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The Bug

Since 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.

You 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.

In 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.

In 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.

Possession of the bug creates certain problems in drawing and affects your play of certain hands. I will summarize these.

The 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.

A 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.

In any 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.

A 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.

Much 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 reduced.

Presence 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.
 
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