I played Badugi a couple of years ago and got hooked on the game. It can be loosely described as poker, occasionally referred to as Asian Poker. It’s a game of nerve. Bluffing is a big factor. It’s fairly easy to pick up, but the game has so many interesting approaches to it.
If you have played razz or 5 card draw, I’m sure you will enjoy this refreshing new game. Badugi is a 4 card poker game, offered online at Carbon Poker, so also available to US players.
The first thing you need to do when playing Badugi is forget all other poker variations. The objective of the game is to create the lowest 4 card hand. Pairs and flushes do not count.
To make a badugi hand, you need to use all four suits; clubs, hearts, spades and diamonds. The best possible Badugi hand is A-2-3-4 rainbow. The worst possible Badugi hand is four of a kind.
In a short handed game it is possible to win with a 3-card, 2-card or even a 1-card hand, but the aim of the game is to get as low a possible four suited hand without pairing up.
To commence the game, each player receives 4 cards face down. This is followed by an initial round of betting. Badugi is generally played at limit or pot limit.
You can opt to call, raise or fold. If you stay in the game, you get the option to replace any of your cards, similar to 5 card draw. This is followed by 2 further betting rounds and draws before the showdown.
4 card hands known as Badugi hands beat 3 card hands, etc. If that is the case, the lowest 4 card hand wins.
Remember, to qualify for a four card Badugi hand, you must encompass all four suits.
Although badugi is really simple to pick up, the betting and bluffing makes it a superb game to play.
You may not see the other players’ cards but you can see how many cards they are drawing. With 3 drawing rounds, the game can quickly change around.
I have played heads up at Badugi. I have been dealt a nine high Badugi hand off the bat. It’s a good starting point but do I stay with it and refuse cards? Yes, probably in a heads up situation but in a full ring game, a nine high is unlikely to hold out. You must remember to keep an eye on how many cards the other players are drawing.
I have drawn 1 card only to pair up on the 2nd draw, giving me only a 3 card hand. If the other players are drawing 2 or three cards that round, I might refuse a final draw and try to bluff it out. The bluff can often work unless one of the other players catches a hand.
Badugi can be quite intense. Like all forms of poker, it can be frustrating when you miss your draw but the bluffing factor means that even when you have a disaster of a hand in front of you, it is still possible to bluff your way to the pot.
The best way to learn Badugi is through practice. You will learn enough to get you by within a session of playing, after that, it is up to you to refine your game, watch the other players betting habits and capitalize on their errors. One of the few places offering Badugi online is Carbon Poker. You can play, both at the real and free money tables.