No matter whether you call it Badugi or Padooki, this poker game of Korean origin is making inroads on internet poker sites. I recently started playing on PokerStars.com and I find the game challenging, frustrating, and mostly fun.
If you are not familiar with Badugi, you can read a description of the game on Wikipedia. Basically, each player is dealt 4 cards and has three draws to make the lowest hand possible. Only cards of different rank and suit are counted when hands are compared to determine a winning hand. Since Aces always count as low in Badugi, the best hand in Badugi is 4-3-2-A with no cards being the same suit. The worst Badugi hand is having the 4 kings.
Starting Hand Strategy
The various strategies that players can use when playing limit Badugi are what make the game so challenging. Let’s say you were dealt 5♦ 7♣ K♣ K♥ as your starting hand. If you keep your 3-card hand and discard the King of clubs, the odds of getting a usable spade to complete your 4-card Badugi are slightly less than 50%. There are only 10 spades available that can help your hand as the 5, 7, and K of spades would pair cards you already have and therefore would not improve your hand. If you were to hit your Badugi on a draw, the odds are still against you wining the pot if several players stay in the hand until the end. Your K-high Badugi would lose to any Badugi with a high card lower than the King. If you draw no cards to improve your hand, then you end up with a 3-card K-7-5, which is a sure loser. Knowing this to be true, most players would discard both Kings in the above example. This strategy leaves them with needing to draw 2 usable cards to complete their Badugi and does not guarantee that they will have a low Badugi. The player who chooses to keep the 3-card hand may still end up with a winner as he might draw a low heart to replace the K in an early draw, then hit a low, usable spade in a later draw. Complicated, isn’t it? In my experience, you should shoot for an 8-high Badugi or lower. Nine or 10-high is risky and anything higher is probably going to lose if there are several players in the hand.
Players love to chase hands in low-limit Badugi, more so than in No-limit Texas Hold’em. I’m guilty of chasing more often than I should. You can use this to your advantage to increase the size of your winning pots. You must pay attention to how many cards players are drawing each round. Are they drawing 2 or more cards or are they drawing only one? Did they draw less cards the second round then they did the first? Is anyone standing pat and not drawing any cards? These are all clues you can use to determine your hand’s chances of winning. A player who stands pat on the first or second draw probably has a Badugi, but it may not be a low Badugi. If you have a 7-high or lower 3-card hand, you would want to stay in the game until after the third draw on the hopes of hitting a lower Badugi. Many players will stay in with even higher 3-card hands and they are the ones who usually end up losing their chips. The key to success in Badugi is to make players pay to stay in a hand when you are strong. If everyone is still drawing cards and you have a 5-high 3-card hand or better, or you have a Badugi, then you need to be betting and raising. Do not let anyone get free cards. Any player you get to fold by your aggressive betting increases you chance of raking in the pot.
Bluffing can also be effective in Badugi, especially when you are in position. I will address bluffing in a future article. This post is nowhere near being a comprehensive guide to Badugi poker. I suggest that you go to an online site like PokerStars.com and try the game on a play- money table. This is a great way to learn the game and develop your own strategy.