What exactly is Badugi? This draw poker variant works similarly to the Triple Draw and shares the values of lowball. The entire gameplay and the betting structure are the just like standard poker, meaning the Badugi uses mandatory blinds. However, the biggest difference between classic poker games and Badugi lies in the number of cards in hand; in the traditional version, there are five, while Badugi uses only four.
In every round, (there are 3 drawing rounds in Badugi, plus a final round), all of the participants have the option of trading none or all of the cards in hand for fresh ones from the deck, giving their best to compose the strongest Badugi hand and seize the juicy pot.
The pot claimer is the person with the best (strongest) hand at the fourth, final round, better known as the famous showdown. This round involves the clash of players’ hands and before that, a few moments of anticipation which are filled with adrenaline and nervousness. And guess what — it is the single best freaking feeling which makes gambling so exciting.
You can find Badugi in cardrooms pretty much everywhere around the globe, in land-based casinos (mixed games section), and as an online poker variant. Even though Badugi doesn’t have a tournament of its own, like the WSOP, it can still be found at the Triple Draw Mix sections and the Dealer’s Choice events.
We found many controversies regarding the origins and the roots of the Badugi game, which we managed to pinpoint to the 1980s. There were a couple of reports in Canada, Winnipeg back in the 1980s of a similar game, better known under a different name — Off-Suit Lowball. This card variant wasn’t played in casinos though but in the back rooms of poker clubs and pool halls.
But Canada wasn’t the first country with Badugi poker players. We also found records of this game having been played in some parts of Asia, South Korea to be accurate, also in the 1980s. Badugi is a word that quite literally translates from Korean as ‘white and black pattern.’ The Korean memorable ‘baduk’ is mostly used for describing a black and white dog, calling the animal a ‘baduk.’ This was the inspiration behind Go, an old strategic board game, which uses dark and light little stones as playing pieces.
Another predecessor of Badugi was a Toronto game played between the 1970s and 1980s. It was referred to as ‘Off-On High Low’ and had another variant called the ‘Leapfrog.’ In both of these games, the primal goal was to compose the strongest hand of five cards, with a mandatory pair. To get this potent combination, either all cards in hand had to be of the exact same suit or of different suites.
The Dealing and the 1st Betting Round
The usual game commences with the dealing of four cards in total, all of them facing down. The initial hand starts with a ‘pre-draw’ betting round, with the player left of the big blind placing the first bet. After the first player receives 4 cards, the dealer gives the exact same number of cards to each player clockwise.
At this point, every participant at the Badugi table has the choice to either raise, fold, or call. If they make the choice to call, this means they have to wager a figure equal to the big blind. And in case they decide to fold, this means they’re giving up completely, and finally, if they choose to raise, it means that the players are placing more money, making the rest of the participants either follow up or eventually fold.
Once every player has put their contributions in the pot or gave up, the game continues to the draw phase. It will commence with the initial player remaining in the current game, and now every player can discard those cards they found to be weak in their starting hand, and in return, receive the same number of new cards.
So what happens to the discarded cards? They aren’t returned to the deck but are set aside for the rest of the game, that is, of course, unless the deck becomes depleted. In that case, the dealer takes the rejected cards back into the deck and shuffles it. This can happen right in the middle of a request to draw. Still, the deck should be depleted first and then reformed. After the discards are reshuffled, the draw can continue, but from the newly-formed deck.
The 2nd and 3rd Betting Rounds and the Showdown
Now that the 1st betting round has come to an end, the second one can commence. This is a point in Badugi in which the participants have the possibility to check, meaning they don’t have to place any amount in the pot but can remain in the hand, but only until another player decides to bet. The betting process unfolds again and ends once every player has put in the exact amount of betting money or gives up (folds).
Once the 2nd betting round is done, another draw occurs, after which the 3rd round of betting follows. When the third round is done, there is a 3rd and last draw. This draw is followed by the final round of betting, and finally, the famous showdown if it’s necessary.
At any given time, if all the participants but one have decided to fold, the only remaining player scoops the pot. In case there is more than just the one person in the end round, all of the hands are matched, and the participant with the most valued Badugi hand will seize the pot.
Badugi Card Ranks
As we have mentioned above, the card rankings in Badugi are the exact opposite of the rankings in traditional poker. The strongest possible combo is four cards of distinct ranks and suits, and the lower the cards are, the stronger the hand you will have.
The most prominent possible hand is the best answer to the question of how to win Badugi, for instance, 4 of hearts – 3 of diamonds – 2 of spades – Ace of clubs. See, every card is of a distinct suit and number, and they are the lowest a deck has to offer. With that being said, don’t think for a minute that a Badugi hand is easy to obtain as it may seem when you read the rules.
Furthermore, a Badugi hand consists of four low cards, but if you don’t have it, the next best thing is a so-called ‘Three Card,’ followed by a ‘Two Card’ and a ‘One Card’ Badugi hand.
Ace is the lowest card in the deck, so in Badugi, this low card represents the best card. Just like in lowball, lower cards are superior, but when there is a tie (two players with equally strong hands), the pot has to be split among them. Also, if there is a tie and the opponents have the same highest card in hand, the next lowest card will be taken into consideration, in this case, the hand with the lowest 2nd card will prevail.
Hence, the best possible hand in Badugi game is four, three, two, Ace, each of distinct suits. Therefore, the worst hand you can imagine is, of course, King of diamonds – King of hearts – King of clubs – King of spades.
Bets and Blinds in Badugi
The small blind is generally half of the small bet amount, and the big blind is exactly the same as a full small bet. Badugi can be played half pot-limit, pot-limit, and on a rare occasion, no-limit.
Just like in any other card game which uses a fixed order of play, one of the defining factors in a Badugi strategy is the players’ position. The participants who act last often have the option to bluff considering they have the chance to observe the actions of every player before them until it’s their turn.
Now that you’ve read our Badugi 101 and found out how to win at Badugi, it’s time to give it a try. We wish you all the luck in the world.