In the final instalment in our series looking at draw games, Alex Scott provides the lowdown on the action-packed game of triple draw
People are always looking for ways to make poker games more action-packed and thrilling – adding extra cards, betting rounds, draws or exchanges to the mix. Rarely do these gimmicks catch on. But there is one major exception: triple draw.
Triple draw is played just like ordinary draw except that instead of drawing once, you draw three times. There are a total of four betting rounds. Often you’ll hear these betting rounds referred to as pre-flop, flop, turn and river, just like in hold’em, although the names are not strictly accurate when used in the draw context.
Almost any draw game can be turned into triple draw but the most common variant (especially online) is 2-7 lowball. In both the World Series of Poker and the World Championship of Online Poker, the game is played limit, with two blinds and no antes (for many reasons, triple draw usually makes for an awful pot-limit or no-limit game). The lower limit is used before and after the first draw, and the higher limit is used after the second and third draws. Because of the large number of cards required, the game is played, at most, six-handed.
In single draw lowball, a pat 9 would be a very strong starting hand with which you’d stand a lot of action. In triple draw, a 9 won’t usually win at the showdown, particularly if the pot is multi-way. The average hand is much stronger than it would be if there was only one draw, and you’ll frequently see big pots contested between two sevens, or a 7 and an 8. A 9 is essentially a bluff-catcher that you can use to pick off busted draws, and it can only be bet for value in exceptional circumstances.
Because hands are typically much stronger in triple draw, it’s important to draw only to strong hands yourself. With a rough 9, you wouldn’t even enter the pot unless you were attempting to steal (from late position) or defend (from the blinds). With a smooth 9, such as 9-5-4-3-2, you would almost always discard the 9 and draw to a stronger hand.
The best possible draw is 5-4-3-2-x. A very strong draw includes a deuce, but not a 6, and not four cards of a suit. In general, a 6 is a dangerous card – for many reasons. Hands with sixes tend to become rough hands at showdown, and there is a big difference between 8-6-5-4-3 and 8-5-4-3-2 when it comes to value-betting after the third draw. Draws with sixes are also more likely to make straights.
As with pretty much every poker game, to enter the pot from early position you should usually have a strong hand. A pat 8 or a strong wheel draw is a candidate for an early-position raise. In middle position, you can open up slightly and add weaker draws to sevens and eights into the mix. In late position, you can add some pure steals, pat nines, and strong two-card draws.
Stealing the blinds can be more important in limit poker than it would be in no-limit or pot-limit with deep stacks, and it’s usually cheaper to attempt a steal in limit than it is in no-limit, so it should be attempted with relatively greater frequency.
There is a convenient guideline to follow in triple draw, which is that if you drew fewer cards than your opponent, you should usually come out betting after the draw, whether you improved or not. If you and your opponent drew the same number of cards but you had the betting lead before the draw, you should also usually keep betting. There are a few reasons to keep betting, even if you haven’t improved:
1 If your opponent drew more cards than you, you were probably ahead before the draw. This means that, most of the time, you’ll still be ahead. You are betting both to extract value from a weaker draw and to deny that draw a free card.
2 If you’re no longer ahead, you should aim to find out as soon as possible, while the bets are still cheap. Your opponent’s reaction to your bet will often tell you about his hand: flat-calling often means ‘I missed, but my draw is too good or the pot is too large to fold right now’. In this case, you may well also bet after the second draw, hoping they missed again.
3 If your opponent drew the same number of cards as you, but you have the betting lead, you’re making a continuation bet similar to one you would make after a pre-flop raise in hold’em. This bet gives you a chance to win the pot immediately if your opponent has missed, and your opponent may even fold the best hand.
Well-timed check-raises are an important part of your overall strategy in limit poker games. Because the player with the lead will usually keep betting after the draw, you’ll get regular opportunities to check-raise in triple draw. Obviously, doing so only when you have improved gives too much away, so you should occasionally check-raise in other situations.
For example, if you and player X draw one and player Y draws two, you may be able to increase your equity in the pot by check-raising to eliminate player Y. You check, player Y checks and player X bets. You then raise. Player Y now has to call two bets cold, his pot odds are halved and there is the possibility that player X may raise again behind him. Often, player Y will fold in this situation, which would usually be a positive result, especially if you have actually improved to a shaky pat hand (like an 8).
After The Draws
When the draws are over, you have a couple of key decisions to make. Should you bluff, or call a possible bluff? Could you value bet and be called by a worse hand? At this point, the pot is usually quite large, especially if the hand began multi-way. You’ll often be getting 7/1 or more on a call, meaning that you only have to win the pot 12.5% of the time to break even. You shouldn’t be folding many hands at this point, particularly if your opponent was still drawing on the third draw. The chance that your opponent could be bluffing, relative to the pot odds, is just too significant.
Despite this, you should actually attempt to bluff more often (assuming your opponent will fold at least some of the time), as the potential reward is so great relative to the amount it costs you to bet. If you were still drawing on the third draw, you can value bet much weaker hands than you would if you were pat earlier. This is because your opponent should call with a wider range of hands, recognising that you’ll be bluffing more often. This is a rare situation where you’d consider value betting a 9, and certainly an 8.
If you stand pat while your opponent is drawing, often you should consider checking a marginal hand (such as a weak 8), if out of position. You want to encourage your opponent to bluff (which you will pick off), and lose the minimum when you have been outdrawn.