Jim’s All in Poker Volume XXIV

I normally write about Texas Hold Em because it is the most popular game out there. Although I love the game, I occasionally find myself bored with it. Look at two cards; see nothing interesting; fold. That is the normal series of events in a Hold Em game, and one that you should be utilizing more often than not. Instead of limping and playing every hand, what you should be doing is intently studying the other players all the time. In fact, if you are serious about your success at the game, you should probably be folding upwards of 80% of the time.I think that is why Daniel Negreanu calls Texas Hold Em the most boring poker game ever invented.

badugiSo today I thought I would talk about another game that you might consider adding to your poker repertoire.  That game is Badugi.

The premise is that you are drawing to the best hand.  What makes Badugi interesting is the way in which you do so.To start with, it is a “low” game, meaning the worst hand wins. It is also a four-card game, meaning you aren’t working with the traditional five-card hand. It is also a triple draw game, meaning you will have three opportunities to improve your hand. What makes it even more interesting though is that the best low hand must also include all four suits. So As-2h-3d-4c would be a perfect Badugi hand.

So with that, here are the basic rules of Badugi.

It is a limit game, meaning each bet can only be a predetermined increment. For this article, I will be using $1/$2 limits.       As with Hold Em, you start with blinds.       With these limits, the blinds would be 50 cent/$1.

Once the blinds are posted, each player is dealt four starting cards. If a player likes what they see to start, they either call the $1 big blind, or raise exactly $1. Any subsequent raise is limited to $1. Once there have been three raises, the betting is capped, and players can only call or fold from that point.

When the round of betting is over, players decide if they want to draw to a better hand, or stand pat.       If they decide to draw, they can replace any card in their hand.       Unlike many draw poker games, they can even decide to replace all four of their cards.

So for this example, assume you were dealt As-2h-Kh-7d. You can see that you have three to a Badugi (As-2h-7d).       Also, with a 7-high, you have the makings of a pretty low hand.       But you also have two hearts in your hand, so one needs to go.       I think it is obvious that you should discard the King of hearts, and draw one.

Now, once everyone has acted for the first draw, anther betting round begins. In this second betting round, the bets are once again limited to $1 increments.

When the second betting round is complete, you now have your second draw. If the card you received to replace the King of hearts did not complete a Badugi (any club would do it), then you would discard and draw again.       If the card you received in the first draw was another heart or spade, then your decision would be easy.       If it was the 5 of diamonds though, you should discard the 7 of diamonds, and keep the 5.

Once everyone has acted on the second draw, another betting round begins, however this one goes up to $2 increments. Hence, the $1/$2 limit we established.

After the third betting round is over, you again have one last chance to improve your hand with the third draw (remember, it is a triple draw game).poker-shuffle

And upon completion of the third draw, you have one final betting round at the $2 increment limit.

Once you’ve completed the final betting round, it goes to a show down, and the best Badugi (four suits in a hand) wins.       Assuming each of these is represented by a 4-suit Badugi, 2-4-6-9 would beat A-2-3-10. Obviously, the 10 high is beaten by the 9 high. In any low game, the easiest way to determine the winner is to start with the high card and work backwards. An even better trick is to write it out backwards.       Using the above numbers you have 9642 and 10321.       Obviously 9642 is less than 10321, and the lower hand wins.

Now, what if at showdown nobody has a Badugi?       Say in a two-person showdown, one person has Ad-2c-7d-8d, while the other 2d-4s-6h-6d. In this instance you would judge the hands based on the best 3-card Badugi (three cards, all different suits). In this instance, the 2-4-6 beats the A-2-7 (6 high being lower than 7 high).

And the winner, in either instance, gets the pot.

Some helpful hints to the game include:

  1. Any Badugi is a good Badugi. Once you have played for awhile, you will see how hard it is to draw to a great Badugi hand. So if you are dealt a Queen high Badugi, I recommend keeping it and letting others try to draw to a better one. Discarding the Queen in an attempt to draw to lower card of the same suit is a recipe for disaster. When you get to the final draw, and someone is standing pat and raising, you might consider it.


  1. As with any poker game, start with good cards.       If you call, and then discard three or four of your cards, you are asking for trouble. Just fold and wait for better starting cards.


  1. Try to limit your starting hands to those with two low cards with different suits. That should be your goal. Anything better is great; anything worse is probably going to lose.       So if you look at your hand and see 2h-5d, and then two high cards or matching suits, you still have a good starting hand.


  1. Remember, the 3-card Badugi hand is very often the winner.       So if you have Ad-2c-3s-Ks, you might want to call the final bet.       Remember, drawing to perfection isn’t easy.       Sometimes close is good enough.


Poker ShoveSo give Badugi a try.       It is a fun game, and a relatively cheap game.       I play at the 25 cent/50 cent level all the time, and an initial buy in of $25 lasts me all night. And since you are drawing to improve your hand, you are never out of it.       For example, last night I started with $25.       After about two hours, I was down to $1.50.       Two hours later, I cashed out $33.       Did I get rich? No!       But I had four hours of fun and entertainment, and in my way of thinking, turned $1.50 into $33.

I sincerely hope you enjoyed this, and it leads you to try some different games. I regularly play with some friends who won’t even try playing Omaha, let alone something as different as Badugi.       As they say, variety is the spice of life.       So get out there and spice up your poker play.

Submitted 9/03/09

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