Texas Hold’em may be the most popular variant of both live and online poker, but there are many other types of poker to explore. One of the most interesting is ace-to-five triple draw, a lowball game that requires a completely new way of thinking and a totally different approach. It may not feature in the WSOP Main Event or carry millions in prizes, but the insights that lowball poker provides into the way poker hands relate will definitely benefit your Texas or Omaha game. In addition, it’s a great deal of fun to play. Read on for an introduction to the game and tips on basic strategy.
Introducing the Game
If you’ve played a great many hands of community card games such as Texas Hold’em or Omaha, the first thing that comes to mind at the mention of ace-to-five triple draw might be a gutshot draw to a flush or straight. But actually, “draw” refers to the rules of draw poker, and players familiar with poker-based online casino games such as Jacks or Better, or Double Double Bonus Poker, may already know what to expect.
A game of ace-to-five triple draw starts with players being dealt five face-down cards each. Small and big blinds are posted, and a round of betting takes place, with players raising, calling, or folding. Then comes the first draw. Players can now replace up to four cards consecutively in order to improve their hands. A player who wants to replace their entire hand is dealt four new cards and a fifth one at the end of the draw.
A second betting round and draw is followed by a third betting round and draw, followed by a fourth and final betting round.
After that, and if there are still any players in the pot, it’s a showdown, with the lowest poker hand winning the pot. Aces are low in ace-to-five triple draw, and straights and flushes don’t count towards your hand, which means the nuts are A–2–3–4–5. This poker hand is called a “wheel,” and the cards it contains are called “wheel cards.”
Strategy Before Drawing
The most critical moment in this game is when you turn over your cards to discover your starting hand. It’s not just about selecting which cards to swap out in the first draw. You also have to consider what information you’ll give your opponents when doing so. As a result, bluffing is at a premium. Whether you stand pat (don’t draw any new cards) or break (draw new cards), you’re telling a story about your hand strength. As a general rule, the player who draws the least cards drives the action because they’re likely to have the strongest hand. Your pre-draw betting strategy will follow from this consideration. If your starting poker hand is mediocre, will you fold, or will you build your hand to take your opponent down at showdown?
As you can tell, lowball poker can be tremendously exciting, but with three drawing rounds, it’s also incredibly complex. Here are some strategic tips to set you up for the first draw.
Know Your Starting Hands
It goes without saying that you should memorize the poker hand rankings for this game. Here are the top 10 for your convenience, in descending order of value:
Forget About Draws
Remember that straights and flushes don’t count against you, so you don’t have to worry about them. At the same time, they have no value in your hand, so just forget about them.
While you’re at it, forget about pairs, trips, and even four of a kind. In lowball poker, the weakest hand is the strongest hand, so sophisticated theories like the gap concept don’t apply. It can be surprisingly difficult to obtain this mindset.
Determine Your Opening Range
Your opening hand range should vary according to your position at the table. From under the gun position through to hijack, you should play approximately 26% of the hands you’re dealt, including:
- Made hands with a 6 or better as the highest card.
- Hands containing three or four wheel cards.
- “Four to a six” hands (they contain 4-5-6).
- Hands containing A–2–6; A–3–6; A–4–6; 2–3–6; 2–4–6; or 3–4–6.
In the cut-off position, you’ll want to broaden your range to 31% by adding “three to a six” hands containing 3–4–5–6.
In the button position, you’ll open up to 42% by adding A–2–3–4 to the cutoff range.
As a single-winner limit game, ace-to-five triple draw favors a tight-aggressive (TAG) style. If your starting hand falls within your opening range, enter the pot with a raise and re-raise frequently to thin the field until you get the pot heads-up.
In lowball draw games, you can bluff your opponents with a play called a “snow.” This is when you stand pat (representing strength) and play aggressively in the hope of forcing your opponents to fold.
Lowball Poker Tournament Strategy
Ace-to-five triple draw may seem like a fairly niche game, but you can find live and online poker tournaments featuring this lowball variant. The recommended online poker tournament strategy is to avoid multi-way pots and go heads-up as much as possible. As a result, it’s better to force players out and win small pots consistently than to take the risk of entering big multiway pots.
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