I saw this article on cardplayer today about a hand Ivey played recently in 2-7 NL triple draw. Obviously, almost everyone in the poker community thinks very highly of Ivey so they probably understand that there’s something behind this play. This writer for card player, however, is implying that there either a) isn’t something behind this play and its just bad or b) it’s an incredibly sophisticated play that is almost impossible to understand.
Now, I have never played 2-7 triple draw, but I do understand the principles of playing poker, and I can assure you neither is true. This is actually a pretty simple hand once you answer one question. The question is: How many 7s did Ivey see throughout the hand? What I mean is, we already know he has one 7 as evidenced by the showdown, did he know there were other 7s that weren’t in the deck anymore because he threw them away? Given the nature of 2-7, he could have easily picked up one or two more 7s earlier in the hand, but tossed them because they paired his hand. The more 7s he knows his opponent can’t have, the smaller the chance is that his opponent has a 7 low.
Now, let’s look at the hand from a game theory perspective. Obviously, when Ivey calls a raise and draws 2, while his opponent pats, he’s in a situation where he’s almost always way behind and both players know it. But when he does hit a nut hand like a 7 low, he is going to want to raise because he is out of position. If he doesn’t, then pats, his opponent will have to smell something fishy because why would he call the previous bet if he didn’t feel he was ahead. Having some sort of raising range is essential. With all ranges that you want to make as unexploitable as possible, you need to add some bluffs.
In this case, his range is so small and infrequent, that he can only bluff a very small amount of the time to have an unexploitable range. If he tries to bluff too much, a good player will catch on quickly. So he can’t just decide to bluff this spot when he feels like it, he needs a reason. And my guess is he had a good one.
Back to my previous question, how many 7s did Ivey see throughout the hand. I’m confident the number was 3. There are two reasons for this: 1) The less 7s in the deck the less likely his opponent will have a nut low. 2) (And this reason is the one I think most people overlook) Is that if he only does this bluff when he’s already seen three 7s, he now has created a range that has just enough of a bluffing frequency to be close to unexploitable.
Now, maybe I’m giving Ivey too much credit for thinking deeply and he just felt like it was a good time to bluff. But either way, there’s nothing too mind-boggling about that play.
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