STRATEGY

Badugi Rules – How to Set-up and Play Badugi

If you are a poker enthusiast and love to play the game as often as possible, you may eventually find yourself searching for something more exciting. While games like Texas Hold Em and Omaha are the gold standard for poker tables both at the casino and online, that doesn’t mean that they are the only thing you can play. The great thing about poker is that there are so many variations, so if you’re in the mood for something different, you can find a game that suits your interests.If you’ve ever played draw poker, you may be interested in a variation of that game called Badugi. For a long time, Badugi was only played in the Far East, such as in Korea or Japan. However, in recent years the game has become increasingly popular in the west, due to its complex strategy and betting style.

For those who are interesting in something that is more challenging than standard Hold Em or Stud Poker, Badugi can be a great option. For the most part, this game is becoming more popular online, but some Vegas casinos offer it as a live game. To help you become a master of Badugi, we have outlined all of the basic rules and strategies you have to know.

Badugi Basics

If you have ever played draw poker, then you should be able to pick up Badugi without any problems. Learning the mechanics of the game is easy, but when it comes to strategy that is where the real fun begins. To help you get started, however, let’s go over the basic rules and foundations of Badugi so you can know what to expect on the table.

Badugi Rules

Players

Badugi is played with a single deck of cards. You can play with two to eight different people at a time. Usually, the best games feature four to six people, but Badugi can provide even more interesting challenge with a full table.

Cards

In Badugi, you use all fifty-two cards. To start, everyone gets four cards face down, and then there are up to three rounds of betting and drawing. After that, players show down. While not likely, there is the potential for all players to discard and draw four cards every turn.

Hand Ranking

For this game, only cards that are off suit count towards your overall hand. Thus, if you have four clubs, for example, only the lowest one will matter. In this game, the player with the lowest hand wins. Thus, the best hand possible in Badugi is an Ace, Two, Three, and Four off suited. Aces are always low.

One thing to note is that you call a hand that has four off-suit cards a Badugi. If only three cards count, that is known as a three-card hand. In this game, you have the potential to have a one-card hand by the end, although that is highly unlikely unless you call each round no matter what.

Another term in Badugi is “Standing Pat” (or “Rapping Pat.”) This is when you have a made hand and don’t draw any cards. Doing this can be an excellent way to psych out your opponents to make them fold.

Dealing and Gameplay

To help you understand the mechanics better, let’s go over the structure of the game with an example hand. To keep things simple, we’ll have two players only.

If there is no official dealer, then the button will move between players as the game progresses. This is a blind game, which means that there is a small and big blind, starting to the left of the button.

The dealer will hand out four cards, one by one, face down to each player. Once each player has received his or her cards, he or she will either call the big blind, raise or fold. If no one raises the big blind in the first round, he may increase the bet.

Examples

Imaginary hand

In this first example, we’ll go through the mechanics of Badugi rules, and leave the betting out.

Round One

All cards are dealt.

Player One Hand: 2♠, 5♣, J♠, 8♥

Player Two Hand: Q♥, 7♣, 4♣, A♠

If the players were to showdown immediately, player one would win. He has a three-card hand that is lower than player two. Because any matching suits or pairs don’t count, player one has a lower hand overall.

In this round, both players call.

Round Two

Player one discards his Jack of Spades and his eight of hearts. He gets two cards in return. Player two discards his Queen of Hearts and his seven of clubs.

Player One Hand: 2♠, 5♣, K♥, 6♣

Player Two Hand: A♠, 4♣, 3♥, T♥

In this case, Player Two now has the better hand because he has lower off-suit cards than player one. As a result, Player Two bets and Player One calls.

Round Three

Player One discards his King of Hearts and Six of Clubs. He gets two cards in return. Player Two discards his Ten of Hearts and gets one card back.

Player One Hand: 2♠, 5♣, A♥, 9♠

Player Two Hand: A♠, 4♣, 3♥, 7♦

After this round, Player Two technically has a made hand, as he has four low cards (eight or below) that are off suit. Most likely the next round he will “stand pat” so as to avoid the risk of making his hand worse.

Round Four

Player One discards his Nine of Spades and gets one card back. Player Two will stand pat this round.

Player One Hand: 2♠, 5♣, A♥, 5♠

Player Two Hand: A♠, 4♣, 3♥, 7♦

As you can see, Player Two still has a made hand, whereas Player One only has a three-card hand.

Showdown

When showing down your cards in Badugi, you have to reveal all four of them, even if some of them don’t count. The cards will speak for themselves.

In this case, Player Two automatically wins because he has a Badugi hand, whereas Player One only has three cards that count towards his final hand.

When ranking hands with Badugi rules, a higher number hand will outrank a lower one no matter what. Thus a Badugi will beat any three-card hand or lower, and a two-card hand will outrank a one-card hand, and so on. This is true regardless of the contents of the hand, so a player could have a King High Badugi and he will still beat out a three-card hand that is Ace-Two-Three.

If two players have the same ranking hand, then they both split the pot.

If at any time, there is only one player left in the pot (regardless of which round it is), then he or she will rake in the pot without showing his or her hand.

After the showdown, the button moves to the player to the immediate left of the dealer. Blinds will continue to the left of the button as normal.

Live Hand

Here, Peter S puts our strategy to the test:

Blinds

Happily enough, Peter has a nice low starting hand with a good mix of suits.  The downside here is that he is not in position. Nevertheless, this is very much a hand worth playing, so Peter calls the $0.25 raise and stays in for the first draw.

1st Round

Here, Peter has attempted to psyche out his opponents by standing pat.  They both discard two, which tells us their hands are weak at this stage.  All players checked this round, helping to confirm the weakness of their hands.

2nd Draw

Peter chooses now to switch out the weakest card from his hand (6♥), and lucks in with a 9♠, giving him Badugi.  It’s a strong hand, so Peter decides to push the pot. this was too much for civas and Stolljar, and they fold.

3rd Draw

Seoul is still drawing cards at this point.  The single draw implies he needs one suit to come in for a badugi.  After that, there is little way of knowing who could hold the strongest hand. However, Peter’s hand is solid enough at 9-high.  Peter stands pat and both players wager a further $0.50, leading to a showdown:

Showdown

It seems fairly likely from this that Seoul was attempting to land a badugi with the last draw and it didn’t come in.  Overall, a nicely played hand nets a modest pot.

Basic Strategy of Badugi

As we mentioned, learning the mechanics of Badugi is easy, but strategy is where the challenge lies. The most important aspect to keep in mind with this game is which hands are good enough to start and which ones you should fold immediately.

The other imperative thing you have to remember about Badugi is that most players will stay in until the last round. Because you can draw an entirely new hand every round, most newbies will stay in even if they have a terrible hand, because they believe that they can make it better.

Position

When playing under badugi rules, your position in this game is crucial. Unlike some other poker games, the fact that the cards will change every round means that you are in a better advantage being in a later position. The reason for this is you can see how everyone is betting, as well as who is standing pat. Thus, you can make a more informed decision as to whether or not to stay in.

As for drawing, being in an early position may or may not help you, but it will only make a huge difference during the first draw round. After that, other players have taken cards, so you are at no more of an advantage than anyone else.

With that in mind, here are some basic strategy rules to follow.

  • Only start if you have two or more low cards (eight or below) that will count.
  • Any Badugi hand (four cards off-suit) is highly valuable and should be bet and raised with. More often than not a four-card hand will be the winner of the pot, which means you are automatically at an advantage over everyone who doesn’t have a Badugi.
  • If you can “stand pat” early in the game, do so. This will psych out your opponents
  • Pay attention to how loose the other players are. Loose players will keep betting until the end, but will usually get caught with a three or two-card hand due to overdrawing.
  • Don’t overdraw your hand. The basic strategy is all about making a “pat” or Badugi hand. If you have four off-suit cards, you risk making your hand worse by  drawing again.

Badugi Exercise

To help ensure that you understand the rankings of the hands, here are four sample hands. Which one is the best? Which one is the worst?

Player One: 2♠, 4♠, 8♣, 3♥

Player Two: A♥, K♥, 6♣, 6♦

Player Three: 5♣, 9♦, 7♣, 3♠

Player Four: T♥, 2♣, J♦, A♠

In this case, Player Four is the automatic winner, because he has a Badugi (four card) hand. Even though he has a Jack high Badugi, it still outranks the others.

The worst hand shown is Player Two, as he only has a two-card hand and thus loses to everyone else. His king and one of his sixes are disqualified for matching suit and rank, respectively.

Badugi Rules Conclusion

So if you’re looking for a fun, exciting game to play with friends or for money, Badugi can have a lot of appeal. We suggest playing for free with some poker buddies to get a feel for the game first before you try your hand at playing for money. That being said, though many online Badugi players are newbies who don’t know the best strategy, so once you master the game you could potentially win big.

Don’t forget to leave us a comment below, and if you’re looking for somewhere to play badugi, you can use our comparison tool.  Sharpen your skills with a good [amazon text=Badugi&asin=B0057G4Q52] book, too. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading our guide to Badugi rules!


I'm a tech geek who enjoys extreme sports, computing and, of course, an avid poker enthusiast.


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