This is the fourth in a series of articles dedicated to games of the inaugural Dealer’s Choice event at the 2014 World Series of Poker (WSOP).
“We often miss opportunity because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
- Thomas A. Edison
Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda.
I don’t handle regret well. I admit it.
In fact, I really wanted to use the ‘B’ word here to describe just how I feel about coping with my feelings of regret, but alas ... I figured I might end up regretting that too.
I remember reading somewhere that what people regret most are missed opportunities. I’m sure self-help gurus would probably encourage me to use these negative feelings constructively, as an impetus for change — to learn from my unfortunate experiences so as not to make the same mistake twice — to help make me a better person. Fine.
“If I made that call, I would have cashed. I could have even won the tournament!”
Regret. But hey – there will always be other tournaments, other chances. I give myself a few days and I’m over it.
“If I had the guts to give that stranger my number, maybe I would have gotten a date.”
Shyness sucks, but even that can be worked on.
“It was sunny this morning so I didn’t bring an umbrella, even though I heard on the radio it was going to rain ... I should have brought one, but I didn’t. Now I’m soaked.”
The clothes will dry. No biggie.
Not to be a Debbie Downer, but I’m not talking about just any missed opportunity; I’m talking about that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – the BIG fish that got away. The one that keeps you awake at night. The one you’ll always remember.
It was about fifteen years ago when I graduated from university and started a new job. I remember walking into my boss’s office and sitting down for my “welcome talk.” On his desk sat a big, boxy, blue, plastic machine.
I had never seen anything like it before, but it did look ... umm ... interesting – like something one might find aboard the flight deck of a Star Trek ship. At first, I thought perhaps it was a mini-TV, although its hard plastic shell made it seem like a toy…
“What is that?” I ask my boss, curiously.
“It’s an iMac. We use Macs here, not PCs.”
“Oh, I see. Cool.” I had heard these computers were popular with graphic designers and artsy folks, but in a corporate setting, it seemed out of place ... almost bold.
“My son works for Apple. The company’s had a tough time lately, but I think they are going to turn things around,” my boss says, optimistically.
“Really?” I say, surprised. “I’ve heard of them, but it looks like they’re hanging on by a thread. I think I read rumours of a new product coming out, but...”
I stop mid-sentence. I was going to say his iMac looked so bulky and unattractive, it didn’t surprise me the company was struggling. But I wanted to be polite; it was my first day on the job, after all.
“Yes. I think they’re getting into the music business,” he nods. “I guess we’ll just have to see what happens to them, but I have faith.”
“Maybe I should buy some stock then,” I say, laughing aloud.
He grins. “Maybe you should. Why not?”
Truth be told, when I got home I did check it out: Apple stock, $7 a share.
It had come down from $25 earlier in the summer, and was sinking quickly. “Perhaps he was encouraging me to buy Apple stock so his son could keep his job,” I thought, skeptically. Then again, maybe he had a hunch, or knew something I didn’t? I did have some funds to spare in my RRSP, just waiting to be invested in something. I did have a feeling this could be a risk worth taking. So I convinced myself it wouldn’t hurt to buy a few hundred shares, just to see what would happen.
You know what? I never did follow through with it. Cold feet? Laziness? I think my Christmas shopping got in the way. Whatever the reason, it had slipped my mind completely, and I never gave it a second thought.
Meanwhile, Apple’s iPods began selling like hotcakes and “iTunes” was becoming a household name. Over four years later, upon hearing news that their shares were selling at $35, Apple once again caught my attention. Crap. Crap. Crap! That’s five times the value over four years. Five times! I would have quintupled my money! Now, it was too expensive to get in, surely. I started to feel depressed. I knew I had missed a great opportunity.
I got over it, eventually. Sort of.
The fact that I’ve since watched the stock price reach almost $700 per share doesn’t help. People have gone insane over less.
Whenever I think about my Apple story, I remind myself that I need to trust my instincts more often… to go with my gut. Certainly, keeping with the status quo is easy enough, and doing nothing is usually the least risky. But without a willingness to make changes, or to put in a serious effort where there’s opportunity to be had, I find myself missing out on good things.
My gut is now telling me there’s another great opportunity out there for anyone who sees poker in their long-term future, and it can be found in mixed games.
Even among professional players, many have only recently begun to seriously take to learning mixed games. This means even amateur No-limit Hold’em players who might want to follow their lead are unlikely to be very far behind on the learning curve. Unfortunately, the biggest barrier to entry is often pride:“I know I’m a good Hold’em player; I don’t want anyone to see me fail at a different game.” Or, at the other end of the spectrum: “I’m new to Hold’em and struggling as it is; I don’t have time to learn anything else.”
Excuses, excuses. It’s true, learning new games does take effort, and becoming good at them requires work. And let’s face it, you’re not going to be anywhere near as skilled in mixed games as you currently are at Hold’em after a few sessions. But ask yourself this: is it really such an onerous task to start learning new games, and is the potential reward worthwhile?
Perhaps our industry leaders know something we don’t. As you may have now heard, WSOP has introduced a brand-new, two-tiered track for a wide variety of mixed games in 2014: ten different non-Hold'em poker variants will now see both a low-limit ($1,500 buy-in) and a high-limit ($10K buy-in) championship bracelet event. Furthermore, in the upcoming 2014-15 season of the European Poker Tour (EPT11), a coordinated championship series featuring non-Hold'em games (at accessible €1K buy-ins) is rumoured to make its debut.
These initiatives suggest to me that poker is about to experience its second wind through mixed games. With a little investment in learning them today, you may just find more doors open to you tomorrow. And while it will probably never be too late to wait in line and join the party, why not get yourself on the guest list now?
If you hate missing out on good opportunities like I do, then give it some thought.
Oh ... and when the time comes, don’t say I didn’t tell you so.
Badeucy is a hybrid of Deuce-to-Seven (2-7) Triple Draw and Badugi (played with modifications to standard Badugi hand rankings). For a refresher, please refer to the previous articles in the “Out of the Kitchen and Into the Spotlight” series that cover Badugi and Triple Draw.
Object of the Game
The object of Badeucy is to make the lowest five-card Triple Draw hand and/or the lowest possible four-card Badugi hand.
A Badeucy deal strongly resembles a 2-7 Triple Draw deal: each player receives five cards and there are three rounds of fixed-limit betting. The key difference, however, is instead of having only one winning hand, there are two: at showdown, one half of the pot is awarded to the best Triple Draw hand (using 2-7 rankings), and the other half to the player who can form the best Badugi hand using four of their five cards, with Ace playing as a high card (importantly, not a low card as would be the case in standard Badugi). The fact that one player can win half of a pot while another can win the other half of the same pot is what categorizes Badeucy as a “split-pot” game.
Recall that for the Triple Draw hand, in 2-7 rankings, straights and flushes are undesirable as the objective is to make the lowest possible hand. For the Badugi hand, straights and flushes do not apply; what is important, however, as in standard Badugi, is that all cards used for the Badugi hand be of different rank and suits. And, for each of the two hands, the lower the rank the better.
Since Aces always play as high, 7-5-4-3-2 (not a flush) is the best hand for the Triple Draw half of the pot, while 5-4-3-2 rainbow is the best hand for the Badugi half of the pot. If you hold the best hand for both the Triple Draw and Badugi halves of the pot, you win the whole pot; this highly desirable result is called a “scoop”.
: 7-high Triple Draw hand, 5-high Badugi hand = the “nut-nut” Badeucy hand
Badeucy is a lowball game. Accordingly, for both the Triple Draw and Badugi hands, you want to make the lowest-ranking hands possible. You will need to separately evaluate a five-card Baduecy hand’s contribution toward the Triple Draw and Badugi hands.
In lowball games, the highest-ranked cards of a hand determine its rank; therefore, assuming the hand does not contain a straight, flush, or any pairs, when identifying the rank of a hand, the cards are ordered from highest to lowest.
For example, with respect to the Triple Draw hand, when holding , this 9-high hand will beat any higher-ranked 9-high hand, or any 10-high, J-high, Q-high, K-high, or even an A-high hand (recall that an Ace plays as a high card in 2-7 rankings), as well as any hand containing a pair or higher-ranked hand (e.g. straight, flush, etc.), but it will lose to any lower-ranked 9-high hand, or any 7-high or 8-high hand (not a straight or flush).
With respect to the Badugi hand, when holding , a 9-high badugi consisting of can be formed. This 9-high badugi will beat any higher-ranked 9-high badugi, or any 10-high, J-high, Q-high, K-high, or A-high badugi, but will lose to any lower-ranked 9-high badugi, or any 8-high or better (i.e. lower-ranked) badugi.
Also note if no player can table a badugi (four cards of different rank and suits), the best incomplete hand (typically the lowest tri – three cards of different rank and suits) will win the Badugi half of the pot.
Here are some additional examples of Badeucy holdings with the Triple Draw and Badugi hands identified:
: 7-high Triple Draw hand, 5-high badugi
: 8-high Triple Draw hand, 8-high badugi
: 9-high Triple Draw hand, 7-high badugi
: A-high Triple Draw hand, 6-high tri
: pair of threes, 7-high badugi
: straight, 7-high tri
Play of the Hand
In Badeucy, there are four betting rounds and three opportunities to draw. There is a low-limit bet associated with the first two betting rounds, and a high-limit bet associated with the last two. For example, in a game with limits identified as “50/100,” the low-limit bet is 50, and the high-limit bet is 100.
Here is an example of a Badeucy deal:
- Blinds are posted: In a game with limits of “50/100,” a big blind of 50 and a small blind of 25 will be typically posted.
- Deal: Each player is dealt five cards.
In this example, you are dealt in middle position.
- First Betting Round: It is 50 to call. If you choose to play, you can call 50 or raise to 100, assuming no one else has raised. Any subsequent raises must be in increments of 50 – the low limit bet.
- First Draw: You can choose to discard any number of cards, or “stand pat” (i.e. draw none).
In this example, you will discard one of the treys and the King, since pairs and high cards make poor Triple Draw hands. In theory, you could keep the King since it can be used to form a badugi, but this badugi is so weak that you would usually be better off trying to draw to a stronger badugi, especially with three draws remaining. You proceed to discard the and on the first draw and pick up the and the for a new holding of (a straight, with a 6-high badugi).
- Second Betting Round: Bets and raises are again at the low-limit bet – 50 – on this round.
- Second Draw: You can choose to discard any number of cards or stand pat.
In this example, you now hold a straight, which is not a good Triple Draw hand. Although you could discard the for a strong one-card draw to the best possible Triple Draw hand, you should instead discard the to retain the 6-high badugi, which is an excellent holding toward the Badugi hand. You proceed to discard the on the second draw, and pick up a , marginally improving to (a Q-high Triple Draw hand, with a 6-high badugi).
- Third Betting Round: Bets and raises are now at the high-limit bet – 100 – on this round.
- Third Draw: You can choose to discard any number of cards or stand pat.
In this example, with a Q-high Triple Draw hand and a 6-high badugi, it will usually be correct to draw again to try for a stronger Triple Draw hand. In most situations, you will already be highly favoured to win half the pot with your strong badugi, so you would essentially have a free chance to draw to try and improve to a stronger Triple Draw hand that might allow you to win the whole pot. You proceed to discard the on the final draw and pick up a , improving to (a 9-high Triple Draw hand, with a 6-high badugi).
- Final Betting Round: Bets and raises remain at the high-limit bet – 100 – on this round.
- Showdown: Once betting on the final round is complete, the hands of the remaining players are compared to determine a winner.
In this example, for the Triple Draw half of the pot, your nine-high Triple Draw hand will beat the hand of any opponent with a higher-ranking hand, including any 10-high to A-high hand, and any hands containing a pair, straight, or flush, for example. However, your nine-high hand will lose to any lower-ranked hand, such as a seven-high or eight-high hand (no straight or flush), for that portion of the pot. For the Badugi half of the pot, your six-high badugi will beat the hand of any opponent who holds a higher-ranked badugi (e.g. 7-high, 8-high, etc.) or who can only form “incomplete” Badugi hands (i.e. tris or worse), but will lose to those holding a lower-ranking 6-high badugi or the nut badugi (i.e. in Badeucy, a 5-high badugi is the nut badugi).
Basic Strategy Tips
Here is a list of recommended starting hands:
- 7-high pat hands
Being dealt one of these hands is extremely rare. Bet and raise, to make your opponents pay to draw and stay pat until you get to showdown. Expect to win at least one half of the pot often with these hands. If your hand also happens to contain a badugi, you will have an excellent chance to scoop.
- 8-high pat hands
Being dealt one of these hands from the start is also extremely rare. The strongest hands of this group will contain a badugi, providing an excellent chance to scoop. The weaker ones will not contain a badugi, or even a strong tri; moreover, hands headed by 8-7 are the most vulnerable to being overtaken in multi-way pots. You may need to cautiously play Triple Draw hands that are not accompanied by a strong badugi when facing action from tight, predictable players who have stopped drawing, and are thus more likely to hold superior Triple Draw hands.
- 7-high one-card draws, preferably including a badugi or tri
Most hands that are only one card away from making a 7-high Triple Draw hand are also very strong starting hands. While you are not guaranteed to make the 7-high hand, with three chances to improve, you will be heavily favoured to do so. When the four cards you intend to retain also form a badugi, the hand has scoop potential and significantly increases in value. Having a strong tri within the four cards is also favourable, as you will have the opportunity to improve to a strong badugi, and occasionally, the tri might even be sufficient to win the Badugi half of the pot unimproved.
Beware, however, of draws that tend to make straights and have little chance to improve to a strong Badugi hand. Straights will usually have little showdown value for the Triple Draw hand, and when combined with poor Badugi hand prospects, should be folded often.
That said, a hand such as , despite the straight possibility and lack of even a tri, is still highly playable, since drawing any seven or eight will result in a strong Triple Draw hand. Furthermore, there may be an opportunity to swap out a card if a pairing card is drawn: since the cards are very low and not all the same suit, this would allow you to retain a strong tri, which potentially can improve to a strong badugi.
- 8-high one-card draws, preferably including a badugi or tri
Some hands that are one card away from making an 8-high Triple Draw hand may also be playable, despite being unable to make a 7-high hand. There are three primary factors affecting the desirability of any given draw in this group.
First, hands that tend to produce straights (e.g. 8-6-5-4, or worse, 8-7-6-5) are inferior to ones that will not. Second, hands that are heavier in higher-ranked cards (e.g. 8-7-6-3) – we call these rough holdings – are much weaker than hands concentrated in lower-ranked cards (e.g. 8-4-3-2) – we call these smooth holdings – given the latter hands can potentially improve to much stronger hands. And third, the hand’s prospects of making a strong badugi will significantly affect the hand’s strength (e.g. a hand such as or will be more desirable than hands with weaker contributions toward the Badugi hand such as or ).
- Strong tris (4-high to 6-high)
These hands are very desirable, given that you have an excellent chance of making a strong badugi over three draws. Further, if you do improve to a strong badugi on the first or second draw, you may find yourself with a practical lock on the Badugi half of the pot with free chances to improve to a strong Triple Draw hand over the remaining draws for a potential scoop.
- Medium-strength tris (7-high to 8-high)
These hands are generally weaker than the lower-ranked tris, especially if the prospects of making a strong Triple Draw hand are handicapped in some way. For example, rougher holdings that also tend to produce mid-ranked straights (e.g. 8-7-6 rainbow) should generally be avoided, as they can easily fail to improve to a decent hand for both the Triple Draw and Badugi halves of the pot. You want the supporting cards to be as low as possible and offsuit, and are looking to improve quickly to a strong hand or draw for at least one half of the pot.
- Hands that can improve to strong tris (e.g. two offsuit cards, 2-5)
Two-card hands are speculative in nature; it is difficult to improve to a badugi quickly when forced to draw two different-ranked, low cards in the perfect suits. It is also difficult to improve to a strong Triple Draw hand starting with only two low cards. That said, since Badeucy is a five-card game, you will be able to draw three cards rather than two (as in standard Badugi), while retaining two offsuit cards. If you can get to the first draw relatively cheaply, this ability to draw three cards might allow you to more quickly improve to a strong tri, and eventually, to a strong badugi. This, in turn, could give you a free chance to improve to a strong Triple Draw hand over the remaining draws for a potential scoop.
Suppose you had the option to choose one of the following starting hands, with your opponent being given the other. Which should you choose to play?
Your first instinct might be to choose Hand 1, given that it is already a solid, strong 7-high Triple Draw hand. In contrast, Hand 2 does not appear to have much Triple Draw hand potential at all.
However, it is critical to remember that Badeucy is a split-pot game, and while one half of the pot will indeed be awarded to the best Triple Draw hand (which Hand 1 is favoured to win), the other half will always be awarded to the best Badugi hand.
In this case, Hand 1 has no hope of winning the Badugi hand with a mere, incomplete two-card hand as the contribution toward the Badugi hand. On the other hand, Hand 2 is guaranteed to win the Badugi half of the pot, and even after discarding the three Kings, it will have multiple chances to try and outdraw the pat Triple Draw hand. While it will certainly be difficult for Hand 2 to improve to a stronger 7-high Triple Draw hand, it is not impossible, and more importantly, Hand 2 can seek to make the better Triple Draw hand at absolutely no risk.
This doesn’t mean you should never play pat Triple Draw hands (or draws) with little badugi potential. With one of these hands, you would prefer the pot to be contested multi-way: you want the pot to be big enough so that when it is split, the Triple Draw half of the pot will be large. At the same time, you need your hand to be very strong – enough to stand up to the hands of multiple opponents who are trying to outdraw you. The fact is many marginal one-card draws and many two-card draws with little badugi potential (e.g. ) that might otherwise seem playable in standard Triple Draw should be routinely discarded in Badeucy.
In general, to be profitable at Badeucy, you should aim to scoop whenever possible. Since all pots will be split, scooping is a big win. If you routinely play starting hands that tend to develop into hands that are highly unlikely to scoop (we call these “one-way hands”), you are taking on significant risk for only half a pot.
Since scooping is the goal, recognize this: while strong Badugi hands can evolve into strong Triple Draw hands (e.g. if you have locked up half the pot with a strong badugi you can continue to draw a fifth card to make an improved Triple Draw hand), it is impossible for a strong Triple Draw hand with little badugi potential to evolve into a strong Badugi hand, since you would need to break up the Triple Draw hand in order to pursue the badugi.
Therefore, at the outset, you should generally aim to play hands with excellent badugi hand potential. A general rule of thumb is to play hands that can improve to a 7-high or better badugi in the early drawing rounds (although this might be too conservative for some games). Strong tris are also valuable hands, not so much because of their potential to emerge as the winning Badugi hand unimproved as may be the case in standard Badugi (badugis tend to be made more often in Badeucy since players are able to draw two cards while holding a tri instead of just one), but because they are able to improve to strong badugis quickly. When that happens, multiple chances are earned to further improve to a strong Triple Draw hand, which can lead to a scoop.
That said, as more draws are exhausted, it becomes harder to make strong hands for either half of the pot if you still need to draw to improve. Therefore, although you might initially have been intent on making a strong badugi, when you draw a card that helps your Triple Draw hand but not the Badugi hand, continuing to pursue a badugi too aggressively (e.g. by discarding the helpful Triple Draw card) could lead to a hand offering little showdown value for both halves of the pot.
Although very little has been written to-date on Badeucy drawing strategy, the simulations I have performed and discuss in my book suggest that after the first draw is complete, it is often appropriate to switch gears and aim to make a strong Triple Draw hand as quickly as possible. The simulation results suggest that it becomes more and more difficult to improve the Badugi hand – even when given an opportunity to draw multiple cards at once – as fewer drawing opportunities remain.
Badacey, which is also a featured variant in the WSOP Dealer’s Choice event, is played in the same manner as Badeucy, the only exception being a difference in hand rankings, arising from the following:
• Aces play as low, desirable cards for both the Badugi and Triple Draw hands;
• Straights and flushes do not count against the Triple Draw hand, and are ignored.
Therefore, the best hand in Badacey is 5-4-3-2-A, where 4-3-2-A comprises exactly one card in each suit.
: 5-high Triple Draw hand, 4-high Badugi hand = the “nut-nut” Badacey hand
Most of the general principles discussed earlier with respect to Badeucy will apply to Badacey except that, advantageously, it is no longer necessary to avoid hands tending to produce straights. Drawing a straight will not render a hand useless for the Triple Draw hand, in Badacey.
Also, because the Ace is now considered as a low rather than high card, it is important to adjust expectations of what hands are considered to be strong. For example, while an 8-high hand in Badeucy can range from strong to mediocre (whether for the Triple Draw or the Badugi hand), 8-high hands in Badacey are quite marginal. Note the following:
• The top 4 Triple Draw hands are 7-high; the top 5 Badugi hands are 6-high or better.
• The top 18 Triple Draw hands are 8-high or better; the top 15 Badugi hands are 7-high or better.
• There are 52 Triple Draw hands that are 9-high or better; there are 35 Badugi hands that are 8-high or better.
• The top 6 Triple Draw hands are 6-high or better; the top 5 Badugi hands are 5-high or better.
• The top 21 Triple Draw hands are 7-high or better; the top 15 Badugi hands are 6-high or better.
• There are 56 Triple Draw hands that are 8-high or better; there are 35 Badugi hands that are 7-high or better.
Accordingly, as a default strategy, consider working toward making a strong badugi at the outset. Just as you might aim to make a 7-high or better badugi early on when playing Badeucy, consider aiming to make a 6-high or better badugi at the outset when playing Badacey.
Next week: No-limit Deuce-to-Seven Single Draw
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, which is scheduled for public release in late Spring 2014. He currently resides in Toronto, Canada.