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Sunday, May 01, 2005

Online Triple Draw and Home-Game HBO
Yesterday I relaxed and played poker for the first time in more than two weeks, and it was a lot of fun. (This weekend is was the first weekend that I haven't been either out of town or busy as hell in about two months.)

Tomorrow is my birthday, and so yesterday Mrs. Cheap Thrills organized a game day/poker night with a bunch of our friends. We played a few board and party games in the afternoon, then ordered pizza for dinner and switched to poker. It rained all day so it was a perfect day for just hanging around playing games.

I was up by 9am, and at 9:30 I hopped on to UltimateBet for some triple draw. I won $60 playing $1/$2 in about 45 minutes. I've just been really enjoying that game since I started playing. Most of my money is actually in TruePoker right now -- I'm planning to clear their recent reload bonus -- but I'm having a hard time tearing myself away from UB's triple draw.

The most interesting parts of triple draw are, well, the three draws. UB puts a little number above each player showing how many cards they took. It's a very clear signal of how strong an opponent's hand is, much more so than in 5-card draw, where players can use some deception in the draw phase. (You can snow in triple draw -- that is, bluff by not drawing -- but it's pretty rare in the low-limit games at UB.) Seeing how many cards each player draws on each street is just a huge piece of information that has no counterpart in Hold'em, Omaha, or Stud, and I'm finding myself thinking about my decisions in a hand in a different way.

Anyway, up $60, I was feeling very happy. I then spent a few hours generally cleaning and preparing for the day, and by 2:30 we had 10 people over. I'll gloss over the non-poker portion of the day here, but games played included Diamant, Fabrik der Traume, Ticket to Ride: Europe, Queen's Necklace, Split Second, Loopin' Louie, Werewolf, darts (Cricket), and Smarty Party.

Poker didn't get underway until 9pm, but it was a blast. We played for our usual low limits (.25/.50), but instead of our usual rotation of Hold'em, Omaha, and Stud (HOS), we opted for HBO -- Hold'em, Badugi, and Omaha. Badugi has most of the fun of triple draw, but accommodates more than 6 players (we had 7 for poker) and you hardly ever have to deal with reshuffling the deck for the later draws as you do in triple draw. As with the last time I introduced Badugi at a home game, there was much discussion of what strategies were correct for the game, and of how much of the game is skill vs. the luck of the draw.

In the original Super System, Joey Hawthorne writes of lowball in general, "You're dealing with a game where luck will appear to be the dominant factor." I don't think 2+2 is going to publish Badugi for Advanced Players anytime soon, but there is certainly good play and bad play. My basic take is that breaking up a made "rainbow" is generally a bad idea, even though a bad rainbow will usually not win, and that you shouldn't draw with more than one high card or when you're paired and double-suited. But I'm really liking Badugi for home games in part because the strategy is so straightforward. You end up playing the players more than the cards. First, there is the obvious info gained from how many cards each player draws. But second, in a home game it's a lot of fun watching people react to the draws. Players who are careful to keep their expression neutral for the turn and river in Hold'em express obvious disgust or joy at their draws in Badugi, and watching this is fun. More so than with home-game Hold'em, I end up making a lot of decisions about whether to bet, call, raise, fold, or even snow based on the signs other players are giving.

We only played until 1am. Our poker nights have been known to go to 3 or 4 in the morning, but everyone was pooped from the long day of gaming.

Not me. The day had been a blast and I was still charged up. I was also pretty drunk. Mrs. Cheap Thrills crashed, and I then broke my rule of "no online poker when I've been drinking," and returned to the UB triple draw tables. Happily, I made another $50 at $1/$2. I'm sure it would have been more had I been sober -- when I've been drinking my aggression goes up (just my poker aggression; I am a jolly rather than an angry drunk) and my respect for an opponent's raise goes out the window. On at least 3 different hands I capped the betting on the river, only to be shown the wheel. Whoops!

$110 (plus $4 at .25/.50 HBO!) is more than I've won at poker in a single day in a long time. And of course spending the day and night with so many friends was priceless. In general yesterday was a great reminder of how much fun poker can be, whether online or off.

Happy birthday! Glad you had a good time.
Damn you Badugi!

I would have been up easily over 100% if not for all the Badugi hand-chasing I did...

Of course, that sounds impressive until you realize that 100% is still only 10 bucks ;)

Happy birthday, you lucky bastiche!
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