Secrets of poker Poker

The lowdown on lowball: 2 to 7 triple draw

Written by Pai Yao

This article first appeared in the Jul/Aug 2011 issue of World Gaming magazine.

Many newcomers to the game think poker is all about Texas hold’em. Like most card games, poker has many variations. It’s up to you to discover which version suits you best.

No-limit hold’em established itself as poker’s premier format after being catapulted onto the world stage in the early 2000s. Hold’em was the perfect game to take to the people. It is the easiest to learn (though it may be the hardest to master) which is great for new players. It’s a fast game perfectly suited to cash or tournament play. Today ‘no limit’ is the most common format, but hold’em can just as easily be played in a ‘limit’ or ‘pot limit’ structure. In fact during the twentienth century almost all hold’em was played as limit hold’em, with the glaring exception being the main event of the World Series of Poker (WSOP), held each summer in Las Vegas. This event has also been played as no-limit hold’em.

The major main events around the poker world will continue as no limit hold’em events but there’s definitely room for other poker games to build in profile. Each year at the WSOP there is a US$50,000 buy-in tournament where eight different versions of the game are played in rotation. Many pros and those in the know consider this tournament as the real ‘world championship’ because you need to possess a great knowledge of all facets of poker to play.

Let’s take a look at playing 2 to 7 triple draw (always called ‘deuce to seven’ not ‘two to seven’). This game is a version of draw poker which starts with all players being dealt five cards face down. There is a betting round, then players throw out any number of cards in their hand (from zero to five) and the dealer replaces them with new cards (this is called ‘the draw’). If you draw zero cards on any draw, this is known as ‘standing pat’.

This version of the game is played with two blinds, just as in hold’em, but there are a few major differences:

  • Players discard their unwanted cards up to three times (hence the name ‘triple draw’).
  • There are four betting rounds, one before each draw and one after the last draw.
  • The game is usually played in a limit structure. This means there is a standard betting amount, which is doubled in the last two rounds.
  • The person who has the worst hand (under normal poker hand rankings) actually has the best hand (that is, it is a poker game played ‘low’, also known as a ‘lowball’ game).

The name of the game (deuce to seven) gives you the best advice on how the game actually works. In other lowball games aces usually count as the lowest card and straights and flushes are not considered (so if you have a hand of 34567 it still counts as a seven-high hand, not a straight). This means in those games A2345 (also called a ‘wheel’) is the nuts (that is, the best possible hand).

In 2 to 7 games aces strictly count as the highest card in the deck only, so a hand of A2345 is Ace high, not a straight. You also have to be mindful that straights and flushes are not low hands at all. A hand of 34567 (a straight) or 2♠ 3♠ 4♠ 6♠ 8♠ (a flush) would lose to two pair (for example KK772) or trips (for example 666Q3)!

So in 2 to 7 the best possible hand is 7 high, and the best possible 7 high hand is 23457 (which would beat a hand of 23467).

Pairs are obviously very bad hands as well and there is nothing worse than drawing a single card on your third draw and hitting a pair. Getting a 7 low is very difficult and quite often 8, 9 or 10 low hands can win the pot. You might even win with a bigger hand especially if you are heads up against a player who draws a card on the last try and hits a pair.

Don’t get stuck on playing just Texas hold’em. If you are serious about poker you should learn different variations, as this will make you a more rounded player. You should also come to grips with playing stud games and poker in the limit format. Obviously the best way to learn new games is to practice. This can be hard to do in casinos and card rooms where they mostly spread the popular no-limit hold’em game. For example in Macau, all games are no-limit hold’em except for a very occasional PLO (pot-limit omaha) table. Home games and online are the best place to learn these other forms of poker.

World Gaming will teach you poker from many different angles so in time you’ll understand the nuances of the game and be on the way to becoming a winning player.