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How to Play Badugi

Get an edge with these quick tips and basic strategies


Becoming increasingly popular in recent years, Badugi is a simple, shorthanded and swingy variant of lowball poker.

With 4 cards and 4 betting rounds, the goal in Badugi is to make the worst possible hand, similar to 2-7 triple draw but with a few strategic differences. Suited cards now count against you - chase those rainbow hands.

Theories abound on the origins of Badugi, ranging from its invention in South Korea in the 1960s, to WSOP bracelet winner Eskimo Clark introducing the game to the United States while serving in the Vietnam War.   

Badugi
Game ComplexitySimple
TypeLowball Draw Poker
Players2-8

Gameplay of Badugi

  • Setting Up

    Setting Up

    • You'll need: a button, small & big blinds.
    • The most common betting structure is pot limit.
    • Deal each player 4 cards, face down. This is the 'pre-flop' action.
  • Action

    The Action

    • There are 4 betting rounds:  pre-flop, flop, turn and river.
    • After the pre-flop betting, draw 0-4 cards. Then betting resumes to the left of the button. 
    • A total of 3 draws occur, with a round of betting after each. At any point you can 'pat', choosing not to draw.
  • Who's the Winner?

    Determining a Winner

    • Worst possible hand wins, the nuts being A-2-3-4 offsuit. 4 unpaired, unsuited cards gives you a 'Badugi'.
    • If 2 or cards are the same suit or paired, only the lowest value card of the suit or pair can be played, and you are left with a three-card hand, e.g. 7-8-9-9 becomes 7-8-9 and 6c-8h-Td-Jd becomes 6-8-T. You lose to any Badugi, even T-J-Q-K, and beat any 2 card hand, e.g. 3d-4c-5c-6c (becomes 3-4), or 1 card hand, e.g. 2-2-2-2 or any 4-flush.
    • At showdowns between hand types, the lowest high card wins, e.g. 6-7-8-9 beats A-2-3-T and Q-J beats 2-K. If the 2 two cards are tied, the next highest are compared.

Basic Strategies of Badugi

  • Pre-Flop

    Fold when you're dealt a 1 or 2 card hand, such as 9-9-9-9 or 3s-5h-Th-Qh. 

    Play hard and fast when dealt a pat hand such as a strong Badugi. Don't allow free cards.

    'Snow' when holding several aces or deuces, i.e. bet heavily as a bluff knowing players are very unlikely to hold or draw to the nuts.

  • Post-Flop

    Discard high cards in an attempt to end up with four low unpaired cards on the final betting round.

    When discarding 1 of a pair, e.g. holding As-2c-3d-3c, discard the 3c as to not hold 2 suited cards.

    Stand pat with a strong hand that is likely to become worse if you draw again, e.g. A-3-5-9 rainbow with one more draw remaining.

  • Betting

    Raise, 3-bet and bet aggressively when in position, i.e. last to act on each draw.

    Heavy betting action may indicate you should 'break' a pat hand, i.e. draw to an even better one.

    Reserve bluffs for heads-up pots, take bet/fold lines and be prepared to make tough laydowns. Bluffing is rarer than in Hold'em.

What You Need to Know About Badugi Starting Hands

  •  Good Starting Hands

    Play hands with 3 or 4 low, offsuit cards. Aces are always low.

    • The top ten hands include A-2-3-4 through A-2-5-6. These can be raised from any position.
    • Hands like 2-2-2-3 can be snowed - there are less combinations of strong Badugis players can hold.
  •  Poor Starting Hands

    Avoid hands with four of a kind, or 4 cards of the same suit. You'll struggle to improve by showdown.

    • Examples include K-K-K-K, 3d-6d-9d-Td, and Ah-2h-3h-4h.
    • With all of the above holdings it will take you at least three draws to make a Badugi.
  •  Marginal Starting Hands

    3-card hands can be played - discard the unhelpful cards to draw to a Badugi. 

    • Examples include As-3h-5c-Kc and 2d-4s-8c-8h.
    • Here throw away the Kc and either 8, respectively, pre-flop.
  •  Positional Hands

    Play in late position when folded to you:

    • On the button raise with any strong 2 card hand or 3 card hand.
    • In the small blind steal aggressively with any playable hand or blockers like aces and deuces.

Do's and Don'ts for Better Badugi Play

  • Don't Get Too Attached to a Badugi

    Being dealt a strong 3-card like 6-4-3 under the gun is preferable to a pat King Badugi, as players more likely than not will improve vs you over 4 betting rounds. You will often be wise to fold a weak Badugi postflop vs heavy action.

  • Do Play Your Hands Aggressively

    Don't slowplay - bet your hands hard, especially in position. Inflate the pot with strong 3-card draws and bet your Badugis. Bet and raise pot in PL Badugi with the nuts - people will often be unable to lay down a Seven Badugi or better.

  • Don't Fold Getting Good Odds

    When you're being laid a good price by the pot, call and draw, especially in Limit and Half Pot Limit Badugi. Learn the math in our advanced strategy guide [coming soon].

Badugi Poker Videos

  • Badugi: SCOOP HU Action

    Live play video of a PokerStars Spring Championship of Online Poker FL Badugi event.

    This Video Contains:

    1. Heads up Limit play.
    2. Online mixed games specialist James Obst.
    3. Draw choices shown on every hand.
  • Badugi: Tips from PokerStars Pros

    Professional poker players describe the basic rules of the game, and their pro tips.

    This Video Contains:  

    1. Daniel Negreanu & Joe Hachem. 
    2. The mechanics of the game.
    3. The best drawing hand A-2-3 unsuited.

Where Can I Play Badugi Online?