Badugi is a draw variant of poker. In draw variants, players may discard cards from their hand and replace them with cards from the deck. The draw typically occurs before each betting round and occurs three times in Badugi.
This unusual poker format does belong to the lowball poker variation where the so-called worst hand wins, however, it really falls into a category of its own.
The primary goal is to make the lowest hand possible and all in suits that are different. Quite a feat.
Here is the full breakdown.
The Basics: Hand Values
The hand-rankings for Badugi are different from any other poker variant, although Badugi certainly falls into the category of a lowball variant of poker (worst hand wins).
The goal is to make the lowest possible hand all of different suits.
Aces are low in Badugi, and suited cards or paired cards do not count towards our hand (they work against us).
The best possible Badugi (the name is used interchangeably with “hand”) is A,2,3,4 all of different suits. This would be described as a “four high” Badugi.
Let’s see some additional examples–
- 8h 7c 6s 4d – This is an Eight-high Badugi (remember lower is better). The highest card is Eight, and all four cards are of different suits.
- Kh 7c 3s 2d – This is a King-high Badugi. Still decent, but not as strong as the Eight-high Badugi.
- Th 7s 5c 2c – This is not a four-cardBadugi. Unfortunately, the Five and the Deuce are of the same suit, so we can’t use them both. Naturally, we’ll use the lower of the two cards to create our hand, however. We hence have the Th, 7s, 2c for the three-card Ten-highBadugi. Note that a four-card Badugi will always beat a three-card Badugi regardless of the ranks involved. This hand hence loses against both the first two examples.
- 4d 4h 2c 2s – At first glance, this hand might seem like a playable selection of low cards, but this holding is little more than trash in Badugi. Since we only have two cards of unique rank, we can only make a two-card Four-high Badugi.
The Badugi Basics: How to Make Hands
Making hands in draw variants is always extremely simple compared to other poker variants.
We need to make a four-card hand in Badugi, and we have exactly four cards in our hand at any given time.
Our complete hand is hence comprised of the exact four cards we have in front of us.
Before any cards are dealt, the blinds must be posted. The small blind and big blind are posted by the player directly to the left of the button, and the player two to the left of the button, respectively.
Badugi is identical to Hold’em and Omaha in this respect.
We no longer use terms such as “preflop” and “flop” when discussing draw games. The word “flop” implies community cards and draw variants don’t typically make use of any community cards.
There are 4 betting rounds in Badugi (3 drawing rounds), and we can use the terms “pre-draw” and “post-draw” to help us distinguish between them. (Post-draw referring to any betting round after the initial draw).
Each player is dealt 4 cards face down. The pre-draw betting round begins starting with the player to the left of the big blind and proceeds in a clockwise direction.
Once all the pre-draw betting is complete, players now decide regarding which of their cards they would like to discard.
Players can discard any number of their hole cards, including all four. If players wish to keep their current selection of four cards, they have the option to “standpat” which means to draw nothing.
Starting with the small blind and proceeding in a clockwise direction, players announce how many cards they are discarding and draw the equivalent number of cards from the deck.
If (in the rare occurrence that) the deck runs out of cards, the discard pile can be reshuffled and treated as a fresh deck.
There are now three additional betting rounds, two of which are followed by an opportunity to draw. The third of these three post-draw betting rounds will be followed immediately by Showdown.
Confused? Don’t worry, here is a quick map of the entire structure -
- Posting of blinds.
- The Deal
- Pre-draw betting round
- Draw 1
- First post-draw betting round.
- Draw 2
- Second post-draw betting round.
- Draw 3
- Final betting round
In a manner identical to Omaha and Hold’em, the post-draw betting rounds start with the player in the small blind (or whoever is remaining immediately left of the button).
Pre-draw rounds start with under-the-gun (with big-blind acting last).
The betting rounds in Badugi follow an identical structure to other triple draw formats such as 2-7 Triple Draw.
Once the post-draw betting action is over, players reach Showdown. Players reveal the strength of their hand and the pot is awarded to the strongest (lowest four card Badugi in this context) hand.
The Badugi Betting Actions
The betting options are identical in the majority of poker variations.
Here is a quick recap of the legal options -
Action passes to our left without us making a wager. Can only be used if there is no existing bet in the current betting round.
We make the first wager in the current betting round. Other players must at least match our bet or be forced to fold.
There is an existing wager in the current betting round, and we decide not to match it. Folding means to give up and forfeit all right to winthe pot.
There is an existing wager in the current betting round. To “call” means to match that bet exactly and continue with the hand.
There is an existing wager in the current betting round, and we decide to increase the size of that wager. The original better must at least match the size of our raise or be forced to fold.
A player has already raised on the current street, and we elect to raise again. Any raises after the initial raise are described as “re-raises”.
It’s essential to keep in mind that drawing additional cards carries the possibility of making our hand significantly worse. A four-card Badugi such as a King-high Badugi may often have enough kick to win the pot, especially if we notice our opponent is still drawing cards. (Any time he is drawing one, it is statistically unlikely he’ll have four-card Badugi by the next street.)
Drawing ourselves might be risky, given that our four card Badugi is likely to get turned into a 3-card Badugi if we draw.
However, if our opponent is electing to stand pat, it implies that he’ll have a Badugi stronger than K-high. Therefore, we might choose to “break” our Badugi and start drawing again despite standing pat on the earlier streets. (Beginners tend to assume that standing pat early in the hand means we should continue to stand pat until Showdown, which is not the case, necessarily.)