Badugi Poker probably originated in Korea, but it is now played at many casinos worldwide and online. Unlike many online casino games, it is played against other players rather than a bank, with most hands ending when all but one player has folded rather than going to showdown, just like in most forms of poker. Badugi Poker is enjoyed by many due to its different hand rankings and the strategy required over multiple draws in order to outplay opponents.
How to play Badugi
First of all, Badugi Poker uses blinds, so the player to the right of the dealer has the big blind, equal to the minimum bet, and the player to the right of the big blind has the small blind, equal to half the minimum bet. These players must ante up the correct blind amount before play begins.
Once the blinds are out, each player is dealt 4 cards and there is a pre-draw betting round, beginning with the player to the left of the big blind. Each player may call, putting out an amount equal to the highest bet so far, check if they have already put out an amount equal to the highest bet, fold to lose their cards and any stake in the pot, or raise by putting out more than the current highest bet. Once the last raiser has been called or checked by everyone, play moves on to the first draw.
Each player, starting with the first player to the left of the dealer who is still in the pot, may discard as many or as few of their cards as they like, and receive that same amount of replacement cards. The replacement cards are dealt before the next player discards their own cards. Cards are not reshuffled into the deck.
The players now have another round of betting, followed by another draw, then another round of betting, followed by a final draw round and one last round of betting. If at any point only one player has not folded, they win the pot. If the final round of betting ends in a call, however, all remaining players show their cards and the person with the highest ranked hand wins the pot.
The dealer, big blind and small blind all move to the left, and a new hand can be dealt.
Badugi Hand Rankings
Badugi does not have the same hand rankings as standard poker, and lower card ranks are actually worth more, with Ace equal to one. Creating a Badugi hand is a matter of having non-matching cards in your hand. This means they may not match in value or suit. A hand that has two non-matching cards is beaten by a hand with three non-matching cards, and a hand with all-four cards unique in value and suit is stronger still. When two players have hands with the same number of non-matching cards, the highest ranked cards in the hands are compared, with the lowest winning. If those are equal, the second-highest cards are compared and so on, until one of the cards is found to be lower than the other, or all cards that make up the ranked hands have been found to be equal, causing a draw.
The hands in Badugi Poker can probably be best explained with an example. One player has 2 of Spades/4 of Spades/2 of Hearts/6 of Diamonds. This is a 2-card Badugi hand, as the 6 of Diamonds is not a duplicate with any of the other cards, but all of the others share a trait with at least one of the other cards.
A hand consisting of Ace of Clubs/4 of Diamonds/3 of Diamonds/9 of Spades would be a 3-card hand, as Ace of Clubs and 9 of Spades are both completely unique, meaning that 3 of Diamonds would also make up the hand due to having a lower rank that the 4 of Diamonds.
A 4-card Badugi Poker hand would have all unique cards, none of the same suit or value. For example, a 2 of Spades/5 of Hearts/7 of Diamonds/8 of Clubs would be a 4-card hand. The strongest hand in Badugi Poker is 4/3/2/A all of different suits.
Badugi Poker Example Play
We will assume a game between 4 people – Susan, Billy, Greg and Daniel – and focus on Susan’s hand. The big blind is Billy, and Susan is the dealer, so she is up first. She is dealt an Ace of Spades/4 of Clubs/5 of Clubs and a 6 of Diamonds. With a 3-card Badugi hand containing only a 6 as the highest card, she decides she’ll be in the game and raises for double the minimum bet of $40. Greg is next, but he folds, as does Daniel. After a brief pause, Billy puts in the extra money on top of his big blind and calls.
Billy now gets to act first, discarding one card and receiving another. Susan does the same, discarding her 5 of Clubs and receiving a 3 of Hearts in return. She has a 4-card Badugi hand! Billy bets a fairly conservative $40, and Susan responds by raising it by $200. Billy calls and they go to another draw round. Billy actually discards and takes a card, with Susan declining. Billy bets $400, throwing good money after bad, seemingly trying to bluff Susan, but she doubts that he has anything worthwhile, and raises to $800. Billy calls, pretty obviously bluffing.
With so much of his money already in the pot, Billy is seemingly desperate to win this hand. He discards and draws a card, despite this giving away the weakness of his hand. Susan does not. Billy goes all-in, in a last ditch effort to bluff Susan. She calls, and it goes to showdown. Billy shows his hand – Ace of Hearts/2 of Diamonds/5 of Spades/6 of Clubs. He clearly hit a 4-card hand on his last draw. Susan shows her hand of Ace of Spades/3 of Hearts/4 of Clubs/6 of Diamonds. Both hands have an equal number of cards, and both have the same value highest ranked card. Luckily for Susan, her next card is a 4, while Billy’s is a 5. Susan takes the pot, and eliminates the maniacal Billy, though it was a close one thanks to the multiple draws of Badugi Poker, and Billy’s continued betting.
First of all, know the rules of Badugi Poker in order to have the best chance at winning. Don’t confuse Badugi hands with poker hands, as you want to have the least similar cards possible, of the lowest rank.
Next, position is incredibly important when trying to bluff in Badugi. Trying to bluff against large numbers of players is also inadvisable due to the likelihood of someone having a good enough hand to call with. When in late position after most of the field has folded, however, with other players having made more tentative bets, it can be worthwhile bluffing with a reasonably strong hand.
When deciding on if you have a strong enough starting hand to bluff with, the number of cards that make up your ranking Badugi hand will determine what the highest ranking one of those cards should be. For example, a 2-card hand should not be played if one of the cards is over 5. A 3-card hand should follow similar rules, and a 4-card hand should not have a high card above 7. Nevertheless, even if a 4-card hand has some higher cards, it will still beat most hands in the game, and it is risky to try to draw a better card, as you may end up losing the 4-card hand. In such circumstances, it is merely a bad idea to try to bluff with the hand, as you could find yourself in a war with another player holding a 4-card hand, and a greater chance of their high card being lower than your own.