2-7 Single Draw is likely to be the least familiar game in the No-Limit/Pot-Limit category for most players, but it’s not a hard game to learn, at least in terms of the basics. It is, of course, a close relative of the Triple Draw Lowball variants we saw in the Limit Flop/Draw category, but the strategic difference between two streets of No-Limit betting and four streets of Limit betting is substantial.
It’s never been a particularly popular game either for tournaments or cash play, but it is beginning to appear more often in an online setting mostly because online players prefer No-Limit games these days, and it’s one of the few non-flop variants that works well with No-Limit betting.
2-7 Single Draw is probably the simplest game in the entire Dealer’s Choice structure. Everyone is dealt five cards face down, blinds and antes are posted in the same way as the flop games, and the initial betting round is played out exactly as in No-Limit Hold’em.
After action concludes for the first betting round, each player remaining in the hand has the option to keep their five cards, or else discard any number of cards and receive replacements from the deck. This decision is made in the same order as second-street betting, i.e. starting with the first player to the left of the dealer button.
After everyone has either exchanged cards or stayed pat, there is one more round of betting and then a showdown, assuming two or more players have remained in the hand, of course.
Showdown is resolved identically to Limit 2-7 Triple Draw, with the lowest hand winning the entire pot. Aces are high and straights, flushes and pairs all count, so 2-3-4-5-7 is the best possible hand.
Because there is only a single drawing round, the emphasis for starting hands in NL Single Draw is on their pat value and the number of cards to be discarded, much more than on having a smooth draw to the nuts as in Triple Draw. In Triple Draw, a two-card draw to a 7-high, a one-card draw to an 8-high or a pat 9 are all similarly playable. In Single Draw, however, the pat 9 is vastly superior to the one-card draw, which is vastly superior to the two-card draw, because there is so little opportunity for the drawing hands to improve and so much chance that they are in fact worsened by an unlucky draw.
Good one-card draws are of course completely playable in Single Draw, of course; it wouldn’t be much of a game if they weren’t. However, their value is greatly increased when playing in position, and also in a multi-way situation. In contrast, even a rough pat hand tends to be pretty good heads up, and doesn’t suffer as much from being played out of position. Two-card draws are occasionally playable as well, but only in situations where there are great direct or implied pot odds, or a high likelihood of winning the pot pre-draw, such as on a steal or resteal attempt. It should be very, very rare to see a decent player drawing three or more, and probably a strong indication that the hand has not gone as planned.
Drawing odds are even more fundamental to Single Draw than Triple Draw, so it’s important to know at least the basics by heart. Heads-up, a pat Jack-high is a slight favorite over any one-card draw and a pat King-high is a favorite over a two-card draw, although you will rarely choose to play King-high as a pat hand. Three ways, a pat Nine-high is the favorite against two one-card draws. A pat Eight or better can safely be assumed to be a strong favorite in almost any situation, unless another player happens to have an even better pat hand.
These odds ignore the card-removal effect of holding blockers in your initial hand, however. A starting hand like 77332 is considerably better than KQ732. The reason is that discarding a 7 and a 3 helps your hand in two ways. First, it removes two of the cards which would give you a pair: discarding the KQ from the second hand, you will end up with a pair about 40% of the time. Discarding a 7 and a 3 from the first hand, you only end up with a pair about 33%, a significant difference. Secondly, these blockers will likely work against your opponents in the same way they work for you: low cards in the deck will generally help other players, so having discarded some makes it less likely for them to either have strong pat hands or to hit their draw if they’re drawing too.
Just like in Triple Draw, the texture of a drawing hand is important, because of the danger of making straights and flushes. Four low cards with straight or flush potential constitute a much worse hand than four cards without that potential. For this reason, a 2 is the most important card to include in a drawing hand, followed by a 7; if you have both, then you needn’t worry about making a straight.
Aside from starting hand requirements, the main difference between Limit Triple Draw and No-Limit Single Draw is that bluffing is vastly more important in Single Draw, for three reasons: first, the No-Limit betting obviously allows much more pressure to be applied and makes calling more difficult; second, because draws will miss so often and need to bluff to win; and thirdly, because so many marginal pat hands are playable, but will often be way ahead or way behind and thus vulnerable to being put on a tough decision after the draw.
Because it is a drawing game, bluffing in 2-7 Single Draw has two components, bluffing with your bets and bluffing with your choice to discard or not. For this reason, position is of the utmost importance; you may call in position with a drawing hand, but upon seeing your opponent discard, decide instead to stay pat and bluff after the draw if he checks. Meanwhile, a marginal pat hand out of position against a drawing hand will face a major information asymmetry after the draw – the drawing hand will often know fairly certainly whether it is ahead or behind, while the pat hand will not. The drawing hand can then exploit that knowledge either to get value when ahead or steal the pot when behind, while the choices for the pat hand between betting or checking, and between calling or folding will tend to be difficult.
Blockers are as important to the bluffing game as they are to the drawing game. Since 2s and 7s are critical, holding multiples of them strongly reduces your opponents’ odds of having or making a strong hand. In the extreme case, imagine holding 77772. Although this hand has just about the worst showdown value possible, it makes bluffing an almost surefire proposition, because it makes it impossible for anyone else to have a 7-High or a draw to a 7-High. You can therefore raise and re-raise with it pre-draw and, if called, stand pat and bet large again after the draw; your blockers make it almost impossible for anyone to have a hand to call you with.
2-7 Single Draw Lowball is likely to be a good choice a lot of the time simply because position is so very important, and you always have the best position when you’re the one selecting the game.
Furthermore, because bluffing is so important, it’s a great game to pick when there are multiple straightforward players at your table, who will not often try the more advanced strategies, like relying on blockers to bluff, staying pat as a bluff. etc. Your weakest opponents may even be inclined to reliably give away the strength of their hand post-draw, leading out only when they feel their hand is good, which will make your position even easier to leverage.
Conversely, a bad table to choose it at would be one where the other players – particularly the two to your left, who will be in the blinds and thus have position on you pre-draw – are capable of running large bluffs. Unless you’re confident that you’re better than they are, you probably don’t want to be playing this game with players who are going to get into a lot of pre-draw raising wars; this can turn the whole thing into a guessing game where you stand to lose a lot of chips when you guess wrong.
It’s also not the best game to leverage a deep stack because it has only two rounds of betting. The additional streets in the flop games give you more opportunities to use your entire stack, whereas for most Single Draw hands, there isn’t going to be much difference between having 20 BB effective stacks and having 100 BB effective stacks unless there is a huge amount of raising.
Be wary of choosing trying to take advantage of that last property in a survival situation, however. Because bluffing is so important, if your opponents suspect that you’re in a situation where you’re going to be less willing to bluff or to call others’ bluffs, you can be exploited. For these situations, the better two-street game to choose is probably Pot-Limit 5-Card Draw Hi, since it’s a little less bluffy and the Pot-Limit betting also works in your favor.
Up Next: Pot Limit Omaha Hi
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Alex Weldon (@benefactumgames) is a freelance writer, game designer and semipro poker player from Montreal, Quebec, Canada.