Badugi Rules and Basic Strategy

Rules of the Game

Badugi is Korean for a black and white spotted dog and the goal of the game is to get a hand with all different “spots”.  It is a triple draw lowball game where the players are each dealt four cards and the object of the game is to get the lowest hand possible with cards in different suits and of different ranks.  If you obtain a hand with four unpaired unsuited cards you have a badugi e.g T♣ 9 5 2♠.

Aces are considered low, so the best possible hand is A234 of all different suits (e.g A♣ 2 3 4♠) and is called a four high badugi or just a four badugi.  If you do not have a badugi then your hand is considered “incomplete”.  There are varying degrees of incomplete.  If you have three unpaired unsuited cards (e.g. J♠ 8♠ 5 2♣ or 8♠ 5 2♣ 2) you have what is known as a three card badugi or tri hand.  The terminology is interchangeable and the hands shown are referred to as either a “three card eight” or an “eight high tri”.


Any badugi beats a tri hand, thus the worst possible badugi K♠ Q J T♣ beats A♣ 2 3 4.  In game play the tri hand would discard the 4 and hope to get one of the following ten cards to pull ahead: 4♠, 5♠, 6♠, 7♠, 8♠, 9♠, T♠, J♠ Q♠, or K♠.  The A♠, 2♠, and 3♠ are unhelpful because pairs do not improve the hand (of course the K♠ is dead in this particular example).

If the highest card is the same, then you look to the next cards in order to break any ties.  For example, 9 7♣ 6 2♠ would beat both 9♠ 8 2 A♣ and 9♠ 7 6 4♣.  When you compare tri hands to each other you only look at the three lowest unpaired unsuited cards and break any ties in a similar fashion.  For example, A♠ 5♣ 6 K beats 3♠ 5 6♣ J♠.

The game is played with blinds and usually is played fixed limit although it is sometimes also played pot limit.

Quick Facts

Before the first draw, the probability of being dealt certain type of hands is as follows:

Badugi 6.3%
Tri 57.0%
2 Card 35.6%
1 Card 1.1%

On the first draw, if you have a three card badugi there are ten cards that will make you a badugi among forty-eight unseen cards.  Thus the odds are (10/48) or approximately 21% chance that you will make a badugi on the first draw.

Over the course of three draws you have around a 51% chance to obtain a badugi.  This means that a typical tri hand is around 50/50 to draw out on a king high badugi by the end of the hand.

More than half of dealt pat badugis are kings or queens and the median is a good queen.  However badugis obtained through drawing are typically stronger.  As we noted before, ten different cards will give an A23 a badugi.  50% of them will make an 8 badugi or better.

It is possible to improve your hand without making a badugi.  For example if you are holding A♠ 2 6, in addition to your ten badugi outs you could also draw the 3, 4, or 5 which would give you a stronger tri hand.  This is called reducing your incomplete.

A weak badugi is an underdog in a multiway pot because when two players hold tri hands and each of them draw three times at least one of them will make a badugi around 75% of the time.  With three players the odds are around 88%.

With one draw remaining the best hand is a very large favorite. A tri hand that is chasing a badugi has at most ten outs or a 22% chance of making the best hand.  An A23 is around an 81% favorite over both an A24 and 678.

Basic Strategy

The most profitable hands in Badugi are the rare dealt pat monsters (eight badugis or lower) and the premium three card badugis such as A23, 234, A34, A25 etc.  These hands can be played strongly before the first draw in most situations.

Nine or ten high dealt badugis are profitable against a few players but in large multi-way pots even badugis as strong as these can be money losers. These hands suffer from reverse implied odds.

If no one has a badugi a premium tri is very strong and should be bet throughout.  Do not give out free cards on the larger betting limit after the second draw.  As was previously noted, the best hand is a big favorite with one draw to go so there is a lot of value in betting.

Since badugis are hard to make you should often make a play at the pot if you feel that you probably have a worse three card badugi than your opponent.  The play is called “snowing” and is implemented by raising, staying pat, and betting the hand through.  Of course it’s possible an aggressive player may try and make this play against you so you must sometimes just call down with strong tri hands.  Some players do this often while others don’t even realize the play exists.  As in all forms of poker it is very important to get a read on your opponents.

Starting Hand Standards

A reasonable set of opening requirements at most tables would be as follows:

Early position: Ten high or better badugis; Smooth 7 high tris or better

Hijack: Jack high or better badugis, Smooth 8 high tris or better

Cut-off:  All badugis, 8 high tris or better, A2 and A3

Button: All badugis, 9 high tris or better, A2, A3, 23, A4

Further Learning

The Badugi Chapter by Barry Greenstein (Rating 7/10) – As the name suggests it is a short book but what is there is well written and helpful.

A Poker Player’s Guide to Mixed Games by Ken Lo (Rating 7/10) – This book is worthwhile for any mixed games player and there is a sizeable chapter on Badugi within the book.  It’s definitely a good introduction to the game but it is a little bit too similar to a school textbook and at times very repetitive.  He also has the tendency to branch off and focus on one particular topic within a particular game that isn’t very important. In the Badugi section a lot of time is spent discussing why you should remember your discards because it can possibly help you to make slightly better discard decisions in the future.  In my opinion, I don’t think it’s worth going through this exercise as it may only happen occasionally that you may be able to use this information and when you can it would only add another out or two.  It doesn’t seem like it is worth the effort as it is not fun to remember discards and can add to playing fatigue.

Mastering Badugi – Seven part series coming to countingouts.com in February 2018.  This series of articles will go much deeper into the game than any other resource has ever gone before.

Badeucey Rules and Basic Strategy

Rules of the Game

Badeucey is a split pot game where the object is the make the best deuce to seven low along with the best badugi.  In Deuce to Seven Lowball straights count against you so the best low is 23457.  In Badugi you aim to get the lowest hand possible with cards in different suits and of different ranks.  If you obtain a hand with four unpaired unsuited cards you have a badugi e.g 8♣ 7 5 2♠.

In Badeucey the aces are considered high so the best possible hand for the badugi half would be 2345 of all different suits.  If you do not have a badugi then your hand is considered “incomplete”.  If you have three unpaired unsuited cards (e.g. J♠ 8♠ 5 2♣ or 8♠ 5 2♣ 2) you have what is known as a three card badugi or tri hand.  As in regular Badugi, any badugi beats a tri hand.

Badeucey has become one of the more popular games; it is almost always included in any mixed rotation that includes draw variants.

Basic Strategy

Badeucey is a split pot game and as such your main goal is to play hands that have a chance to win both halves of the pot.

Everyone is dealt five cards so it is much more likely that you will be dealt a badugi from the onset and the ability to draw two cards to a tri hand means that that the average badugi at showdown is much stronger.  Thus in Badeucey you must discard any notion of starting with a ten or higher badugi and hope it holds it in a multi-way pot.  Even in a heads-up pot keeping the ten is precarious because when doing so you are obviously capping the best deuce to seven low you can make at the ten.  For the most part, you should also discard a nine even if it makes a badugi.

Initially your starting hand selection and strategy should be geared towards making an 8 five card low along with a 7 badugi.  It is very rare to be dealt either one of these hands from the onset so usually you will be entering a pot with a three card unsuited hand such as 2♣3♥7♦.  Four cards, the 4♠, 5♠, 6♠, and 8♠ are extremely helpful in that you will make a badugi as well as gain at least a four card eight on the low side.  Twelve other cards, the remaining fours, fives, sixes, and eights will give you at least a four card eight low with a tri.  At that point you have made progress towards building a hand that can scoop, or can hopefully at least get one half of the pot.  Drawing two with these sixteen “outs” you will improve one way or another approximately 57% of the time.

If you are lucky enough to make a strong badugi early the play is to bet and raise at every opportunity for both value and protection.  Even in the unfortunate situation that you do not have the best badugi you still have a chance to win the five card low side and there is still a chance to improve your badugi along the way.

Cards such as the 4, 5, and 6 will not give you a badugi or improve your tri hand but they are probably too valuable on the five card low side to consider discarding.  So they should probably be kept whether the pot is multi-way or heads-up.  The 8 is a more difficult decision.  Multi-way I would discard it but heads-up against a single player who drew two or three it is enticing to keep this improvement.  Your opponent may fear you have a strong badugi and fold after the second draw if they are still drawing two.  And when they don’t fold you have a lesser chance of being scooped because you would be the favorite on the five card low side.

If the object of the game is to scoop your opponents, the opposite is also true in that you must try and prevent yourself from being scooped.  On the river, unless the pot is small you should tend to call if you have a reasonable chance to win one way or another.  It is not out of the question that your opponent has a hand like 2♣ 3 4 7 7♠ in which case you will often have a hand that will scoop.

Starting Hand Standards

Since it is a split pot game you must be play tighter in early position than you would in one winner games.  But as you progress to the later positions you can open much wider as you now have valuable position and possibly a chance to win uncontested.  Below is a reasonable set of opening ranges by position:

Early position:  (12.5% Hands)

  • Pat 8s or better
  • Premium 7 Draws (e.g. 2347) – Rainbow or w/ Three Suits
  • Straight 7 Draws w/ deuce (2345-2456) – Rainbow or w/ Three Suits
  • 3456, 3457, 3467, 3567 – Rainbow or w/ Three Suits
  • One card to draw to an 86 or an 87 with a deuce (e.g. 8643 or 8732) – Rainbow or w/ Three Suits
  • 234-267 Rainbow
  • 238-258 Rainbow
  • 345, 346, 347, 356, 357 Rainbow

Hijack:  (14.2% Hands)

  • Early Position Hands
  • 268, 278 Rainbow
  • 367 Rainbow
  • Premium 7 Draws (e.g. 2347) – Two Suits

Cut-off:  (23.9% Hands)

  • Hijack Hands
  • 348-378, 456-458, 467 Rainbow
  • 234-267 – Two Suits
  • 27 Rainbow

Button:  (40.4% Hands)

  • Cut-off Hands
  • 468, 568, 567 Rainbow
  • Straight 7 Draws w/ deuce (2345-2456) – Two Suits
  • 3456, 3457, 3467, 3567 – Two Suits
  • One card to draw to an 86 or an 87 with a deuce (e.g. 8643 or 8732) – Two Suits
  • 23-26, 34, 35, 37 Rainbow

Further Learning

A Poker Player’s Guide to Mixed Games by Ken Lo (Rating 7/10) – This book is worthwhile for any mixed games player and there is a sizeable chapter on Badeucey within the book.  It serves as a good introduction to the game but it reads too much like a textbook and is very repetitive.  In addition there are a few concerns regarding some of the advice given within the text.

He ranks starting hands by Tier and considers Tier 1 to be solely comprised of 7 high pat hands with a badugi.  These monster hands are very rare so it seems somewhat odd that they would occupy their own tier.  Tier 2 is comprised of 8 high pat hands with a badugi, 7 high pat hands without a badugi, and made badugis 7 or lower.  According to Lo, only the Tier 1 and Tier 2 hands are playable from any position.  Hands such as 8♠ 5♠ 4 3♠ 2 and 7♠ 4 3♠ 2♣ are in what he considers to be Tier 3and folding any of them from early position would be incredibly tight.  You would be playing less than 3% of your hands.  Tight is right in early position in split pot games but not that tight.  None of those hands should be folded regardless of the lineup and your experience level.

Another concern is that a large part of the chapter deals with simulations regarding discard decisions and how often keeping or discarding will allow you to make either an eight low, an eight badugi, or both.  These simulations appear to ignore too many important factors such as fold equity and playability thus it is hard to draw any concrete conclusions from the analysis.

Badacey Rules and Basic Strategy

Rules of the Game

Badacey is a split pot game where the object is the make the best ace to five low along with the best badugi.  Straights and flushes do not count against you so the best low is simply any A2345.  In Badugi you aim to get the lowest hand possible with cards in different suits and of different ranks.  If you obtain a hand with four unpaired unsuited cards you have a badugi e.g 8♣ 7♥ 5♦ 2♠.

In Badacey the aces are always considered low so the best possible hand for the badugi half would be A234 of all different suits.  If you do not have a badugi then your hand is considered “incomplete”.  If you have three unpaired unsuited cards (e.g. J♠ 8♠ 5♥ 2♣ or 8♠ 5 2♣ 2) you have what is known as a three card badugi or tri hand.  As in regular Badugi, any badugi beats a tri hand.

Badacey has become one of the more popular games; it is almost always included in any mixed rotation that includes draw variants.  It is slightly less prevalent than its close cousin Badeucey, but more often than not both games are usually included in the mix even though they are very similar to each other.

Basic Strategy

Badacey is a split pot game and as such your main goal is to play hands that have a chance to win both halves of the pot.

Everyone is dealt five cards so it is much more likely that you will be dealt a badugi from the onset and the ability to draw two cards to a tri hand means that that the average badugi at showdown is much stronger.  Thus in Badacey you must discard any notion of starting with an eight or higher badugi and hope it holds it in a multi-way pot.  Even heads-up it is precarious because if you keep the eight badugi you are obviously capping the best five card low you can make at the eight.

Initially your starting hand selection and strategy should be geared towards making at minimum a seven low and a seven badugi.  It is very rare to be dealt strong pat lows or badugis from the onset so typically you will be entering a pot with a three card unsuited hand such as A♣ 3♥ 5.  Four cards, the 2♠, 4♠, 6♠, and 7♠ are extremely helpful in that you will make a badugi as well as gain at least a four card seven on the low side.  Twelve other cards, the remaining twos, fours, sixes, and sevens will give you at least a four card seven low with a tri.  At that point you have made progress towards building a hand that can scoop, or can hopefully at least get one half of the pot.  Drawing two with these sixteen “outs” you will improve one way or another approximately 57% of the time.

If you are lucky enough to make a strong badugi early the play is to bet and raise at every opportunity for both value and protection.  Even in the unfortunate situation that you do not have the best badugi you still have a chance to win the five card low side and still have hope to improve your badugi along the way.

Cards such as the 2, 4, and 6 will not give you a badugi but they are probably too valuable on the five card low side to consider discarding.  So they should be kept whether the pot is multi-way or heads-up.  The 7 is a more difficult decision.  Multi-way I would discard it but heads-up against a single player who drew two or three it is enticing to keep this improvement.  Your opponent may fear you have a strong badugi and fold after the second draw if they are still drawing two.  And when they don’t fold you have a lesser chance of being scooped because you would be the favorite on the five card low side.

If the object of the game is to scoop your opponents, the opposite is also true in that you must try and prevent yourself from being scooped.  On the river, unless the pot is small you should tend to call if you have a reasonable chance to win one way or another.  It is not out of the question that your opponent has a hand like 2♣ 3♥ 4♥ 7♦ 7♠ in which case you will often have a hand that will scoop.

Starting Hand Standards

Since it is a split pot game you must be play tighter in early position than you would in one winner games.  But as you progress to the later positions you can open much wider as you now have valuable position and possibly a chance to win uncontested.  Below is a reasonable set of opening ranges by position:

Early position:  (10.3% Hands)

  • Good Pat 7s or better
  • Four Wheel Cards (e.g. 2345) – Rainbow or w/ Three Suits
  • Four to a Six (A256) – Rainbow or w/ Three Suits
  • Three Wheel Cards Rainbow
  • A26-A46 Rainbow

Hijack:  (13.6% Hands)

  • Early Position Hands
  • Any Three to Six Rainbow

Cut-off:  (23.9% Hands)

  • Hijack Hands
  • A27-A57, 237-257, 347, 357, 457 Rainbow
  • Four Wheel Cards (e.g. 2345) – Two Suits
  • Three Wheel Cards w/ Two Suits

Button:  (40.4% Hands)

  • Cut-off Hands
  • Four to a Six – Two Suits
  • Three to a Six – Two Suits
  • A2-34 Rainbow

Further Learning

No published material exists on this game nor is there very much in the way of online resources.  Be on the lookout for more material on countingouts.com.

Ace to Five Triple Draw – Pat or Break Decisions after the Second Draw

As we mentioned last month, Ace to Five Triple Draw is the widely ignored twin brother of Deuce to Seven.  They are essentially the same games but with different hand rankings thus players typically spend their preparation time studying Deuce and then simply try and handle the differences for Ace on the fly.  This is understandable considering that Deuce is spread more often; however, Ace is being spread more often in mixed cash games and at the World Series of Poker.  Thus it is certainly to one’s financial advantage to spend time away from the table analyzing and thinking about Ace specifically otherwise you are at risk to making many sub-optimal plays that could have easily been avoided.  One piece of low hanging fruit is becoming familiar with common pat or break decisions after the second draw.

In Position against a Single Opponent Drawing One

Suppose we are in position after the 2nd draw with a marginal made hand and our opponent just drew one.  In Deuce to Seven it is commonly known that the breakpoint is a jack, that is assuming no knowledge of any discards the pat jack is a small favorite over any draw.  What is the equivalent breakpoint in Ace to Five?

Let’s look at some simulations involving several different hands.  In the charts below you want to compare the win percentages in the first column (which assumes you break) with those in the following columns with the marginal pat hands.  For example, in the first chart you can see that a holding of A2348 is a 76% favorite over A457 while A234 would only be 57%.  That is a big difference and we should clearly choose to retain the made eight and forfeit the opportunity to make a better that we could possibly raise our opponent with after the last draw. A2349 is a 67% favorite over A457; while this difference is smaller it is probably worth keeping the nine especially in an already sizeable pot.  Since there is virtually no difference between A234 and A234T versus A457 we should certainly break in position when holding a superior draw.  Of course we never know exactly what our opponent has so we should look at several different matchups and see if we can draw any conclusions.

Hero’s Holding
A234 A2348 A2349 A234T
Vs A234 50% 69% 59% 50%
A236 53% 74% 65% 55%
A457 57% 76% 67% 58%
4567 58% 79% 69% 60%
Hero’s Holding
A236 A2368 A2369 A236T
Vs A234 47% 67% 58% 49%
A236 50% 68% 59% 50%
A457 54% 79% 69% 60%
4567 57% 79% 70% 60%
Hero’s Holding
A457 A4578 A4579 A457T
Vs A234 44% 69% 61% 51%
A236 46% 72% 63% 53%
A457 50% 68% 59% 50%
4567 56% 74% 65% 55%
Hero’s Holding
4567 45678 45679 4567T
Vs A234 43% 72% 62% 54%
A236 43% 72% 63% 54%
A457 45% 67% 58% 49%
4567 50% 69% 58% 49%

 

The most important takeaway from this demonstration is that in essentially every case it would probably be considered a mistake to break a nine.  However, the decision on whether or not to break a ten is more complicated.  In the case of better draws such as A234 or A236 you should probably break the ten and continue to draw even though the win percentages when staying pat are slightly higher.  With position and such a smooth draw you have implied odds and the clear advantage on the last round of betting.

With rougher hands such as A457T and 4567T it appears we should keep the ten especially if we can put our opponent on a four card to a six or better draw. If our opponent re-raised before the first draw and drew one it is highly likely that this is his holding.

Decisions for other type of in between hands not shown such as 2346 and A456 are much closer.  Once again if you can put your opponent on a strong four card holding you should probably keep the ten.  Another reason to keep a ten would be if during the course of the hand you discarded many low cards that paired your hand but may be cards that your opponent needs.

Out of Position against a Single Opponent

Unfortunately when you are out of position you usually do not have the luxury of knowing whether or not your opponent will be drawing or staying pat.  I say usually because some opponents will exhibit many obvious tells on their intentions.  For example, if they are drawing they may get their discard ready even before you have acted on your hand.  Start observing your opponents, a subtle quick look will do because a stare may cause your opponent to be more careful in his actions in future hands.

Assuming you don’t pick up anything on whether or not your opponent is drawing you should usually take your chances and stay pat with an eight.  It is possible that your opponent is calling and planning stay pat with a better hand but you give up too much from an equity standpoint when he is drawing.  With nine lows or worse you should typically break.  It is probably on worth staying pat with your rougher hands.

In Position against Multiple Opponents Drawing One

What if you are you against two opponents who are drawing?  It fluctuates based upon what cards everyone is holding but most often the breakpoint is a nine low.  That may be surprising given the results above and the fact that many people believe that a nine is also the breakpoint in Deuce.  That misconception was probably due to the Deuce chapter in SuperSystem 2 where Daniel Negreanu displayed the following graphic:

23479 42%
2347 29%
2347 29%

The problem with the example is that everyone has the same hand so it presents a skewed viewpoint as the drawing hands have every single one of their cards available to catch.  When you look at other more likely situations the most likely breakpoint turns out to be a ten low:

2374T 42%
2357 29%
2458 29%

We would observe something similar if we did the same thing for Ace to Five:

A2368 41% A2369 28%
A236 30% A236 36%
A236 30% A236 36%

Looking at the above results we would erroneously conclude that we should break the nine.  But let’s look at some examples where to some degree everyone needs some cards that other players are holding:

A236 34% A2368 56% A2369 41%
A456 A456 A456
2345 2345 2345
A234 38% A2348 59% A2349 44%
A245 A245 A456
2356 2356 2345
A234 41% A2348 67% A2349 50%
2456 2456 2456
A357 A357 A357
3456 31% 34568 48% 34569 35%
A245 A245 A245
2356 2356 2356

In all of these cases above, keeping the nine has higher equity.  With wheel draws and smooth six draws it can be acceptable to discard the nine due to implied odds, position, and to account for some occurrences where holding the nine performs worse. However, with a rough hand such as 34569 it should always be correct to stay pat.

Most importantly though, is to never make the big mistake of breaking an eight even when we hold A2348.  It can be frustrating to stay pat with that hand, end up losing, and wonder what could have been.  However, never ever make matters worse by asking to “rabbit hunt”.  That’s just entering yourself into a free-roll to really steam yourself up if you discover that would have drawn a five or a six.

Poker is about playing your hands correctly with the odds on your side and if you do that your bankroll will thank you.  Having confidence in your decisions will also help you avoid tilt.  Hopefully this article will help you successfully navigate some common important Ace to Five situations.

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->