Badugi: A Variation of Draw Poker Unlike any other Game you have Played
Badugi is an entirely different form of poker. There are some similarities, but in many respects, it can almost appear to be a different game of gambling completely.
The origins of the game of Badugi are debatable. It is thought to have been played since the 1980s in both Canada and South Korea. The name Badugi is closer to the Korean word Badug and means a white and black pattern. Since the name is from the South Korean language, it is almost sure that the game come from the South Korean region.
Badugi is not the most popular game and has not seen any exclusive World Series of Poker tournaments so far, but has made an appearance in some dealer's choice tournaments and mixed games. The game has more popularity in Asia and will be found more in casinos and online sites catered to the Asian market.
This form of poker is what's known as a draw format, which essentially means you will not get to see any of your opponent's cards until the final round of betting is complete. Draw format also means you will get a chance to discard unwanted cards and replace them with new ones. There will be up to three rounds you will be able to draw for new cards.
The object of this game is to get the lowest ranking poker hand with each card being a different suit; this is called getting a Badugi. Aces are low. You can still win the pot without getting all four cards of a separate suit. Flushes are the worst possible hand to have, and any pairs or better are undesirable too.
Badugi Hand Rankings
One card hands
These are some of the worst hands possible.
A♣+3♣+4♣+5♣ all cards are ignored except the lowest card being the A♣.
4♠+5♠+6♣+7♠ all cards are ignored except the lowest card being the 4♠.
Two card hands
7♦+8♦+3♠+9♦ all cards are ignored except the 7♦ and 3♠ as these are different suits and the lowest cards.
J♦+J♣+Q♦+9♦ All cards are ignored except the J♣ and 9♦ as pairs count against you and you need different coloured suits
Three card hands
J♥+7♦+8♦+3♣ The 8♦ is ignored
A♠+4♣+3♠+A♦ The A♠ is ignored
Badugi Four card hands
K♣+Q♠+J♦+T♥ This is a Badugi hand but is the lowest ranking Badugi hand.
A♥+2♠+3♦+4♣ this is the best possible hand you can get in Badugi.
This game is almost always played in a Fixed Limit betting structure but has been known to be played in Pot Limit from time to time. We will discuss the rules for the Fixed Limit variant of this game.
Although this is a Fixed Limit game, three positions will be significant. If you are in one of the blinds, you must put in a fixed amount of money before any cards are dealt out. The button is the most powerful position and will get to act last on later betting rounds. The player left to the button (The dealer) is the small blind, and the player left of the small blind is the big blind. The big blind will usually put in twice the amount of the small blind.
Four cards will be dealt to each player face down. The first round of betting takes place with the person left of the big blind opening up the action. They may call, raise, or fold. Calling means to put in the pot the same amount of chips as the big blind. Raising means to bet twice the amount of the big blind. Folding will be the same as throwing your hand away.
After completion of this round of betting, you may discard 1-4 of your cards and get new cards to replace them. Another round of betting takes place, this time the player left of the button will open up the action and can either check or bet. If they choose to bet, they must bet the smaller of the two fixed limit betting sizes.
Players may now choose which cards they would like to discard and replace for this second draw. Another round of betting commences with the player sitting to the button's left opening the action and from this moment onwards they must bet the larger of the fixed limit betting sizes.
A third and final draw will take place, and then a final round of betting will happen. After completion of this final round of betting, players must turn over all their cards and make the best four card Badugi hand. The player with the lowest hand of all different suits will win the entire pot in the middle. If at any point you are the only player who did not fold, you will win the whole pot immediately.
Tips and Strategies to play Badugi like a Pro
Badugi is unlike any particular form of poker. The game has blinds like Texas Hold'Em, it is a fixed limit betting structure like Razz, it also works by trying to make a low hand, and then there are drawing rounds like the classic five card draw.
The key to this game is to hunt for low cards of different suits. These are going to give you the lowest and best hands possible, even if you are unable to make a Badugi these are strong hands.
You don't get to see any of your opponent's cards to be able to read as you can do in other games of poker. The only information you will have is how many cards they have thrown away and what you have seen them show up with on previous hands. It is a game where you must collect as much information about your opponents as possible to make the optimal decision.
Don't bleed your chips. What I mean by bleeding chips is calling and chasing draws too often. If your cards are high or you are pursuing more than one card for a Badugi, you should probably fold your hand. Everyone is aiming for a low Badugi.
You also need to consider how many players are at your table. The greater the number playing, the more you should fold. This is generally a good rule in all forms of poker. It's based on a frequency calculation and the more players there are, the higher probability at least one of them can form a strong hand. While with fewer players, your hands instantly become more valuable.
If playing in an eight-handed game where lots of pots are going multi-way, you should rarely get to the showdown without a Badugi. If you are playing a shorthanded game, you may be able to win the pot without a Badugi relatively often.
Badugi is a fixed limit game, and you won't have to face many big bets if you don't want to. Players are only allowed to bet the fixed limit bet size and if you don't raise you won't face any big bets like you would in Texas Hold'Em or Pot Limit Omaha. This can make it desirable for new players who would like to get some practice and play plenty of smaller pots.
Pay close attention to how many cards your opponents are discarding. If your opponents are throwing two or more cards away, they will always have a weak hand because no one is going to discard or replace a Badugi. If they 'Stand-pat' and don't throw any cards away, it can mean one of two things: They have a Badugi or a very strong hand, or they are trying to represent a Badugi as a bluff.
You shouldn't bluff much in Limit games, and this one is no different. There are still good moments to bluff; one particularly good time is if you don't have Badugi or a strong hand, but you can see your opponents keep throwing away two or more cards. Chances are their hand is very weak, and if you play your hand aggressively, they will likely give you credit and throw their weak hand away.
Badugi is unlike any form of poker you have played. This can be a fun game for beginners as the rules are relatively simple to learn and the betting structure makes it hard to lose chips in front of you too quickly. In Texas Hold'Em you could lose all your chips within the first hand you lay down. That's almost impossible to do this in Fixed Limit games like Badugi.
If you're looking to try out a laid-back form of poker that is far different from any other variation you have played, Badugi will be a good fit.
There has not been a whole lot of strategy published for Badugi as it's not the most popular of poker games. See what you can find out and try to apply it to your Badugi games. Don't be too proud to start in smaller games to get used to the betting structure and see how the game tends to play out. After you get some game confidence, then you can move up to more significant and substantial stakes.