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Dramaha Poker Strategy

How to Play Dramaha - High, 2-7, Dramadugi

Dramaha Poker"The measure of intelligence is the ability to change." -- Albert Einstein

Dramaha (some folks insist on "drawmaha" even though there is a different game by that name) is a limit hybrid of Draw poker and five-card Omaha. Dramaha can be played in different variations. At the time of this writing, the three most common variations are: Dramaha High, 2-7 Dramaha and Dramadugi.

In all its variations, the basic structure of the game is the same.
- Players are dealt five cards, then there is a betting round.
- A three card Omaha flop is spread, then a second betting round.
- Like in Draw poker, in turn players discard from their hand, then get replacement cards. Then an Omaha turn card is put down, followed by a third betting round.
- An Omaha river card is placed, followed by a final betting round and a showdown.
- The pot is then split between the best high Omaha hand and the best Draw "hand in the hand". If a player has both the best Omaha hand and the best Draw hand, they scoop the pot.

In Dramaha High, whoever has the best five card high poker hand wins... straight flush, four of a kind, etc.

In 2-7 Dramaha, whoever has the worst poker hand (the best 2-7 lowball hand) wins... 75432, 76432, 76532, etc. Aces are high only. Straights and flushes are high hands that work against you.

In Dramadugi, whoever has the lowest four-card Badugi hand wins (or the best three-card Badugi if no one has a four-card qualifier). 4♢3♡2♠A♣, 5♢3♡2♠A♣, etc. Aces play low.

In all variations, the best high Omaha hand wins that half the pot. The standard rules of five-card Omaha apply.

This brings us to the primary strategic concept of all forms of Dramaha: the Draw poker hand is more important than the Omaha part. Even though the Draw hand splits with the Omaha hand, after cards are drawn, the Draw poker "hand in the hand" is locked in. Whoever has the best Draw hand is freerolling the rest of the field (unless the person with the best hand folds). Whoever has the Omaha hand is still being freerolled. The best Omaha hand is changeable by the river card. The best "hand in the hand" doesn't change. It can't change (except again if the person with the best hand folds it).

Strategically, winning the Omaha part of the pot is the gravy... or the fallback position. Always look at Dramaha as primarily playing Draw poker, with an extra Omaha element. If you always have the best Draw hand, you'll win the Omaha part of the pot sometimes no matter what. You always want to try to be the one freerolling, not one of the players being freerolled.

Dramaha High
In an age where most players never progress beyond learning more than just the simplest two-card poker variant, Dramaha challenges players who appreciate more complex thinking and nuanced decision-making. But even among the Dramaha variants, there is a complexity and skill hierarchy, with Dramaha High being the most skillfully demanding of the variants. Straight high Five-Card Draw poker barely exists in casinos for one simple reason: the best players win. Skillful decision-making wins. Bad players get crushed.

Lowball variants were invented decades ago because they gave bad players a fighting chance to have winning sessions and not be destroyed in the medium-run. (Similarly, Texas Hold'em was invented to minimize the extreme skill edges in Seven-Card and, especially, Five-Card Stud.) In Lowball games (and Badugi) the best possible low hand is called a "wheel". Getting one of these happens to someone in a game reasonably often. Then also, it is easy to know that 76432 is the second nut hand and 76542 is the fourth nuts, and so on. If you have an 9 low, you know you beat all 10s. Even if you don't know the exact numbers, if you have a pat 8, you know the odds are hugely in your favor against someone drawing two cards. Basically, the closer you have to a wheel, the better.

High poker is dramatically more indefinite. When thinking of their high hand, nobody starts counting down from a royal flush to figure that they have the 537th nuts. Normally a Queen-high flush crushes the opposition, but other times it loses to an Ace-high flush. Sometimes drawing to a flush or straight is drawing dead to someone's pat full house. In Lowball games, if you are drawing, you always have a chance to win if your opponent is also drawing, but in high Draw, sometimes a player can even draw to four of a kind and have their opponents drawing totally dead.

Five-Card Draw is a very situational, complex game -- and this becomes even more true when you include the Omaha aspect of Dramaha. An obvious example, a hand like 22227 is a great Draw hand but will very seldom be the best hand for the Omaha board. If you have that hand, should you try to share a big pot multiway, or try to get head-up and get your opponent to fold? There is no correct general answer (although, when in doubt, playing the hand pre-flop intending to share will more often be the better play).

So how do we judge what sort of Dramaha High hands we should play, and how strongly should we play them?

The first thing to recognize is Dramaha is played at most seven-handed, unlike old eight-handed Draw ring games that might have a "jacks or better to open" rule. Like all games, the shorter-handed the game, the weaker your opening hand can be, but let's look at a six-handed game first. A very simple guide would be to open under the gun with QQ or better, second position JJ or better, third position TT or better, the button say 66 or better with some decent helpful Omaha aspects like double-suited. It's not wrong on the button, but never before then, to open with something like AKJ65, where you might end up drawing to the AK, or a flopped flush draw or flopped two pair. The hope with this hand is to steal the blinds, but drawing to AK often will win... and a three or more Broadway card hand can also often fall back on flopping a good Omaha board.

What you don't want to do is play these no pair sorts of hands against someone who has raised in front of you. Drawing to AK or AQ or KJ, you are mostly hoping to make one pair... which obviously is not a good idea if your opponent started with two pair or AA. Likewise in a full game calling anywhere except the big blind with JJ or worse is suicide (one exception below). Again, unlike lowball where a 7 draw is a smallish favorite over an 8 draw, KK is a 3-1 favorite over QQ. Additionally, even when QQ improves to two pair or better, KK is still a better Omaha two cards than QQ.

Generally if the first person raises, even KK is marginal. If someone enters in front of you, for a beginning player, AA or better is a good standard to call or reraise. The exception mentioned above is if you are playing against a clearly bad player -- especially one who loves drawing to any straights and flushes.

Straight and flush draws are the fish food of Dramaha High. Bad players love them. You make them less than one out five, which means a hand of AA or better doesn't ever even have to improve to freeroll you better than 80% of the time... and sometimes even when you make the straight or flush, someone else will make a full house or better straight or flush. It is totally fishy to raise from early position with a straight or flush draw, or to reraise with one. On the button a straight or a flush draw can act in a similar way to the AKJ65 junk above. You might steal the blinds, you might flop a good Omaha hand, and you might even make your flush, but intentionally playing against someone with QQ or better is foolish. The big blind can be an exception since you are getting a better price -- especially if your straight or flush draw is a solid Omaha hand like AJT9x. Another exception could be on the button if all three players in front of you enter the pot and you have an AKxxx-type flush draw where you have very good implied odds on the draw hand, and a decent Omaha hand to fight for half of what should be a large pot. Flush draws like Q842x are always garbage. Bad straight draws like 7654x are even better hands than bad flush draws (though still junk) since they are stronger Omaha hands.

AA are the prime Omaha two cards and obviously the best Draw pair. AA is vulnerable though to hands like a good two pair, like 9♢8♢8♡9♡x. At the same time though, 9♢8♢8♡9♡x is vulnerable to AA. If the AA draws another ace or catches a second pair, then AA55x or whatever flips the freeroll in the Aces favor... with the Aces always having better flush draws.

Don't fall in love with either an overpair when facing two-pair or with two-pair when facing an overpair. Extracting value from these confrontations rather than losing it is a significant line between a good and great player. The easy money in the game is extracting value from people who play straight and flush draws too strongly and (most of all) from those who play the Omaha board strongly when they have no-pair as their Draw hand. The more difficult money comes from more skillfully playing these big pair versus two smaller pair confrontations.

When a flush or two-flush flops, a common draw is to draw two to something like A♢A♡6♡, but only do this when your hand merits it. Almost never keep kickers merely to disguise your hand. You will get many opportunities to vary your play just by the nature of the game. For example, on that 567 flop, you would normally draw to AA84 instead of just the AA, since besides your Aces you have the Omaha second nut hand. This "accidental disguise" will happen fairly often, including times when you should play a hand like 9♢8♢8♠9♡A♡ as pat on a 7♠6♡5♡ flop.

A common mistake bad players make is to keep useless cards that don't coordinate with the board merely to disguise their draw. On a 567 flop, drawing to JJK is idiotic. Draw three cards. Try to catch a Jack and an 89, or 77, or 34 or even 56. Don't keep a card your opponent would like you to have!

A simple example in the basic complexity of high Dramaha can be seen in how a hand like 7766x is greatly superior to a hand like 8822x. Even though 8822 beats 7766, they seldom will face each other. Unlike lowball where you would always prefer a lower hand like 87653 over a higher one like 95432, the shades of differences in high hands don't often come into play (though AAxyz versus AAbcd occurs with some regularity). But 7766 is a far better Omaha hand than 8822. TT99 is better than JJ22. Add double-suited to connector pairs, maybe even a connector like TT998 or a suited ace as a fifth card, and now you have a clear reraising two-pair hand. Small, unconnected, unsuited two pair can be playable, but most often not a sensible reraising hand.

When playing head-up or three-handed, starting hand values change a lot, especially if you have opponents who automatically will raise on the button. Likewise, the importance of the Omaha half the game increases, as you will be playing weaker Draw hands, you may need to fall back on your Omaha hand to bail you out sometimes. So medium pairs hands like K♢8♢8♡Q♡x are significantly stronger than 8♢8♡6♠3♠J♣. Likewise, if head-up and you call in the big blind and draw to AK, you need to factor into your play that you might have the best Draw hand already, regardless of how many cards your opponent draws.

One example of the value of starting with the better Draw hand: Imagine 998xx facing 77xxx on a 765 flop. For the 77 hand to scoop this pot... 1) 77 must draw to improve to two-pair or better to beat the 99, 2) the Omaha board must pair so 77 can make a full house to beat the 998's straight, 3) when 77 improves to two pair or better the 998 has to not improve to a better Draw hand, 4) when the board pairs to make the 77 a full house, the 77 still has to avoid a 9 coming on the river to give the 998 a better full house. Playing from behind in Dramaha High will usually be a steep hill to climb.

Finally, while position matters in all Draw poker games, it isn't that important in Dramaha High. Don't play garbage ever. The button doesn't magically make Q9732 a good Draw hand or a good Omaha hand.

2-7 Dramaha
If Dramaha High is the Cadillac of Dramaha games, 2-7 Dramaha is closer to the Pinto.

As mentioned above, drawing to an 8 versus drawing to a 9 doesn't offer near the edge that drawing to KK versus QQ does. Additionally, a 9874 draw is a considerable stronger Omaha hand than 7432 is. One reason 2-7 Dramaha was invented was this very conundrum -- the best 2-7 lowball hands are crappy Omaha hands. An unsuited 75432 isn't going to be scooping any AKQ98 boards.

Which brings us to the key principle of 2-7 Dramaha: don't draw!

I don't mean that literally, but pat hands rule in 2-7 Dramaha. You know what you have from the get go. You know how your full hand coordinates with the board on the flop. Your hand could get drawn out on, but it doesn't just disintegrate like how 7432 does when you make 77432. Head-up, a pat jack will usually be the favorite against a one card draw. A pat ten always will be the favorite over a draw. So that means head-up a pat hand will be on a freeroll more than half the time, without having to do anything, even when it has not connected with the board at all.

At the same time, when a draw misses, sometimes the missed draw will have zero connection with the board, like 77432 on a AKT8 board. The 77 will be good for the Omaha hand some of the time, but it would insane to call two big bets hoping that is the case.

A basic concept of all split-pot poker is to focus on playing hands strong enough to win both parts of the pot, not just half. Pat hands in 2-7 Dramaha have all the advantage one-on-one, but multiway things get trickier. In four or five way pots, the "win both parts of the pot" concept mostly goes out the window. Now you just want to make a hand strong enough to win one way or the other. Often the strongest hands, like a good 9 for low and a 9-high flush for high, lose to a Jack high flush and an 8 for low with no flush.

Likewise, in a four-way pot, if you are drawing to a 7 low, you don't care if there is a pat Jack and a pat 10 out. In fact, you like that. You only care about improving to beat the best pat hand and any other draws.

So, a pat Jack in the small blind when passed to you is a no-brainer hand to play. If three players enter in front of you raising and reraising, a pat Jack is a no brainer fold (unless you intend to draw one).

Don't draw two... 'nuff said.

Don't play high hands like AAKKQ intending to win the Omaha board. Chill out. Switch to decaf. They'll deal another hand in a minute.

Head-up 2-7 Dramaha is a cross between challenging and pointless because so many pots are split. Playing any no pair, even an Ace, now becomes commonplace, and the bigger cards just make bigger pairs and win the Omaha while the lower cards win the 2-7. The key is to really exploit your scooping hands by more aggressively betting your lows with two pairs and/or flush draws, while not getting as involved with decent low hands that have little high value.

Anyone new to 2-7 Dramaha needs to quickly learn when their hand can't lose, like head-up when there is a flush on board and you have a flush that includes your top card. Another situation is something like a board of AKTT8 where you have 87432. Head-up, you can't get scooped. At the same time, in situations like this beware of 87653. Here you can be 3/4ed by anyone with a better 87xxx.

Hands that start out with no pair like K7432 have an advantage over hands like 74432 even if in both cases your intent is to draw. Sometimes the flop will be something like KK7, where you now keep the king and the nut full house (which in this case can't be scooped head-up no matter what comes). If your opponent draws, your king low will win a decent amount of the time, and sometimes when your opponent catches a Queen or Jack they might fold anyway. And, when they pair nines or tens on the draw, they will normally call you.

Even hands like 74322 could be played pat, especially against one player, on a flop like KK2. Likewise you might decide to play 77432 pat on a 755 flop, in this case, especially multiway where winning the high half the pot for near certainty is better than drawing to maybe win the low half of the pot.

These adaptive plays though should not come up that often because... don't draw! In a full game, if the majority of your 2-7 Dramaha hands are not pat hands, you are playing the game wrong.

The main intellectual challenge in 2-7 Dramaha is figuring out when to continue trying to win the board. Chasing the board too often will get you freerolled to death, while always folding when you miss your draw is to forfeit too much equity without a fight. Continuing when you have a straight, flush or full house on the board is straightforward, but you also should continue sometimes with two pair or flush or straight draws, especially if the pot started multiway and now it is just you and one other player.

Dramadugi
Since Badugi is a lowball game, Dramadugi is mostly also, but at the same time, like Draw High, seldom will hands like a T762 Badugi lose where a T743 would win. Also like Draw High, the best three-card Badugi stays the winner if all players drawing to a Badugi miss their draws. The best starting Badugi is like AA or whatever the best starting high hand is in a Draw High hand. You would like to improve your holding of course, but if no one else improves, you basically don't need to even look at your cards. You have the winner. You have the freeroll. Starting with the best hand value matters hugely in Dramaha High and Dramadugi, while it matters not nearly as much in 2-7 Dramaha.

Dramadugi may be the Dramaha game where normally good-but-not-great players have the most problems. Even more than Draw High, some hands that are playable if passed to you are garbage if a non-idiot plays in front of you -- even when you have position.

Two opposite examples. Any pat Jack badugi or better should normally be played if no one has entered the pot in front of you. It's not easy to make a badugi. Most hands usually don't end up with two players making badugis, so playing any badugi if no one has entered is at worst not a big mistake. If someone enters in front of you though, rough pat Kings are garbage. At best your opponent has a draw to a better badugi. At worst they already have a better badugi made than you can make even if you draw to improve your badugi, and so you are getting freerolled, just playing for half the pot. Of course, not all pat Kings are equal. A pat K32A can certainly be played in situations where a pat KQ72 should be folded. Unlike regular Badugi where you only get four cards and either have a pat badugi or not, in Dramadugi you have a five-card hand, so you can draw one card to your K432 badugi and dramatically improve it.

Opposite example. Suppose you have a three card badugi like 732. If the action is passed to you on the button, you can play this hand, mostly hoping to steal the blinds, but also possibly even having the best three card badugi. But if someone enters in front of you, 732 is pitiful garbage. In Dramadugi, you aren't merely trying to make a badugi, but you want to make one that can win an Omaha board too, and unsuited, unconnected small cards are the worst cards you can have in Omaha. So if you hold 732 and a non-idiot enters in front of you, they likely either have a pat badugi and are the favorite over you, or have a better three-card badugi and are the favorite over you.

Just like in Omaha High-Low, Aces are extra powerful cards in Dramadugi. Aces are the lowest badugi cards and the highest Omaha cards. There is drastic difference in strength between a T532 badugi and a T53A one. You can make top pair with the Ace on the Omaha board, you have the best kicker for any other pair, and your hand can come into play on a board with Broadway cards.

It's perfectly fine to play a pat badugi with any cards, but if you are opening with a three-card badugi before the button, you normally should have an Ace.

Other possible three-card badugi opening hands should be hands where all five cards potentially can contribute to make a strong hand, something like 5♢5♡3♡2♠K♠. Here you could flop a set or full house with your fives, or flop a flush with your spades, while still drawing one to a badugi, and then even if you flop nothing, you can draw two cards to a very good badugi.

While Badugi hands are better the lower they are, oftentimes you should keep a larger card and muck a lower card because the larger card connects with the board better. An obvious example, suppose the flop is K88 and you have a pat badugi like T♢8♡6♡3♠2♣. T632 is a better badugi than T832, but here you should keep the 8 rather than the 6 because you flopped three of a kind on the board. This idea comes into play often. Keeping a higher card because you have flopped full house, or straight, or wrap straight draw, or two pair on the board will generally be better than keeping some lower card of the same suit that doesn't connect with the board.

A similar concept applies to pat hands. Since a Badugi hand is only four cards, with a pat badugi you will still usually draw one card to try to make it better. You shouldn't do that though if that fifth card helps you on the board... especially to make a flush, since flushes are more rare in Dramadugi since people are trying to make hands with four cards of different suits. Likewise, if you have T♢Q♡6♡3♠2♣ and the flop is QQ2, of course you should stay pat rather than break the queen to try to make a better badugi.

It's hard to generalize about opponents, but it should be likely that Dramadugi will tilt and frustrate tiltable players more than the other two variants. Pat 8 or 7 badugis don't come around very often, but they are also much easier to beat than High or 2-7 pat hands of equal rarity.

As a complex game, and even more as a very complex mix of three games, Dramaha is a great game for a skillful player to play against less skillful, more tiltable opponents. Goofball gamb00lers can win some pots, but such players will get crushed in the Dramaha long run, especially in Dramaha High and Dramadugi, where commonly starting with the worst hand is a far bigger error than in 2-7.

See also How to Play Double Board Omaha