So I spent the last few hours thinking about what makes a good poker variant, and I came up with what I think is quite an interesting game. Of course, it is nigh on impossible to make a game popular, but I think it's really interesting to think about how a hypothetical game would play.
Each player gets 2 down cards like in Hold'em. First betting round is pre-flop. Second betting round is a 2-card flop. Third betting round is a 1-card river. Players must make the best 4 card hand, which are ranked like this:
The main things I like about this game is that the board is very dynamic. The removal of the 1-card turn means that each street changes a significant amount, which I think is a main reason why Hold'em is boring (and why getting it in on the flop often becomes the optimal play in PLO)
There are a very high amount of viable draws in this game too, that can lead to more aggression, but also means the ranges will swap equity more often, which makes decisions a lot more interesting. Some examples of viable draws.
Hero has AhAd and is facing action on a 5h4h board. It's possible to have the best hand still, but also possible to have a several number of outs, such as pairing the board, making the nut flush or making trips. However, it is very possible that some or all of these outs are dead if opponent has a straight, set or straight flush. Meanwhile, Villain can very easily be semi-bluffing with something like 6h5d, with a fair amount of straight, flush, two pair and trip outs.
The introduction of Badugi means that a lot of hands have a completely new viable way of catching up, as they are quite common. I think they are more interesting version of flushes in Hold'em, as they are more frequent, more often run into each other, and much more vulnerable. A badugi is never the nuts, but still fairly strong.
It also gives value to hands like ace high which are lost in Hold'em, particularly as the pair mechanic means the boards that hit them are more static and, I guess, scary. AKo will still retain lots of viable draws in this version, as well as having less transparency on flops. You've gotta be more often worried now that opponent flops a good badugi on a completely random board.
Hero has flopped the 2nd nut badugi with KdJh on a 5s9c board. However, the river can introduce a flush, a paired board, a straight or even a third rainbow card to give a lone Ar the best hand. He can also be beat by a set, higher badugi or two pair already. The stacks are deep and he is out of position facing a cbet, what's the best plan knowing that he may find it hard to bet a lot of rivers?
So far, one rough preflop estimation I've made is that 76o vs AA is 40% if his badugi is live. (However, making a low badugi with 76o brings its own fair share of trouble if opponent has your suits dominated with a non-paired hand, which will happen some of the time.) This closeness in preflop value, even with AA, reflects a good feature in PLO, in that you can 3-bet for value preflop but it created little fold equity and leads to a lot of interesting situations - it doesn't give all the power to the guy who 3-bet like in Hold'em and it certainly doesn't lead to a lot of raise/folding.
Also, what does this mean for hands for AKo. Are suited connectors really powerful, so much that they can be played strong preflop? What about lower pocket pairs, like JJ, or something like 88? The lack of strong improvements (hard to make badugis, straights, flushes and sets) cause them to be weaker in a way, but the fewer cards and fewer streets means it's much cheaper to get to showdown.
Overall, I think the game creates way more decisions for both players on all streets, giving them a mix of strong hands, draws, marginal showdown hands that can be played either fast, slow or not at all.
Anyone have any thoughts, about how strategy would play out, whether the game would actually work, if there are any real shortcomings, or anything else?