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When Full Tilt Poker introduced Rush Poker, many people thought, “What will they think of next?” Well, as it turns out, a company called Table Brain had already thought of something, but it wasn’t until September that the new game, Double Hold’em, was launched on Party Poker. I’ve gotten the chance to try the game out, so I thought I’d share a few basic pointers with you.

For those of you who haven’t seen Double Hold’em yet, let me give you a quick rundown of how it works. The betting rounds work just like regular Hold’em: pre-flop round, post-flop, turn, and river. You still want to make the best five card hand. The differences start with the hole cards. Instead of two, you are dealt three. Before you make your betting decision on the flop, you must select one of those three cards to be the “point” card. That card now joins up with each of the other cards to form two combinations of two hole cards. Whichever set of hole cards results in the best hand at showdown is the one you use.

It may be better understood with an illustration. Pre-flop, you are dealt three hole cards: 7-9-8. If you set the 8 as the point, you will form two combinations: 7-8 and 8-9. Because it is the point, the 8 acts as a wall of sorts between the 7 and 9; those two cards now have nothing to do with each other. As the hand progresses from the flop to the turn to the river, you can use either of your hole card combinations to create a five card hand (just like in Hold’em, you can play zero, one, or two of your hole cards), but it is only the combination that forms the best hand in the end that plays. So, if the board reads 7-7-6-10-A, you will have trip 7’s with your 7-8 and a straight with your 8-9; it is the 8-9 that plays at showdown.

And now, on with the show. The first thing you will notice is that, particularly at micro and low stakes, Double Hold’em tables play looser than Hold’em at virtually every street. I doubt many of you expected otherwise, considering the appeal of the extra card to the fish. The looseness is similar to what you might see at an Omaha table. The river is where you will start to see something approaching normalcy, as at that point, most players finally have an idea of whether or not their hand is any good. Because more people will tend to see the flop in Double Hold’em, good drawing hands will be more attractive, as these play better with more players in the pot.

On average, the winning hand tends to be stronger than in regular Hold’em, but not quite as good as in Omaha, although it’s probably closer to Omaha strength. Top pair/strong kicker, while often a winner in everyday Hold’em, is not going to win too often in Double Hold’em because of the wider range of possible hands with three hole cards. You’re going to see two pair quite often and even the oddest straights make appearances with regularity, especially at the lower stakes, where everyone likes their hole cards (side note: I also think the psychology of feeling more in control of the hand since people get to choose their point card contributes to the looseness of the games).

Therefore, while premium pairs are still playable pre-flop, be much more cautious about them. Even Aces and Kings don’t win unimproved as often as they do in regular Hold’em. Smaller pairs aren’t going to get you much of anywhere. That’s not to say that any pair is useless – you can still set mine with some success – it’s just that an uncoordinated pair is not going to be as strong as that same pair would be in a normal Hold’em game. By uncoordinated, I mean a pair formed with the point card and one of the side cards (I call them side cards because when you select the point, the other two cards are placed on either side of it) when the opposite side card does not coordinate with the point card to at least offer a straight or flush possibility. For example, 8-8-9 rainbow would give you a pair plus connectors, whereas 8-8-3 rainbow is uncoordinated – it gives you a pair and junk. Even 8-8-3 with the 3 suited with the point 8 gives you a flush possibility, which is better than nothing (unless someone else has a better flush, a not unlikely occurrence in Double Hold’em).

This brings me to my last piece of advice, which is also the most important. Choose your point card carefully! In my first example, if you are dealt 7-9-8, make sure you make the 8 your point so you have two sets of connectors. If you select 9 as the point, you will end up with one set of connectors (8-9) and a one-gapper (7-9).

If you are dealt a pair, say 5-5-A, don’t forget to set one of the halves of the pair as the point. In this example, the way I laid it out works fine – pair of 5’s as one hand and A-5 as another. Make the mistake of assigning the Ace as the point and you will end up with A-5…twice. A variation on this hand is one in which the Ace is suited with one of the 5’s. In this case, be sure you make that suited 5 the point card so it is matched with the Ace. Now you have a pair of 5’s and nut flush potential. Part of the skill involved in this new game is understanding that a third hole card does not mean you have a better chance to win. You still have to practice quality hand selection and be able to evaluate which card is the proper one to make the point.

Also, keep in mind that PartyPoker does not let you change your selection once you make it, even if you have time left, so take a few seconds to make sure you are clicking the correct card. Now go have some fun.

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