Before you sit down to play any variation of poker, the first thing you should do is to learn how to play the game being spread. This is true whether you are a live or online player at Pokerstars.Es room. It is especially important with Badugi, because many poker players have no idea how to play this somewhat unusual game.
This part of the Badugi Strategy section shows you how to play Badugi. It will teach you how to play both tournaments and cash games, and put you at ease whenever this game is dealt when you are at the table. Studying these articles will make it possible for you to understand how to play Badugi and profit from that understanding.
How to Play Badugi
Badugi is a poker game which is usually played by anywhere from 2 to 8 players. In learning how to play Badugi, it is important to master the basics of how it is played, as well as the essentials about which cards to play, how long to stay in the hand and how to frequently win more.
Badugi can be played at limit, pot-limit, or no-limit stakes in a cash game or tournament format. It is played with a small and big blind, just like Texas Holdem. After the blinds are posted, each player is dealt four cards. The object of the game is to make the lowest possible four-card hand, with one card in each of the suits, and with no cards in the hand being paired. Because aces are played as low in Badugi, the best possible hand is A-2-3-4 of different suits.
After a round of betting before the first draw, each player is allowed to discard as many cards as he wishes to try and better his hand. There are three draws in all, with betting rounds after each draw.
- The betting rounds after each of the draws are started by the first player left of the button, and rotates around to the dealer position, who always gets to act last on every betting round after the draws.
- Players have the option to check or bet until someone has started the action, after which they can fold, call or raise (or re-raise if a raise has already been made).
- A maximum of three or four raises (depending on house rule) are typical for each round of betting.
- After the third draw and the final betting round, the hands are compared. Any four-card Badugi (all four suits with no pairs) beats all hands that have either pairs or more than one card in each suit. If more than one player has a Badugi, their highest cards are compared, and the player with the lowest high card wins. If more than one player has the same lowest high card, the next highest cards are compared, and so on, until the tie is broken. If two or more players have the exact same best hand, they split the pot, otherwise, the player with the lowest Badugi wins.
If no player has a four-card Badugi, the lowest three-card hand wins the pot (with A-2-3 of different suits being the best three-card hand). It is very rare when at least a three-card hand doesn’t win the pot, but if no one can show even that quality of hand down, the pot is won by the best two-card hand.
In better understanding how to play Badugi, you should consider which cards are appropriate to play, and which should be folded. Before the first draw, any pat hand (four-card Badugi), any one-card draw to a seven or lower, or, in late position, a two-card draw to a five or lower are appropriate hands to play, and even to raise with. If you are the first player into the pot, raise with these hands to try and winnow out the competition. Re-raise with a pat hand if someone else has raised before you. If others have gotten into the pot, and you don’t have a made hand, simply call and see how many cards everyone is drawing before getting into a raising war.
Continuing on to the second and third draws, as well as the showdown, should be based on whether or not you complete your hand, as well as what the other players seem to have, based on their betting and their draws. If you are drawing fewer cards than your opponents, and have a good hand, you should usually bet and make them pay to try and draw against you. As you become more familiar with how to play Badugi, you will begin to get a sense for which players always have the hands they are representing, and which ones are just trying to buy the pot with aggressive betting. Keep good notes on your opponents, and you will know what to do in most situations.
Top 10 Badugi Tips
Mastering any poker game requires in-depth study of all the different aspects of proper play. However, within the many subtleties of each game are a general set of situations and plays that you will run into time and time again. The articles in this section present you with tips that will allow you to control those very situations at the Badugi table.
Here you will find the top tips for competing in both cash games and tournaments, the 10 most important concepts for any Badugi player to master, the most common errors that inexperienced (and sometimes even veteran) players make, as well as more advanced ideas, all in an easy format that increase your Badugi profitability. Learn these simple tips, and feel comfortable and in charge whenever you play Badugi.
Badugi has been gaining greater popularity in the past few years with an increased online presence in both cash game and tournament forms. Because it is a very simple game to understand, many people mistakenly believe that it is also easy to master. Nothing could be further from the truth. While the object of the game, making a four-card low hand with unpaired cards of each suit, and having three draws to get there, is very basic, you still need to develop an understanding of the game’s odds and psychology in order to be successful. The following article provides you with Badugi tips that should be the foundation of your strategy in this high-action game.
- Read your hand properly. Nothing could be more basic than being aware of what your hand actually contains. For example, you might not be too thrilled about a 10-9-8-6, until you realize that they are all of different suits, and you actually have a made Badugi that will not be that easy to beat. Make certain that you are looking both at ranks AND suits, in order to avoid making basic mistakes in play.
- Throw away the right card(s). When you have a hand such as A-4-6-7, with both the six and seven of the same suit, make certain you discard the 7 and not the 6, so as to draw to a better hand.
- NEVER draw three cards. Unless you are in the big blind, and no one has raised the pot, throw away any hand that requires three cards to make a Badugi. The odds are too heavily stacked against you.
- Only draw two cards in late position in an unraised pot, with two unsuited cards 5 or better– Unless these circumstances are present, you are once again fighting an uphill battle in trying to win the pot. If someone has raised the pot, you can assume they either have a pat hand or a good one-card draw, and you will be at least one card behind going to the draw. This is a situation to avoid.
- Be aware of pot odds. If you are drawing one card to a Badugi, there are only 10 cards that will complete your hand. If another player is standing pat, that likely reduces your chances even more, unless he has a king-high hand or is bluffing. If the pot isn’t offering you the proper odds to draw, just fold your hand.
- Be more aggressive when you have position- When you are on the button, you have more options in your play, based on how your opponents bet and draw. You can bet out even if you didn’t hit your hand and then stand pat behind the other players, following through on your bluff as the hand progresses.
- Bet pat hands before the first draw aggressively. Particularly if you have a weak Badugi, you want to jam the pot in order to thin the field as much as possible. The more players that are left in the hand, the greater the chance is that someone else will outdraw you. Ideally, you want to get into a heads-up situation and hope the other player either misses completely or draws a worse Badugi than yours.
- Break up your weak Badugi if you think you are beaten. If you have something like a Q-4-3-2 Badugi and you get raised after the first draw by a player you KNOW would not make that move without a pat hand, you are probably smarter to discard the queen and redraw for a better hand. Please note, however, that many strong players like to test whether you actually have a pat hand by raising in position without a made Badugi, hoping that you will break your hand.
- Don’t be afraid to be caught bluffing. If you get caught trying to snow the other players by representing a made hand when you don’t have it, it will increase the action you get on later hands when you actually have the goods. The important thing is not to get caught too often, or else you will never get any respect for your hands by anyone at the table.
- In pot limit, protect your hands. If you are playing pot limit Badugi, make pot sized bets and raises to protect your stronger hands, making certain not to give your opponents the proper odds to draw against you.
Utilize these Badugi tips the next time you sit down to play the game, and watch your bankroll begin to grow. Combine these ideas with the other Badugi articles on this site, and you will soon find that you have a true mastery of what is becoming an increasingly popular game.
Bluffing In Badugi
Badugi is a game where all four of your cards are hidden from the other players; therefore, it is a variant that lends itself to frequent and sometimes completely outrageous bluffs. In any poker game, it is essential that you take a balanced approach to bluffing, and Badugi is no exception. If you never bluff, you will get much less action on your strong hands, and won’t get paid off as frequently as you would like. However, if you bluff too often, your table image will suffer to the point where players will call you down with hands they would never consider playing against other opponents, and you will get caught too often to make your plays profitable.
The simplest and most frequently used bluff in Badugi is representing a made four-card Badugi (one card of each suit with no pairs) when you haven’t actually hit one. Players will utilize this move at any time during the hand, even before the first draw! It is most frequently employed on the button, when a player can see how many cards his opponents are drawing before deciding on his own discards.
For example, if you raise and only one player calls, and he draws two cards, you can stand pat and try and knock him out of the hand with a bet after the draw. Even if this doesn’t work on the first draw, you will frequently take it down with another bet after the second draw, when the player doesn’t really have the pot odds to make a call if he is still drawing. Be careful about making this move too frequently, as players will sniff it out if you are too consistent with it, and check-raise you after the first or second draw, regardless of what they have, forcing you to fold. By the way, that is how you can retaliate against a player who you suspect is making that move a little too freely.
Another variation of this same play, also best made in position, is done after the second draw. In a heads-up situation, your opponent raised before the first draw, and then bet again after the draw when you each took one card. You both take one card again, and he leads out one more time. You now raise, and when he draws one, you stand pat, and then bet after the third draw, forcing him to fold if he hasn’t made his hand. Once again, this is a very common bluff that good players will be familiar with, so establish a solid, tight image at the table before utilizing this play. However, in the right circumstances, it is a very profitable play.
Another common play, and one which is more sophisticated than either of the first two, occurs when you have made a “bad” Badugi. Let’s say that you are dealt a K-J-9-7 Badugi, and another opponent also stands pat for the first draw. You have two options: 1) You can fold, since there is really nothing that you can draw to, and you are almost certainly beaten, or 2) You can raise or check-raise your opponent’s bet, showing a much stronger hand than you have, hoping to get him to break up something like a Q-5-3-A. Very often, you can get the other player to draw one on later rounds, and if he misses, as he is most likely to do, you can steal a pot that should have been his. Remember that there is a good likelihood that any dealt Badugi is a weak one, and you are using this fact to push opponents off of better hands.
If you have a very strong three-card hand, such as 3-2-A or 4-2-A, you can sometimes stand pat instead of drawing a card, either on the first or second draw. That way, you can win either by getting the other players to fold, or by still having the best hand at the end. Although you should do this very infrequently, you can get another player with a bad Badugi to break his hand and lose to your better three-card hand. This is a simple play that will keep your opponents guessing about what you are doing.
One of the more outrageous bluffs that you can attempt in Badugi is standing pat with a dealt hand such as A-2-4-5 of the same suit. While this hand will lose to almost anything in a showdown, you will often take it down long before it reaches that point, due to how difficult it will be for your opponents to get a decent card in the suit you are blocking. If you don’t mind looking extremely foolish if your hand gets revealed, this may be the type of bluff you want to occasionally use.
Psychologically, the difficulty most players have with bluffing is feeling embarrassed when their bluff gets sniffed out. This prevents many players from ever attempting deception, and, as a result, creates a totally predictable player who is very easy for everyone else to read. If such a player bets, and you don’t have a great hand, just get out of the way, because they are sure to have what they are representing. Unfortunately, this type of player will be a losing player most of the time, especially as the other players get to know him, because he will get less and less action when he has the cards, and will only be played at when he is beaten.
You must, in order to be a successful poker player, learn what the optimal times are to bluff, and this simply requires telling a story with your bets that makes sense all the way through. If you can do this, your opponents will not know whether you are telling the truth or lying, and they will become more cautious when they play against you. Getting caught once or twice (not more than that, as your table image will go down the drain) will show everyone else what you are capable of and this will lead to your being paid off big-time when you hit your hands.
Badugi is an ideal game for you to practice your bluffing skills. Look for opportunities to use the plays described above, and take a few risks with them. You will be amazed at how often your opponents will timidly lay down their hands, and how your bankroll grows as a result.
The Five Most Common Beginner Mistakes in Badugi
Perhaps even more important than making clever plays and great reads in Badugi is avoiding basic mistakes. The money that you save by staying away from these errors will likely be greater than all the profits that you make at the game by making the right plays.
These are the five most common mistakes that beginning Badugi players make:
- Playing too many hands. Many Badugi players think that any four starting cards can become a great hand by the end of three draws. While this statement has a grain of truth to it, it is not much more significant than a single grain of sand in the Sahara desert. When you start by playing garbage, you almost always end up with garbage, and you may as well throw your money in the garbage, because you are going to be a losing player. Avoid starting cards other than pat hands (dealt four-card Badugis), one-card draws to seven or better (at a very loose table, you can incorporate eights as well), and late position two-card draws to five or better. Throw everything else away, and you will be much more likely to be profitable.
- Not being aggressive with the best hand. Many players are afraid to raise with a “bad” dealt pat-hand Badugi (J high or worse). Ironically, this is the type of hand that most needs to be raised and re-raised before the draw. If you do not raise with this hand, you will invite more players to stay in the hand and try and outdraw you. The more players that remain, the more the chances are that someone will hit a pat hand, and it will likely be better than yours. If you can reduce the number of other players to one (or at the most, two), you have a much better chance of your hand holding up and taking down the pot. The only exception to this rule is when your hand is so good that you might want to invite players to stay. So, for example, if you are fortunate enough to be dealt the absolute “nuts” (the best possible hand, A-2-3-4 of different suits), you can slow down and try and keep as many people drawing as possible, since you can’t be beaten. With luck, someone else will hit a 7 or better Badugi, and then you can engage them in a raising war.
- Chasing when the pot odds don’t justify it. It is important to remember that your odds of completing a one-card draw on the third draw are a little worse than 4.5:1. If your opponent already has a pat hand (and you believe he isn’t bluffing), you also need to consider that any number of your “outs” may still only make the second-best hand. For example, if he has an 8-4-3-2 Badugi, and you have a 6-3-A one-card draw, the only cards of your suit that will win for you are the 2, 4, 5 and 7, since your eight won’t be as good as his, and the other low cards will pair you. That makes your odds worse than 10:1 on that draw. With the betting limit doubling before the third draw, you will rarely have much better than even the 4.5:1, let alone anything approaching 10:1. Therefore, you need to fold your hand much more often, rather than drawing in this situation. However, if you fold every time you are in this situation, good players will take advantage of you by standing pat whether or not they have made a hand, so you need to mix it up somewhat, occasionally seeing the final draw, but more often folding.
- Never bluffing. Most beginner Badugi players never bluff. When they have a pat hand, they stand pat. When they need a card, they draw a card, etc. However, it is important to throw in a rare, well-timed bluff from time to time in order to keep the other players guessing about what you might do in any situation. These bluffs can include standing pat late in the hand in position, and then betting after the last draw to force your opponent to fold, “snowing,” or standing pat right from the start of the hand with a junk hand, oftentimes four low cards of the same suit, since that makes it more difficult for your opponents to draw that suit, or betting out after the last draw to represent a made hand, when you didn’t hit and think that bluffing is the only way to win the hand. Getting caught in this type of bluff can be your best advertisement for getting paid off later, when you actually have a powerhouse.
- Not breaking up a “bad” Badugi. If you were dealt a “smooth” king-high Badugi (where the other three cards are low ones), and get check-raised by a player who drew one on the first draw, nine times out of 10 your hand is now beaten by a better Badugi. While there is some chance that the other player is bluffing after not hitting his draw, he usually is not. It is essential that you throw away your king and draw one card to try and improve your hand. While you are now the underdog to win the hand, you are still better off breaking and drawing rather than calling down to the end only to see that you are beaten. If you don’t hit after the second draw, you will usually fold, although you might draw again if the pot odds justify it.
Avoiding all five of these most common errors will go a long way to insuring your success in Badugi. The more varied your game becomes, the more cautious your opponents will have to be in dealing with you, allowing you even more latitude to play an aggressive style that will keep the other players guessing. The fewer mistakes you make at the table, the more dangerous and respected you will be, and players will go out of their way to avoid confrontations with you, thereby leading to more money in your pocket at the end of the day.