raised or re-raised on the initial betting round. Our opponents will often be drawing more cards, it increases the odds of getting the pot heads-up, and also avoids giving away any information regarding the strength of our draw.

• One-Card Draws to a Seven with a Deuce (2-3-4-7, 2-3-5-7, 2-3-6-7, 2-4-5-7, 2-4-6-7, and 2-5-6-7)

These holdings are super premium and we should generally put in as much action as possible on the first betting round. The one exception would be in a heads-up pot with no cap and it’s clear our opponent after making several raises is probably pat. Over the course of three draws we will make a seven or an eight around 60 percent of the time.

• One-Card Draws to an 8-6+ with a Deuce (2-3-4-8, 2-3-5-8, 2-3-6-8, 2-4-5-8, 2-4-6-8, and 2-5-6-8)

These hands are also quite strong as they build hands that can be raised on the turn for value; typically an 8-6 or better low. This would often be the case even when it’s quite likely our opponent also has a pat hand.

• One-Card Draws with Straight Possibilities (2-3-4-5, 2-3-4-6, 2-3-5-6, and 2-4-5-6)

Having fewer outs to a seven or an eight and the possibility of making a straight on the last draw these holdings are slightly weaker than those listed above, however, as previously discussed we should always play these one-card draws aggressively.

One interesting aspect of these holdings is that they make very good bluff catchers on the river when both players were drawing one card on the last draw. Drawing one heading into the last draw means we haven’t seen any of the sevens and eights the entire hand which increases the probability our opponent will make a high pair that they will often attempt to bluff. Thus, when we have one of these hands and pair up on the end we should almost always call and highly consider raising the times we make a straight.

• One-Card Draws to an 8-6+ without a Deuce (3-4-5-8, 3-4-6-8, 3-5-6-8, and 4-5-6-8)

Even though they lack a deuce the 3-4-5-8, 3-4-6-8, and 3-5-6-8 are generally strong enough to play from any position and re-raise a single opponent. The 4-5-6-8 is a much weaker holding and as such is really only playable from the button.

• One-Card Draws to an 8-7 with a Deuce (2-3-7-8, 2-4-7-8, 2-5-7-8, and 2-6-7-8)

A draw to an 8-7 low is not particularly strong; however, one also has the option to play any of these holdings as a two-card draw (D2). This would generally be the recommended course of action when specifically holding 2-6-7-8 and facing two or more opponents. All of these hands are playable from any position at the table since you would almost always open all of the underlying D2s (2-3-7 thru 2-6-7) from anywhere by themselves.

• One-Card Draws to a Seven without a Deuce (3-4-5-7, 3-4-6-7, and 3-5-6-7)

Many players overrate these hands and run into problems especially when entering the pot from early position. With so many players left to act we don’t know how many players will contest the pot which usually is a good indicator of how many deuces are still available. 3-4-5-7 is a notch above the other two holdings because it can make the absolute nuts as well as an 8-7-5-4-3 low.

• One-Card Draws to an 8-7 without a Deuce (3-4-7-8, 3-5-7-8, 3-6-7-8, and 4-6-7-8)

These holdings are all relatively weak and thus only playable from late position. A hand as weak as the 4-6-7-8 is a prime candidate to turn into a “snow” at some point in the hand. Snowing is the act of patting without a made low with the goal of making your opponent fold before showdown.

• Suggested Default Openings for One-Card Draws:

UTG Six Max Hijack Cutoff Button
2347 2356 3468 3478 3678
2357 2368 3457 3467 4568
2345 2456 3568 3578 4678
2457 3458 3567
2367 2378
2467 2478
2346 2578
2358 2678
2567

Two-Card Draws

Most of the starting hands we will play in 27TD are the two-card draws:

• Premium Two-Card Draws (2-3-4, 2-3-5, 2-4-5, 2-3-7, 2-4-7, and 2-5-7)

These are the bread and butter hands of 27TD. Notice the absence of the 2-6-7 from the premium list; while it is a very good starting hand the presence of the six hurts its value somewhat. When we draw an eight we typically need to keep that card and a 2-6-7-8 draw is quite mediocre having some reverse implied odds.

• Good Two-Card Draws (2-6-7, 2-3-6, 2-4-6, 2-5-6, and 2-3-8 thru 2-6-8)

All of the above holdings are above average and can safely open the pot from most positions.

• Marginal Two-Card Draws (2-7-8, 3-4-7, 3-5-7, 3-4-8, 3-5-8, 3-6-8, 4-5-7, and 4-5-8)

Each of these holdings is hampered in some way; for example, the 2-7-8 has capped potential while hands such as 3-4-7 and 3-5-8 lack the all-important deuce.

• Steal Two-Card Draws (3-4-5, 3-4-6, 3-6-7, 3-7-8, 4-6-7, 4-6-8, and 5-6-8)

As the name of the grouping implies, these hands are only playable when attempting to steal the blinds in late position.

There is much more to discuss with regards to the various two-card draws and in the next installment on 27TD we will continue the discussion and produce suggested openings by position for these holdings above.

Three-Card Draws

When the action folds to you on the button you should open with hands such as 2-3, 2-4, 2-5, and 2-7 in an attempt to steal the blinds. If by chance you hold a pair of deuces a cutoff open can also be profitable because it increases the odds of winning the pot uncontested which is where most of your profit opening with these holdings comes from.

Some players will also try to steal with 2-6 and 2-8; however, this may be a little too thin especially for beginners. With the three card draws it is harder to realize your equity and we can also be more susceptible to aggressive players re-raising junky one card draws and snowing. Thus, the times when we are fortunate to improve substantially, we want to be holding a premium hand as opposed to a payoff hand and this is more easily done with 2-3 and 2-7 as opposed to 2-6 and 2-8.

Other Considerations

Having duplicated cards makes all of the above hands slightly stronger because it may be a card your opponent needs to fill his hand and also slightly reduces the probability that you will make a pair on the last draw. On average each pair that your opponent needs increases your “hot/cold” equity by around three percent.

There are a few subtle differences when playing a six-handed game and the action folds to you on the button as opposed to a three-handed game where you have the button. The first is the mindset of the players in the blinds because in a short-handed game the blinds will tend to defend more vigorously than they would in a full game. In addition, given the lack of action in the full game when it folds to the button it is more likely that key cards such as the deuces are live.

In our next discussion on 27TD we will introduce power ratings for the various two card draws which will help us complete our default opening strategy.

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.