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What is Badugi Poker
Badugi is a variant of poker that uses four cards (instead of five), triple draw format, and its own unique set of hand rankings. In Badugi the goal is to make the lowest hand possible with each card coming from a different suit. Aces are always low and straights are disregarded so the best possible hand is A234 with each card a different suit.
To explain further, when a player makes all four suits *unpaired* this is called a badugi and this hand will beat all other non-badugis. If no player makes a badugi the player with the best three card hand will win the pot and in the extremely rare case no player has a three card poker hand then the player with the best two card hand wins. Remember for a card to be part of the hand it cannot be of the same suit or face value as another card in the hand.
Badugi allows up to eight players per table and is primarily played with fixed limit betting structure, though in some cases pot-limit and no-limit games are played. The game also uses a dealer button plus a small and a big blind much like Texas Hold’em. There are four betting rounds, the first taking place after starting hands are dealt and the others after each of three draws. In fixed limit games the first two betting rounds use increments of the games small bet, and the second two of the games large bet. During each draw a player can discard any number of cards from their hand and these will be replaced. When a player takes no cards this is called “standing pat”.
If you decided to venture into learning Badugi strategy a term you’ll come across is “snowing”. To snow, or the act of snowing, is to stand pat with a hand that will not win during showdown. This is common strategy in the game of Badugi and the reason position is important. An example of a good time to snow would be a situation where you start with four cards of the same suit and two or three of them are low.
Here you might want to set things up to win the pot by betting and drawing one. On the next draw you stand pat (regardless of card received) and bet as if you have a great Badugi. Of course this doesn’t always work, and is also not the only time when snowing is advised. As you get the feel for the game you’ll start to learn proper snow frequencies and recognize sports where it makes sense to snow. We should also mention, getting caught snowing is not always a bad thing. When caught this should help you get paid off in future pots where you actually do have the goods.
Where to Play Badugi Online
PokerStars.com is the place to play Badugi online. The only other online poker sites offering Badugi are those operating on the Merge Poker Network which doesn’t have enough traffic to support non-holdem games.
At PokerStars Badugi is available in ring games, sit and go tournament and scheduled multi-table tournaments. The highest stakes Badugi tournament is a $200+$15 buy-in fixed limit event played every Sunday at 13:30 ET. This tournament has a $5K guaranteed prize pool and often carries a small overlay. As far as daily scheduled tournaments are concerned there is a $11 limit event at 19:15 ET, a $33 limit event at 23:15 ET and eight different $2.20 events scheduled throughout the day, some of which use pot-limit format.
For ring games all games are fixed limit and generally all times of the day there are over a dozen full tables at stakes $0.25/$0.50 to $3/$6. Higher stakes games (even the $400/$800 game) do run regularly but are often played shorthanded.
Badugi is a poker game of Asian origins that was brought to the US by Paul Eskimo Clark who discovered it in the late 1960s in Vietnam while serving for the US military. Apparently the game is named after a Korean children’s book character who was a spotted dog (used to teach colors) while others say the name translates to spotted dog in Korean. While widely credited it as coming from Korea there is not too much evidence to support that (only myths). The first documented reports of the game outside Eskimo’s claim come from Vietnam during the early 1970’s.
There are later reports of it being played in Iran later that decade, and it first made its way to Las Vegas casinos in the 1980s. For many years the game was played only at high stakes and was generally written on the board as Padooki (or sometimes Paldugi). The spelling Badugi was first used by the now defunct Tribecca Table Network when they introduced the game to the internet for the very first time. When Merge Gaming decided to compete they copied that name, and likewise that’s spelling that stuck in online poker.
To the best of our knowledge no books worth reading have been written about the game Badugi. So, for now the best way to learn the game is playing at small stakes and then discussing strategy on popular online poker forums.
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