This is part two of a three part series on mistakes made by mostly competent players in mixed games. Mixed games are challenging and everyone makes mistakes but if you are able to limit the ones that you commit while capitalizing on your opponent’s leaks the money will flow your way.
The discussion continues this month with several draw variants:
Badugi is a four card triple draw lowball game where the object of the game is to obtain the lowest hand possible with cards in different suits and of different ranks. The best possible hand is A234 of all different suits. If no one has a four card badugi then the best three card badugi will win the pot.
A common costly error is not taking into account the average strength of the badugi that you are most likely facing. More than half of the dealt pat badugis are either king or queen high with the median hand of the entire badugi range being a good queen.
In late position virtually every player will open with any badugi so when the button raises and stays pat their entire badugi range is typically in play. Since the average pat badugi is a queen you should proceed in the hand as if this is your opponent’s hand until the play of the hand may indicate otherwise. (Of course it is also possible that your opponent is snowing especially if you are drawing two cards.)
Now consider a raise by a tight player from early position. Most tight players require a jack or better badugi to enter the pot from this position. If this is the case the median hand is a ten badugi so if your opponent is pat then play accordingly. It is also important to note that this is rarely to see a snow because a tight player would have almost always have at least a strong three card badugi and there is little value in turning a strong three card badugi into a bluff.
Badugis obtained from drawing represent a much stronger range then ones that are initially dealt. For example, the A♥ 2♣ 3♦ will make a badugi with ten different cards. Half of these cards will make an eight badugi or better thus when someone stands pat after drawing they are representing a hand that on average will be quite strong.
Let’s look at a few examples that highlight a few specific errors. Suppose you are in the big blind and defend against a button raise with the 3♠ 4♣ 5♦. You draw one and he stays pat. Since he would open on the button with any badugi you should play out the hand assuming he has a queen badugi thus you should figure to have approximately eight or nine outs. However, since he is marked for a weaker badugi range it would be a mistake to never make a play at the pot. For example it would be weak poker to simply just check and call and just let your opponent always showdown hands as weak as Q♥ T♠ 9♣ 3♦. If your image is tight and good he would often fold to a turn check raise and if he doesn’t you have a lot of outs to outdraw him.
Now let’s assume you have 2♠ 5♣ 6♦ on the button, smooth call a raise from a tight straightforward player who opened from early position, and you both draw one. You do not improve but call his bet after the 1st draw and this time he stands pat. If you did not improve on the 2nd draw to at least a ten badugi it is probably time to fold your hand. First of all it is unlikely that your opponent is snowing because your opponent probably had a strong three card badugi to open from early position and it doesn’t make sense to turn that hand into a snow. Therefore it is likely he has a badugi and that on average it is quite strong. On average you would only have four or five outs thus it would be a mistake to make the call because the pot odds are not there.
Ace to Five Triple Draw Lowball
In Ace to Five Triple Draw Lowball 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 those in Deuce to Seven. You must become as highly familiar in how to handle common situations in this specific game as you are in Deuce. For example, you have to quickly know when it is advantageous to pat or break in the heat of the moment at the table otherwise you can easily make mistakes that could have easily been avoided.
A commonly misplayed situation is when you are in position with a marginal pat hand versus an opponent drawing one. Many players would break a nine low in this spot which in virtually all cases would be a big mistake even if you have a very smooth draw underneath. For example, A2349 has around 67% equity against a hand like A457 but only 57% if the nine low is broken. In any reasonably sized pot it is more important to maximize the chances of preserving what is in the middle and foregoing any possible implied odds with your smooth draw. If however, the pot happens to be tiny there would be justification to break and increase the odds of making money after the final draw. A ten low is typically the breakpoint; with a smooth draw underneath you should tend to break but stay pat with a rough six or worse draw.
Archie (Triple Draw High/Low Split)
Archie is a triple draw high/ low split pot game where a pair of nines (or sixes) or better is required to qualify for the high while an eight low or better is needed on the low side. Thus unlike other high/low split games a low hand can scoop the pot if no qualifying high hand is made. When there are two qualifying low hands at showdown the better low will take the pot. If no one ends up qualifying the pot is either split amongst all players who remain at showdown or in some variations the best non qualifying high hand will scoop.
Most players are used to split pot strategy where they target low hands, make a low, and then hope to free-roll players who are going high. However, Archie is a draw game so it doesn’t work out that way because if you stand pat on a low you obviously cannot continue to try and improve your high. Only high hands can free-roll, for example a player holding a pair of nines can never lose the entire pot against a player holding 2♣ 4♥ 6♠ 7♠ who is just trying to make a low.
Hands like as 2♥ 3♥ 4♥ are very pretty but are not even remotely as powerful in Archie as they would be in Seven Card Stud High/Low Split. For example, if you catch the 7♠ and the 9♥ on the first draw how would you proceed? Keeping either one of these cards will give you a very mediocre one way draw that may end up simply just costing you money if you hit. If you were you were playing Stud 8 you would have a very powerful hand on 5th street looking for action but in Archie you would probably be sitting there asking for time while trying to figure out what to do.
Deuce to Seven Triple Draw Lowball
Deuce to Seven Triple Draw Lowball has been the focus of many books, articles, forum discussions, and training videos so the majority of experienced mixed game players tend to play this game technically sound.
One possible area of improvement for many players, however, is properly adjusting to the different types of players within a mixed game setting. Some players believe that draw games are mostly luck, are in there simply trying to hit hands, and thus will typically have the hand they represent when they give action. Against these types of players you should exploit them by folding when they announce that you are beaten as opposed to being constantly paranoid that you are folding too much according to game theory optimal strategy.
Badeucey is a split pot draw game where the object is to make the best deuce to seven low and the best badugi. Aces are considered high so the best possible badugi is 2345. Everyone is dealt five cards, therefore badugis are easier to make and are stronger than average. Common strategy usually revolves around focusing on first building a strong six or seven badugi and then hope to scoop by also getting lucky on the deuce to seven low. This is good advice for multiway pots but not always optimal in shorthanded pots.
Consider a hand where you open with 2♥ 6♠ 7♣ on the button. Your opponent in the big blind calls and you both draw two. On your first draw you obtain the 8♠ and the K♦. Your opponent check calls your bet and draws two again. Many players would discard the eight but I think that would be a clear mistake. Yes, your chances of making a badugi have gone down but you increase the chances of making a deuce to seven low but more importantly you probably created additional fold equity. Your opponent will often fold if he does not improve on the second draw. However, if you are involved in a multi-way pot you may be correct to discard the 8♠ but should keep a card like the 4♠ which gives you a really smooth seven draw.
Draw games are very complex and each game requires its own extensive study in order to become technically sound. When first learning the draw games I believed that Badugi and Deuce to Seven Triple Draw were essentially the same games but with different hand rankings and that couldn’t be further from the truth. Each game has its own set of strategies and nuances and in order to be a tough player you must spend time analyzing them all.
The series culminates next month with a survey of several flop games.