Archie Introduction Part 2 – High Hands

Last month we got an introduction to the exciting game of Archie and walked through some equity matchups. This month we will take a closer look at the high oriented hands.

Below is the distribution of qualifying high hands and the resulting approximate probability of having been dealt the best high hand from the various positions at the table:

High Hands Dealt

HandsProbabilityCumulative Prob
Full House or Better0.17%0.17%
Flush0.20%0.37%
Straight0.39%0.76%
Three Kind2.11%2.87%
Two Pair4.75%7.62%
AA3.25%10.87%
KK3.25%14.12%
QQ3.25%17.37%
JJ3.25%20.62%
TT3.25%23.87%
993.25%27.12%
27.12%

HandsSBButtonCutoffHJUTG
Full House or Better100%100%100%100%100%
Flush100%100%99%99%99%
Straight100%99%99%99%98%
Three Kind99%98%98%97%96%
Two Pair97%94%92%89%86%
AA92%85%79%73%67%
KK89%79%71%63%56%
QQ86%74%63%54%47%
JJ83%68%56%47%39%
TT79%63%50%40%32%
9976%58%44%34%26%

Made Hands – Straights or Better

These are very strong but still vulnerable hands. Straights and flushes can easily get outdrawn and all high hands are susceptible to low draws taking half of the pot so raise and re-raise before the first draw for value and to limit the field. Slowplaying doesn’t make any sense as the jig is up when you stay pat on the first draw anyway so play every made hand fast.

Trips

Trips are also very strong but they can easily get outdrawn often over the course of three draws. Raise and re-raise to make low draws, high pairs, flush, and straights pay up or get out of the pot.

When you hold trips you should tend to draw just one card because by doing so you increase your opponent’s perception of your range to include two pair, a flush draw, or some type of low draw. Only drawing one reduces the probability that you will make quads or a full house but it is worth this cost to hide the content of your hand and muddle your overall range. One main exception is when you have very low trips and a player who has shown a lot of strength pre draw draws two. You could easily be up against higher trips so draw two to increase your odds of improving.

Two Pair

Two pair is a good hand but it plays significantly better against a shorthanded field. It only makes a full house 23.9% over three draws so it can be a difficult hand to play multiway against flush and low draws that have straight possibilities. It can have a hard time realizing its equity because it only has four outs to improve whereas flush and low draws are much more likely to improve their hands. If the action gets too heavy among several players you probably need to fold as it is too likely you are playing for at most half the pot.

When you are first to act in a full game you have approximately an 86% chance of currently having the best hand but it can easily be a money loser due to reverse implied odds. You can certainly fold your weaker two pairs in that spot especially in loose “zoo” games where multiway pots are the norm. The worst two pair hand might be TT99 because with two lower pair such as 5544 you would at least block low and straight draws. You should also fold a marginal two pair in later position if there is significant action ahead of you.

In late position you should open-raise any two pair hand or try to isolate a single raiser. Smooth calling a raise allows low draws, flush draws, and high pairs to enter the pot all of which would hurt your equity position and the playability of the hand. Two pair against a higher single pair is a virtual 50/50 coinflip and a re-raise tends to eliminate that hand from coming into the pot most of the time.

Heads-up two pair fares very well against a variety of holdings. It is around a 64% favorite over a flush draw and also holds its own against even the strongest of low draws:

TT99 (48%) vs 23♠4♠5♣ (52%) – No Blockers vs Premium Low Hand
TT88 (50%) vs 23♠4♠5♣ (50%) – The 88 acts as Two Low Blockers
TT66 (54%) vs 23♠4♠5♣ (46%) – The 66 are Two Straight Blockers
TT99 (55%) vs 23♠4♠6 (45%) – No Blockers vs Very Good Low Draw w/ Gutter

The equities above assume that the low hand keeps any low that it acquires and will not draw to the scoop. In reality it is usually advisable for the low hand to discard an eight low if it is obtained on the first draw. But low hands like this don’t grow on trees and very often other players will play hands such as 234 that are a still a long way towards getting any part of the pot or even hands such as 2467 that can only hope to get half of the pot.

Mark Twain once said, “Learning to play two pairs is worth about as much as a college education, and about as costly.” He must have had the game of Archie in mind so play them with some degree of caution. Two pair is highly profitable in the right situations but can be a real drain on your bankroll in others.

Aces

Aces are fare well equity wise in many different matchups. They are a virtual coinflip versus a two pair hand (that is not aces up) and are a significant favorite (almost 80%) over a lower pair.

A pair of aces is a favorite over a flush draw. The flush draw will hit its flush 48% of the time over the course of three draws. But the pair of aces can improve to a full house some small percentage of the time thus the aces is around a 55-57% favorite in this matchup.

So on the high side, the aces are really only in bad shape when you are against trips or better. Against trips you have around 28% equity but are of course a huge underdog against the made hands.

They also have favorable equity against even the most premium of low draws because you block some of their potential low and straight outs. As you can see below they are only an equity underdog when you are up against an open ended straight draw where you don’t block any of the straight outs.

AA (51%) vs 23♠4♠5♣ (49%) – Blocks straight
AA (56%) vs 23♠4♠6 (44%) – Low blockers vs a low with a gutter
AA (66%) vs 2♣4♣5♠7♠ (34%) – Low Hand with no chance to scoop
AA (54%) vs A♠245 (46%) – No blockers to any low or straight outs
AA (44%) vs 34♠5♣6♠ (56%) – No blockers to open ended straight draw

High/Low split players are used to the low hands being more powerful. For example on 4th street in Stud8, A♠AK♠9 only has around 41% equity versus 23♠4♠5♣. But it is a slight favorite pre-draw in Archie even though in both games you have the ability to gain three more cards. Archie is a draw game which means there is no such thing as a free-roll situation where you can have the low locked up and continue to keep drawing to a high hand. Thus in Archie there is a greater balance between the high and low hands.

Aces have around 66% equity against a low hand that has no chance to scoop such as 2♣4♣5♠7♠ because the low hand is only drawing to half the pot. You will find that your opponents often have these types of hands especially when they raise from late position. So against a button open aces are a clear re-raise from the small blind.

So while aces fare very well “hot/cold” versus a large percentage of hands in this game there can be some difficulties. When you draw three cards your hand is face up as a big pair and thus may experience reverse implied odds. To help mitigate the playability concerns you could consider drawing less than three cards. For example suppose you call a button open from the big blind with aces. You could choose to draw two cards and suggest to your opponent that you have a three card low draw. This may entice him to continue to play and bet with a weak four card low that is “ahead” on the low side and you may even pick up a river bluff with a busted low.

Now suppose that you raise from the cutoff and are called by the button. Usually this indicates some type of drawing hand for your opponent as opposed to a big pair, two pair or trips. Staying pat is one interesting option as it may assist you in realizing your equity. That’s because it may prevent your opponent from raising you with anything other than a made high hand or a premium low which should allow you to make more informed decisions regarding your opponent’s range. So playing in a different manner may allow you to either induce or stop bluffs depending what you feel is best regarding your opponent and the situation that you are in.

Aces do not perform well multiway so if you decide to play them you should raise or re-raise in an attempt to get the pot heads-up. If you feel there is a good chance that the pot will be played multiway you should fold aces before the first draw. If the game is playing very snug you could possibly open aces profitably from any position. However if many players are typically in the pot you should probably just open them from the cutoff or button.

Other Big Pairs 99-KK

These pairs are not as strong as aces for three main reasons:
1. You could be up against a bigger pair or a bigger two pair (e.g. KK vs Aces or Aces Up)
2. Flush and low draws may have extra pair outs against your big pair (e.g. KK vs an ace high flush draw or a low hand such as A245)
3. In a matchup versus a low draw 99-KK does not block any low or straight outs

To illustrate point #3, 99-KK has around 44% equity against 23♠4♠5♣ while AA was a slight favorite against this hand. Similar to aces the big pairs suffer reverse implied odds in heads-up pots and do not play well multiway. But as previously noted we can consider drawing less than three cards to disguise our hand and try and entice our opponent into a certain course of action that may benefit our holding. There will be some more examples of this in a future article.

It should be noted however, that big pairs perform almost as well against low draws as the two pair hands. And if you hold a big pair hand that holds some blockers (e.g.KK235) your hand is slightly stronger.

If it’s folded to you in the cutoff you can raise with kings and from the button you can open with queens or jacks. Depending who is in the blinds one could also make the case for tens or even nines as well. This would be the case if the blinds played very tight or if they play bad low draws in a straightforward manner. For example, a pair of nines would have a lot of value against an opponent who would call a raise with 2467 and not make any big moves at the pot.

Flush Draws – (4.3% of dealt hands)

High flush draws typically have a lot of value in both shorthanded or a multiway pots. In a shorthanded pot they can either hit their flush or pair their high card in order to qualify and possibly scoop the pot. And as we learned last month they also retain their equity in multiway pots and fare especially well when there are lower flush draws and/or straight draws in the pot.

However playing anything less than an ace or king high flush draw in a multiway pot is one of the biggest money leaks in Archie. When someone else holds a flush draw there is a 31% probability that it is ace high and a 54% probability that it is at least king high. An obvious exception is when you hold a hand like 2367 that has potential to win the high, the low, or both. A hand like that is very strong but you should attempt to limit the field as you prefer to play that it shorthanded. However, in late position you can attack the blinds with any flush draw.

When you have a high flush draw you should often re-raise to isolate a single raiser before the draw. This serves the dual purpose of knocking out potential low draws from entering the pot and also helps to balance your range. You will be easy to read if you only re-raise when you have a made high hand such as trips or two pair. The one drawback to this play is that you may eliminate a lower flush from entering the pot but the great thing about most Archie games is that they may enter the pot anyway! Mediocre low draws are more apt to fold to a re-raise than mediocre flush draws and this tendency is to your obvious benefit.

High Straight Draws

Straight draws are money losers in multiway pots but they are candidates for an open in late position. A hand like AKQT is an easy open on the button because there is only around a 15% chance that one of the blinds has two pair or better. You block high pairs and also have good equity against the majority of low draws.

Summary

High hands are typically more playable in Archie than they are in other high/low split pot games. Most of them crave shorthanded pots as opposed to multiway so you should make every to limit the field by raising and re-raising to limit the field. Next issue we will examine the playable low hands in more depth.