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Top-10 things to know about dramaha

13 October 2014

A couple months ago, Greg Raymer sent a message to the FARGO (Foxwoods Annual Recreational Gambling Outing) e-mail listserv detailing a new poker game he called "dramaha."

The game is a mix of Big O, or five-card Omaha, and five-card draw. As a home-game hero who loves playing a wide variety of poker games, I knew I would have to give the game a try. I finally had a chance to play a few hands last week, and I encourage anyone who likes a new poker challenge to call it at the next available opportunity.

If you decide to give the game a shot, here are 10 things you should know before you dive in.

10. It plays six-handed
Because each player is dealt five cards and there are community cards and a draw, dramaha can only be played by six or fewer people at a time. If you've got more than that at the table, people will have to sit out.

9. The mechanics of the game
The mechanics of the game are actually pretty simple. The two players to the left of the dealer put out small and big blinds. After the deal, there's a betting round. (We played it as a pot-limit game, but it could also be played as a limit or no-limit game.) When betting is complete, a flop is revealed. After another betting round, players draw cards in turn, and then the turn is dealt. There is a third betting round, the river is revealed and then the final betting round takes place.

The player who makes the best Omaha hand (using two cards from his hand and three from the board) wins half the pot, and the player with the best hand using all five hole cards (the draw hand) wins the other half.

8. Don't forget to deal the turn
On more than one occasion, we dealt the draw but forgot to deal the turn card. We play a fair number of draw games in my regular home game, but it's pretty unusual to have community cards and a draw, so it's not that surprising that we neglected to deal a community card after the draw. Thankfully we didn't get too far into the betting round before we realized our mistake.

7. Narrow the field with medium-strength hands
Now that you know the basics, let's get into some strategy.

Obviously, getting dealt a straight or better gives you a very good chance to win at least half the pot. But two pair hands, and even small sets, can be real trap hands if you let too many people draw. You should be three-betting any set, most two-pair hands and even considering three-betting aces or kings, depending on your position. You want to narrow the field and keep players from getting an opportunity to outdraw you. The great thing about this game is if you have a strong draw hand, you get two chances to bet people out of the pot before they get a draw—before and after the flop.

6. The normal drawing rules don't apply
While five-card draw isn't tremendously popular anymore, if you've played enough to figure out the strategy, you should know the general rules of thumb regarding how many cards you should draw in the game. If you hold a pair, you draw three. If you hold two pair or four cards to a straight or flush, you draw one. If you hold three of a kind, you also draw one, since drawing two would tip off the fact that you're holding three of a kind. If you have a straight or better, you don't draw cards, with the only exception being quads, where you draw one to deceive your opponent.

In dramaha, however, the normal drawing rules don't apply. Say, for instance, you're holding K-T-6-6-5 and the flop is 3-4-8. In five-card draw, you'd hold the pair of 6s and dump the rest. But in dramaha, you'll want to hold the 6s and the 5, as you'll give yourself a chance to fill an open-ended straight with your Omaha hand (all the while hoping you catch 6-7 for a set in draw and a wrap draw in Omaha).

Note: You probably shouldn't play this hand in five-card draw, Big O or dramaha, but let's assume you're in a blind or got in cheap on the button.

5. Sets are cheap
Players who hold a pair and draw three cards will make three of a kind—either in their draw hand or on the flop—nearly 25 percent of the time. People are likely to be playing a much wider range of hands in this game than they typically would. Some people will play any old pair, knowing they have a chance to improve both parts of their hand on the draw. As a result, your set of sixes isn't as strong as you think it is. You'll probably be able to fold it if you make a set on the board and there are two or three aggressive players when a straight or flush is possible, but it's going to be hard to get away from it if it's your draw hand. Tread carefully when facing multiple opponents, especially if you don't have a path to win the Omaha half of the pot.

4. Aces are very important
Part of why I love this game is that the draw gives you an opportunity to improve both your Big O hand and your draw hand. Say the flop has two hearts and you hold the ace of hearts, but no other hearts in your hand. When you draw cards, you have the opportunity to catch another heart to improve to the nut flush draw, or make a pair of aces in your draw hand. The draw makes the game so much more compelling and seems to add a real element of luck to the game.

You shouldn't be playing many no-pair hands, but if you do, make sure you either have a huge draw or take an ace with you to the draw.

3. Don't pay much for your draws
If you're dealt a hand like Q-T-7-4-2 with four hearts on the button and are facing a three-bet, it's probably best to just fold the hand rather than call and try to get to the draw. You're going to have to get through two betting rounds to draw to your flush, are highly unlikely to connect with the board, and have less than a 20 percent chance to make a flush in your draw hand to win half the pot.

While open-ended straights are a little harder to hit (about a 17 percent chance), you're much more likely to make a straight with the Omaha board, since you don't hold all your own outs. But again, if there's too much action, get ready to pitch that hand and give up your draw.

2. Have a backup plan if possible
In one of the more interesting hands I played last week I was dealt a pair of queens and picked up a pair of nines on the draw to improve to two pair. The turn card also gave me a queen-high flush draw, and facing a bet and a raise, I opted to go all in. I figured my draw hand was probably best, but was glad to have a backup flush draw on the Omaha board. It turned out that I was behind a made flush on the draw side of things, but ended up winning half the pot when the river was a club, beating another opponent's flopped set.

Without the club draw, I would have only had four outs for the Omaha half of the pot—the remaining queens and nines. And as it turned out, I only had three, because when we all turned over our hands, two of us announced "queen-high flush," which confused me at first, until I saw that I lost the draw half to an opponent with a queen-high heart flush.

1. Consider calling heads up river bets with two-way hands
Part of what makes this game fascinating is trying to figure out which half of a pot people are playing for. In our first hand of the night, I ended up folding a hand that included T-9 on a T-T-A-9 board, because I was convince my opponent held A-T and there was no way I could win the draw half holding jack high. I showed my T-9 as I folded, and he showed me A-A-K-T-9 for a huge hand.

In our last hand of the game, I ended up getting to the river with a pair of kings in Omaha and a pair of tens in my draw hand, because I was convinced that my opponent (the same one as before) held a strong hand for half the pot, but couldn't win both sides. If I'd been facing multiple opponents, I never would have called, but I thought my pair of tens was strong enough to win the draw half, and luckily, I was right. He had a set of sevens for Omaha but just a pair of sevens in his draw hand.
Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.

Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.