lowball is usually played with the bug, and other forms of draw
poker are often played with the bug (west of the Mississippi, at
least) I will digress now to discuss special considerations applying to
any game in which the bug is used.
know, of course, that the bug is the joker; but it is not the joker
as an unrestricted wild card. The joker defined as the bug can be used
only as an extra ace or to fill a straight or a flush.
lowball, in which the ace is the lowest card instead of the highest,
and in which straights and flushes do not count, the bug occupies a
unique position. If there is no ace in the hand, the bug is simply the
ace, the lowest card. If there is a natural ace in the hand, the bug
never pairs that ace. It simply ranks as the missing card next higher
than the ace. Therefore the hand 5-4-3-2-A (natural cards) cannot be
beaten by the hand 5-3-2-A-
bug. These hands only tie. But a hand
6-5-3-2-A will lose to a hand
6-4-3-bug-A, because the bug can be designated as the missing deuce.
regular poker, the bug plays a less complicated part. Its rank is
never in question. It is simply an ace. However, it does not pair an
ace in the same hand if it can be used to make a flush or straight. The
ace-bug-7-6-3, all the natural cards being diamonds, are not a pair of
aces but a flush, and furthermore they are a double-ace-high flush and
will beat A-K-7-6-3 of clubs.
of the bug creates certain problems in drawing and affects
your play of certain hands. I will summarize these.
bug with three cards of the same suit hardly affects the odds on
filling a flush; they become 38 to 10 instead of 38 to 9. In general it
may be said that if you would drop a four-flush, you should drop the
four-flush including the bug.
with three cards in sequence doubles the chances of filling a
straight. Three cards in sequence, such as J-10-9, plus the bug, are a
sixteen-timer as against an eight-timer on a regular double-ended
straight; the odds are slightly less than 2 to 1 against filling the
straight and you should play in nearly any pot.
hand containing an ace in addition to the bug, the bug should
simply be considered another ace. With one lower pair plus the bug but
no other ace in the hand, it is better to hold the bug as a kicker and
draw two cards than to discard the bug and draw three cards to the
pair; with aces up including the bug, it is better to treat the hand
simply as aces up and draw one card than to discard the low pair and
draw three to the ace and bug. The only exception is when you believe
aces up will not win the pot. On a one-card draw the odds are still
81/2 to 1 against making a full house.
common problem arises when you have bug, ace, another face card of
the same suit as the ace, and two unmatched cards. Here the two-card
draw to the bug, ace and face card of the same suit is slightly better
than a three-card draw to the ace and bug. The bug turns a modified
inside straight (4-6-7, etc.) into a reasonable play in which there are
twelve chances to fill and the odds are only 3 to 1 against filling,
better than on a regular open-end straight without the bug. A
combination such as 4-7-8 with the bug is simply an inside straight
turned into the equiva¬lent of an open-end straight without the bug
(eight cards that will fill) and is not worth playing unless the pot
offers at least 5 to 1 and the hand will almost surely
win if it fills.
depends on whether or not the bug is known to be in play. Two
kings are considerably improved by the presence of the bug in the hand,
even though you throw it away (as you should; kings-up should win and
three kings almost surely will). Two aces are not worth standing a
raise, ace-bug are, because the danger of a straight or flush is
of the bug in your hand (or the rare cases when another player
has discarded it or shown it) may affect your estimate of your hand in
a big betting situation. For example, you hold 2-2-2-A-bug. You raise
before the draw and bet out after the draw. A one-card draw raises you,
you reraise, and he raises back. You drop because you have the bug. The
least on which he would raise a pat hand is an A-K or a double ace
flush, when you have already reraised. Therefore he must have a full
house and it must be higher than yours. If your pair were anything but
ace-bug, you would certainly call.