Ace to Five Triple Draw – Strategy before the First Draw

Ace to Five Triple Draw is a lowball game where the best hand is A2345 and neither straights nor flushes count against you.  Essentially it is the same game as Deuce to Seven Triple Draw except with different hand rankings.  However, you must spend some time away from the table thinking about this game specifically as it is not enough to simply know the relative strength of Ace to Five hands as they relate to Deuce to Seven.  You must also become as highly familiar with common situations as you are in Deuce.  For example, you have to quickly know when it is advantageous to pat or break at a moment’s notice otherwise you can easily subject yourself to in game mistakes that could have easily been avoided.

Another important area to focus on specifically are opening standards and strategies before the first draw and that is the subject of this month’s article.

Starting Hands and Opening Standards

Strong pat hands are extremely rare; you are only dealt a 23456 or better only .24% of the time.  Dealt pat sevens or better come around a little bit less than 1% of the time but seven lows are precarious hands when played multi-way.  In a multi-way pot you should discard the seven with 24567 but stay pat with it heads-up.

Four cards to a wheel are very strong and you should put as many bets in as you can before the first draw.  Four cards working to a six low are also very strong but the rougher draws such as 2456 and 3456 can encounter problems in multi-way pots so it is ideal to try to limit the field.


Most of the hands you will play in this game are three to a wheel ranging from A23 to 345 and you will also play the majority of the three cards to a six that are dealt to you.

Two card hands such as A2, A3, and 23 have value when stealing blinds or defending them.

A reasonable opening strategy would look something like the following:

Early Position (UTG/Hijack)
Made 7s or better 0.8%
Four Wheel Cards 1.9%
Four to a Six 3.7%
Three Wheel Cards 12.7%
A26-A46,236,246,346 7.6%
26.7%

This is a fairly early position high opening percentage when compared with other limit games such as Badugi and Hold’em.  The difference between those games and Ace to Five is that in Ace you will end up in a badly dominated position much less often.  The worse hand in this opening range, 346, has around 46% equity against A23.  In Badugi and Hold’em you will end up in 30%-40% or worse equity situations a much higher percentage of the time.

The main concern of opening too lightly in early position is the presence of reverse implied odds that you may experience should the pot be played multiway.  This is why the three card sixes building towards a ‘65’ low did not make the cut.  While a ‘65’ low is very strong in this game you are also building a ‘765’ hand.  The Deuce equivalent of a ‘765’ hand is a rough eight or a nine and those holdings are typically money losers against a large field.

Cutoff
Made 7s or better 0.8%
Four Wheel Cards 1.9%
Four to a Six 3.7%
Three Wheel Cards 12.7%
Three to a Six 12.7%
31.7%

In the cutoff position we add in all of the ‘three to a six’ hands but as always you should let table conditions guide your decisions.  If the button and the blinds are very loose you probably don’t lose much eliminating the bottom end of the range such as 356 and 456.  On the other hand if the remaining players are tight and/or weak you can add in A2, A3, and 23.

If you don’t do this already, get into the habit of looking to your left before you act on your hand.  In Hold’em players typically wait to look at their hand until it is their turn to act. But in draw games players are getting more cards and thus tend to look right away to figure out what they have.  If the players to your left are exhibiting folding tells you can open with a wider range.

Button
Made 7s or better 0.8%
Four Wheel Cards 1.9%
Four to a Six 3.7%
Three Wheel Cards 12.7%
Three to a Six 12.7%
A2 through 34 10.9%
42.7%

This is a reasonably aggressive button opening range.  If the blinds are really tight you could conceivably open up more three card draws but be careful to not shear the sheep too close as you may end up training your opponents to defend and re-raise you more often.  In Hold’em you can open really wide, are not required to provide any information regarding the strength of your hand by having to draw a certain number of cards, and have fold equity on the flop.  However, in draw games everyone will notice you raising and drawing three often so you can’t conceal the fact that you are opening light.  Then no one is going to fold to a three card draw thus you are forced to make a hand much more often.

If you open with a hand like 3567 and get called by one player it is usually optimal to keep the seven and play it as a one card draw.  3567 has around 52.4% equity against a hand like A46 while 356 has approximately 46.8%. (These equities assume that a two card draw will fold against a one card draw after the 2nd draw.)  Reverse implied odds are not really a concern as you can probably make a safe fold if you get raised at any point in the hand.  In addition, this hand is a rough draw so it is also a good candidate to turn into a snow.

A237 would also have more equity against A46 than A23 but in this matchup it is probably to one’s advantage to take the slightly reduced equity in exchange for the opportunity to draw to a smooth hand and reap the implied odds that come with it.  Smooth draws are also bad candidates for snows because it eliminates the possible implied odds from hitting a big hand at the same time your opponent makes a strong but second best hand.  It is better to snow a rough draw as the reverse is true; you are the one more likely to make a second best hand.

Opening ranges from the small blind are highly dependent on the playing ability of the big blind.  Good players will know that they need to defend at least 50% of the time in order to prevent the small blind from being able to raise any hand profitably.  If you open too wide against a tough player you will be faced with many re-raises and have to play a large number of bad draws out of position against someone skilled at using it effectively.  Thus against a tough player opening with your button range appears reasonable but against weaker players you can open wider if your opponent appears to fold too much and does not re-raise often.

Playing Against a Raise

Against an open you should re-raise any pat hand or one card draw.  Re-raising with even the worst one card draws is important because your equity is usually good, you give no information regarding your holding, and you will usually get the pot heads-up.  Against A23, even the worst one card draw 3456 has approximately 58% equity.  Sometimes you will run into better one card draws but your equity is still around 40% even if that should happen.

You can also re-raise the premium two cards draws such as A23, A24, and A34 especially against someone who opens with three card draws like A2 from any position.  A23 has around 59% equity versus A2 so you want to exploit those equity advantages and punish your opponents for their loose play.

Against other two card draws the A23 is typically around a 55%/45% favorite.  This is a decent equity advantage but not incredibly dominant so you can choose to cold-call instead and in the process possibly allow a weak player in the blinds enter the pot and start building a hand that has reverse implied odds.

There appears to be nothing wrong with playing an unbalanced strategy of re-raising premium hands such as A23 and cold calling weaker ones such as A36.  How would your opponent use that information against you?  He would only know that you cannot make a wheel but those hands are difficult to make.  And having the initiative in this game with a two card draw will not help you win any pots that probably weren’t already destined to go your way.  And as we already stated sometimes you can mix up your play and cold-call A23 anyway.

From the small blind you should mostly play a raise or fold strategy.  If your hand is worth playing it should be re-raised in an attempt to knock out the big blind as this helps eliminate the possibly of being out of position against two players.  However, if a loose aggressive player opens in late position you can call from the small blind with a hand like A2 but if this raise came from a tight player in early position you should fold.  The chances of running into a one card draw are much larger and your hand fares terribly against them.  Against 3456 the A2 only has around 33% equity and must improve early in the hand to be able to have a chance to realize it.

In the big blind you should defend against a late position raiser with at least the opening button range but if the post was raised from early position you should probably play a little bit tighter than that.  When you get raised by the small blind you should play many hands because you have position and you also must not allow your opponent to open any two cards profitably.  Adding A5, 25, 35, and 45 to the opening button range gets you over 50% of hands and you should probably re-raise with any two card draw or better.

In Ace to Five Triple Draw you want to employ a tight but aggressive strategy but since equities run closer in this game there isn’t a great disparity of the playable hands based upon position.  Next month we will examine pat or break decisions after the second draw as this is an area where many easily avoided mistakes are made.

Next: Ace to Five Triple Draw- Pat or Break Decisions after the Second Draw->