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WSOP Mixed Games Strategy: No-Limit 2-7 Single Draw

WSOP Mixed Game Strategy: No-Limit 2-7 Single Draw
  • The 2018 WSOP is fast approaching. Time to review mixed games, including no-limit 2-7 single draw.

  • The author of "A Poker Player's Guide to Mixed Games" offers strategy advice for NL 2-7 single draw.

Ed. note: The 2018 World Series of Poker is fast approaching. In order to get ready, over the next few weeks we're again sharing author Ken Lo's strategy advice for games other than no-limit hold'em.

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In this series, I am discussing some of the poker variants other than no-limit hold'em you'll probably hear about during coverage of this year's World Series of Poker. If a game piques your interest, think about taking some time to explore it further. Who knows — you just might find a new game to love!

No-Limit 2-7 Single Draw

As a draw variant, there are no cards shown in no-limit deuce-to-seven single draw, so there is no way of knowing exactly what cards your opponents are holding during the hand. Further, as the name of the game suggests, there is only one available draw (as opposed to three in games like 2-7 Triple Draw). Therefore, aside from the betting, the only concrete information giving a hint of what cards an opponent might hold is the number of cards drawn on that one draw.

These factors make no-limit 2-7 single draw a game highly conducive to bluffing. When played at a high level, poker becomes less about relying on the absolute strength of hands, and more about exploiting your opponents' tendencies.

Psychology becomes a very important factor in no-limit 2-7 single draw. Players may find themselves routinely asking Does my opponent really have a better hand or not? And as with any game having a no-limit betting structure, big pots can be potentially won or lost depending on the accuracy of the read.

Hand Rankings

The object of no-limit 2-7 single draw is to make the lowest five-card hand possible. However, unlike the game of razz — discussed in my previous article — which has the same objective, the hand ranking system used is different. Getting accustomed to a different ranking system can be initially challenging for newcomers to this variant.

In "deuce-to-seven" games, the {A-} always plays as a high, undesirable card. Also, straights and flushes are valid hands, but because they are strong hands in high hand ranking systems, they are unwanted in 2-7 games whose objective is to make the lowest possible hand. Thus, those count against you.

Accordingly, the best hand in this game consists of the cards {2-}{3-}{4-}{5-}{7-}, with at least two suits represented (i.e., there is no flush) — hence the modifier "deuce-to-seven." This hand is made up of the five lowest-ranked cards that do not form a straight.

In lowball games such as no-limit 2-7 single draw, the highest-ranked cards of a hand determine its rank. Therefore — assuming the hand does not contain a straight, flush, or any pairs — when determining the rank of a hand, the cards should be ordered from highest to lowest to facilitate reading of the hand. To give you an idea, consider the following examples of 2-7 hands (ordered from strongest to weakest):

  • {7-Diamonds}{5-Diamonds}{4-Spades}{3-Hearts}{2-Clubs} — 7-high hand
  • {8-Clubs}{6-Hearts}{5-Clubs}{4-Clubs}{3-Clubs} — 8-high hand
  • {9-Clubs}{7-Diamonds}{6-Hearts}{4-Hearts}{3-Hearts} — 9-high hand
  • {A-Spades}{7-Hearts}{6-Spades}{5-Spades}{2-Diamonds} — ace-high hand
  • {3-Spades}{3-Hearts}{7-Clubs}{4-Diamonds}{2-Hearts} — pair of threes
  • {7-Spades}{6-Diamonds}{5-Diamonds}{4-Clubs}{3-Clubs} — straight
  • {8-Hearts}{6-Hearts}{5-Hearts}{4-Hearts}{2-Hearts} — flush

Play of the Hand

In no-limit 2-7 single draw, players are dealt five cards each. Then there are two betting rounds, one before the draw and one after. There is no limit on the size of bets and raises, and as noted just that one opportunity to draw. Players can draw any number of cards up to five or "stand pat" (drawing none) in between those betting rounds.

Note that in addition to blinds, antes are also typically posted to encourage action prior to the opening betting round. Further, although some venues do not enforce this traditional rule, the first player to enter the pot after the blinds must come in for at least a minimum raise (i.e., no open-limping).

Basic Strategy Tips for No-Limit 2-7 Single Draw

In general, you prefer to start with either a good low hand, or be drawing one card to a good low hand. It is particularly difficult to improve to a strong low hand after drawing two cards. Therefore, if you are still learning the game you may find hands easier to play if you simply avoid playing such two-card draws, especially when you expect to be out of position.

Position is of critical importance in draw games. Being in position allows you to see how many cards your opponents are drawing before making your own drawing decision, and to see whether your opponents have checked or bet (and how much) before it is your turn to act on the final betting round. This may allow you to take advantage of the natural tendency of many players to check whenever they have missed their draws.

So then, what constitutes a "good" low hand? For a better sense of the range of hands that can be made in single draw, it is instructive to think about the number of hands of different possible strengths that can be made in a 2-7 ranking system:

7-high:4 hands (from 7-5-4-3-2 to 7-6-5-4-2)
8-high:14 hands (from 8-5-4-3-2 to 8-7-6-5-3)
9-high:34 hands (from 9-5-4-3-2 to 9-8-7-6-4)
10-high:69 hands (from T-5-4-3-2 to T-9-8-7-5)
J-high:125 hands (from J-5-4-3-2 to J-T-9-8-6)
Q-high:209 hands (from Q-5-4-3-2 to Q-J-T-9-7)

Note the number of hands falling into any given group increases exponentially as the rank of the hands in the group increases. For example, there are more combinations of 10-high hands possible than all nine-high-or-better hands combined, and more jack-high hands possible than all 10-high-or-better hands combined.

In absolute terms, all made seven-high and eight-high hands are very strong, as are many of the best nine-high hands, and all can usually be played aggressively on the final betting round.

Weaker nine-high hands and 10-high hands are still quite good, and will win a decent share of pots. They hold up particularly well in short-handed situations.

Jack-high hands are generally considered average, and in many situations you will likely be trying to get to showdown cheaply with these hands. However, when bet into by an opponent who tends to bet only with stronger hands, folding jack-high hands (and possibly even better hands depending on that opponent's tendencies) will usually not be a big mistake. That said, it can definitely be a mistake to fold these hands too often — particularly in heads-up situations — as they are still quite difficult to make.

Be aware that whenever a player is drawing one card, even with a draw as strong as {7-}{4-}{3-}{2-}{x-}, a jack-high hand will be made about half the time. But this also means a hand worse than jack-high will be made about half the time. It is quite difficult to make very strong hands with the benefit of only a single draw.

With this in mind, let's suppose you will always fold to a bet whenever you fail to make a jack-high or better hand after drawing. Opponents who have figured this out would be well served to bet out every time after the draw if you did not stand pat.

They are betting solely on the possibility you did not improve to a hand you would be willing to show down. They could do this even from out of position, knowing you would fold whenever your draw missed. This is why it is critical to assess the tendencies of your opponents accurately, and to adapt accordingly.

In heads-up situations, if your opponent is apt to bet frequently as a bluff after missing a draw, then you should be prepared to adjust by showing down more weaker-than-average hands (e.g., queen-high, king-high, or ace-high hands), which you might have folded against less bluff-prone opponents, to avoid being exploited.

Conversely, if you sense your opponent is playing very tight post-draw, strictly calling with only jack-high-or-better hands (some opponents may have even tighter calling requirements), then you can exploit this tendency by attempting bluffs with failed draws yourself more frequently, particularly when in position and your opponent checks to you after drawing one or more cards.

For example, with your worst missed draws that have little showdown value — say you've drawn a big pair or a straight — you could attempt a bluff against tight opponents. They will rarely improve to very strong hands, and will fold often.

Ken Lo is the author of A Poker Player's Guide to Mixed Games: Core Strategies for HORSE, Eight-Game, Ten-Game, and Twelve-Game Mixes, He is based in Toronto, Canada. Follow him via the book's Facebook page and on Twitter @ppgmg.

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