Badugi Poker: Rules & Strategies

Badugi is one of lesser-known forms of poker that many players haven't had a chance to play before. It is an interesting poker variation that takes basic rules of lowball games but adds some twists to them, creating a poker variation that's unlike any other game out there. You won't find many live casinos spreading Badugi on its own but it is often a part of mixed game cash sessions, especially at higher stakes, so knowing the rules and basic strategy of the game can come in quite handy. This article will provide you with that very information and help you get set to play your very first hand of Badugi poker.

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How to play: Badugi rules explained

Fundamentally, Badugi is a form of draw poker as it involves players exchanging cards from their hands and drawing new cards from the deck during a game round. Badugi rules aren't too complicated to understand but they may take some getting used to, especially when it comes to poker hand rankings as these entail some special considerations not featured in other forms of poker out there.

Badugi dealing explained

Dealing cards in this poker variation is quite simple. Badugi dealing begins with the first player seated left to the dealer receiving the first card face down. The deal continues clockwise until all players have received their first card. Then, the second card is dealt in the same way, followed by the third, and the fourth and the final card, so that everyone has four cards in their hands.

This isn’t a stud poker variation, so no cards are dealt face up. Like in Hold’em or Omaha, all cards are hidden and only the player can see his or her hand. There is no readily available information about any cards held by other players in the hand.

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Betting rules

In most cases, the game observes the betting structure featuring the blinds (like Hold’em or Omaha). The player to the immediate left of the dealer posts the small blind and the player next to him posts the big blind (usually twice the amount of the small blind). Once these forced bets are in and all players have their cards, the first round of betting begins.

Betting begins with the first player to the left of the big blind (often referred to as Under the Gun or UTG). He or she can fold, call the big blind amount or raise. In Badugi poker, the pot limit betting structure is usually in place, like with some other draw games such as Five Card Draw. This means that players can only raise up to the size of the pot and can’t bet all of their chips whenever they feel like it like in no limit games. Of course, sometimes the game is also played in No Limit format, with the betting rules exactly the same as in No Limit Texas Hold’em.

Once the first round of betting is done, the first draw begins. Players can exchange between one and all four cards from their hands and take new cards from the deck to try and make the best hand. After all players have taken new cards, the second betting round ensues, starting with the small blind or the first still active player to the left of the small blind.

This process repeats two more times, i.e. there are two more draw rounds, where players can discard their cards with the betting round in the meantime. At any point, an active player can choose to stand pat, meaning they are happy with their hand and don’t want to take any new cards from the deck.

Awarding the pot: The showdown

After the third round of betting, the winner of the pot will be determined. A player can win the hand by making everyone else fold (like in all other poker games), in which case they win the pot by default, or by having the best hand at the showdown.

If there are two or more active players in the hand once all the betting is done in the third round, everyone will turn over their hands and let the cards speak. The player showing the best hand according to the hand rankings explained below will win the entire pot. As in all other poker games, two or more players having the same best hand will equally split the pot.

Hand rankings in Badugi

As already mentioned, the biggest difference in rules between this and other forms of poker is in the hand ranking system. It is a lowball form of poker, meaning that the lowest hand wins the pot but suits play an important role as well.

To have a hand that qualifies as Badugi, you first need to have four cards in a different suit. So, you need all four different suit patterns in your hand (a club, a diamond, a heart, and a spade). A hand containing four different suits will always beat the one only containing three (etc.) regardless of card values.

Further, to determine the winner, the card rank is used. The goal is to have the lowest possible hand. Like in other lowball poker games, Ace is counted as low, while the rest of the cards have their standard rank. When comparing Badugi hands, considering what we mentioned about the suit, the player with the lowest high card will win the pot. So, the best possible hand you can have A, 2, 3, 4 – all in different suits. If you have A, 2, 3, 4 but have two cards of the same suit, you’ll still lose to any hand containing four different suits, even if it contains a King.

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Badugi strategy & tips

Unlike for most other poker games around, there isn’t much information about Badugi strategy out there. While this makes it somewhat harder to learn the game and play it well, it also means that most of your opponents won’t be very good and might make some serious strategy mistakes as they play. So, you don’t need much to get ahead.

The first thing to keep in mind when selecting your Badugi starting hands is that you preferably want to have every single suit. So, if you’re dealt three cards of the same suit to begin with, the hand is probably not worth playing at all. In general, try to start with a hand that has at least two cards of different suits.

Making a Badugi is quite powerful on its own but you ideally want to go for at least an 8 or 9-high hand. If you can make this and other players are still drawing, you can comfortably stand pat and bet out, forcing others to pay to draw. Most players don’t know Badugi odds, so they’ll often pay way too much to try and make their hand when it is quite clear they’re behind at the moment.

The best way to learn is to play the game, though. You can find plenty of Badugi online free poker games to get started and learn the ropes. Once you’re comfortable with the game rules and feel ready to take the next step you can move on to smaller stake games.

Badugi poker FAQs

Badugi is a lowball form of poker played with four cards dealt to each player. The goal of the game is to have the lowest possible hand and Aces rank as low in this poker format. However, unlike other poker games, Badugi also pays attention to suits and the goal is to primarily have all four different suits.

Origins of the game are somewhat unclear. Some say it was brought to the US by a well-known player Paul “Eskimo” Clark after returning from his military service in Vietnam. He wasn’t the one to invent the game, though, but he was likely the one to introduce it to the western world.

This poker variation is played with the standard full deck of cards with no jokers. The dealing is done starting with the first player to the left of the dealer and going clockwise. All players are dealt four cards in total, facing down, receiving one card at the time.

Yes, you can. Many online poker rooms offer free Badugi tables you can use to hone your skills and strategy and better understand the game. While playing for free chips isn’t quite the same as the real deal, it is a good way to get used to its dynamics, especially if you’d never played before.

It is fair to say that this is more of a niche poker variation so you won’t find a huge number of tables running at any point. However, there are still quite a few players who enjoy the game so you should have no problems finding some games, at least on the lower and mid-stakes online.

Conclusion:
Join Badugi poker action online

Although live casinos don’t often offer Badugi games, you’ll find that many online poker rooms give you a chance to play this poker variation, especially at cash game tables. So, if you’d like to learn the variant or are already an experienced player looking to play Badugi online, check out our online poker comparison. You’ll be able to find a great variety of choices and pick up quite a few bonuses in the process to boost your bankroll and improve your winning chances even further! Of course, all of these rooms offer other poker variations as well, so you’ll have all the freedom you need if you ever want a change of pace.
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