Badugi Poker is your best chance of becoming a world class poker player

May 30, 2011

Badugi is not one of the most known poker kinds; therefore it is easier for you to become a successful player. There is no written literature and relatively few strategy guides on the topic. When I write this article only a few poker rooms offer this kind of poker game. The game most likely comes from South Korea and is becoming more and more popular. Since Badugi is still quite new there are no well-known world class players yet. If you want to become a great and well-known player, Badugi might be your big chance. As a good Badugi player you might be among the bests, while as a great Hold’em player you might be only one of the Top 10 000 players without anyone knowing who you are.

Basic rules

  • The game is a lowball game where Ace is the lowest card.
  • If any two or more cards in your hand have the same rank or suit, then one of your card is eliminated and you only have a 3 card Badugi hand. In this case any four card Badugi hand (from now on referred to as Badugi) beats you. For example ♥A♠2♣3♦3 loses against ♠A♦6♥7♣K because even though the first hand has lower cards and four different suits, it only has 3 different ranks while the second hand has all different suits and ranks and that is the most important.
  • In case more player have Badugi then the lowest high card is. For example ♥4♠5♣6♦7 beats ♥A♦2♣3♠9.
  • The best possible hand is the A234 with different suits.
  • All players have three draw possibilities to improve their hands. They can change one, two, three or all four cards and of course if they think they are very strong they can “stand pat” and not change any cards.
  • The game is mostly played in the form of limit. In the first and second betting round the bet size equals the amount of the big blind, while in the third and fourth round the bet size is doubled.

Most important strategy tips

As in many forms of poker, position has key importance in Badugi as well. The other information consideration in the beginning is the number of players at the table. With more people it is very likely that a four card Badugi wins at the end while at a very short handed table a three carded hand might win the pot for you. In a six or more handed table you should have at least three low cards. Just to make sure you know some important percentages: if you start with three different card suits you have 51% chance to reaching the end with a four card Badugi. This means your chance per draw is 21% to reach the same four card Badugi on a given street (there are three drawing rounds).

In general it is better not to keep cards higher than seven in early and middle position. In a blind vs. blind confrontation you can get involved with the highest card being kept an eight (of course with a dealt Badugi you can raise).

There are also situations when you can raise with two card hands. For example when everyone has folded and you are on the button. This is a perfect chance for stealing. When you have two cards lower than six, go on and try to take the pot right there. You can also raise with three card hands from late positions when the third highest is a seven.

Even though it is a limit game I strongly suggest you observe what your opponents do. Your opponents’ actions pretty much determine your strategy. If they change two cards before you and you have a king high four card Badugi, go ahead and raise because most of the times you will be ahead. However if someone bets and another player raises you can be sure that your same king high Badugi is not good anymore. You have to consider breaking it and draw for a lot better Badugi. If the pot odds are not good enough or your draw is not strong enough then just fold your hand and get out of the way. As you can see in this case position means everything.

The limit of the game is also very important. In low limit most of the time you can assume that your opponents have the hand that they “show”. In higher limits this is not so obvious. Sometimes they raise and reraise and making you breaking not premium four card Badugis. At the end you find out they have a strong three card hand and you had to break the winner. That is another reason why you should observe the other players and learn what they do in different situations.


Most players fail at Badugi because they do not calculate (if they calculate at all) the right pot odds. If you know the right percentages and when you should call or fold then you know the main difference between winning and losing.

Let’s see the exact numbers to be clear. The given example it is makes it easier to understand numbers. When you start with a three card Badugi, it is not as easy to reach the four card Badugi as most would think! In the example you are dealt ♥A♠4♣3♥J meaning you need a diamond, so you throw away your jack. How many cards are good in the deck for you?

There are 52 cards, minus the four cards you have. Also the ♦A♦3♦4 must be subtracted because they would be the same rank as the three cards you already have. The ♦K does not help much either because it is almost like a three card hand. It is the highest Badugi so you will beat three card hands but lose against four card Badugis most of the time. The only hand that you can potentially beat with ♥A♠4♣3♦K is a hand like ♠A♣2♦3♣6 which is a better three card hand but does not qualify for a four card Badugi. However this situation will not happen very often. This means there are 48 remaining cards in the deck and only 9 are probably good enough (13 diamonds minus the 4 diamonds which do not help). This means 18,75% of the cards are strong enough. Not even mentioning that for a strong Badugi that you could raise or reraise with you probably need the ♦2♦5♦6♦7. These are only 4 cards of 48 (8.3%). These numbers are good to remember when you are chasing your fourth card to hit the Badugi.

The other main probability consideration that most players forget is when to make a call before the third draw and when to fold your hand. Let’s say there are $6 in the pot, your opponent stands pat in the second drawing round and bets $2 when you only have a three card hand. What do you do? Most beginners make the call because they do not know that they only have 18,75% to hit the fourth card. You know you have a small chance, not even mentioning that some of the 9 outs might lose the pot anyway so you might only draw for 2-3 outs.

When calculating probabilities you should not forget the difference between Triple Draw and Single Draw games. In Triple Draw games you will see strong hands win a lot more often than in Single Draw just from the fact that in a Triple Draw game there are 3 drawing rounds opposed to the one round of a Single Draw game. That is why in Triple Draw games worse starting hands win a lot less because they have to hold for three betting rounds.

I suggest you use the above mentioned strategies and become a well-known star in Badugi!

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Related articles:

Winning strategy for low limit Stud High games
Razz Poker: the game of patience and analyzing

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