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Poker News | PokerWorks Op-Ed

Grinding Online - Badugi Revisited

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Some time ago, I spoke about Badugi as part of an article on new games that had been added on PokerStars.  As time has gone on, I’ve found myself continuing to be drawn to the Badugi cash games, and they have been a nice source of profit for me during the past half-year.  Here are some of the things I’ve observed that keep me coming back to Badugi time and time again.

First, there are still a lot of players there who don’t really understand the game very well.  One of the things I look for in playing any ring game online is a table where a lot of players are seeing the flop, the draw or fourth street, depending on the game.  While it can be difficult to find these types of loose games in either hold’em or stud, they still exist almost every day in Badugi.  It is not uncommon to see as many as 60% of the players in for the first draw, even up to $2-$4 stakes.  That is a clear sign that people are quite often drawing to weak hands, and when you see a few showdowns, you begin to realize just how true that is.  Whereas basic Badugi strategy calls for playing pat hands, one-card draws to a seven or better (except in late positions where no one has entered), and two-card draws better than a five in late positions where there have been no raises, players at these tables are sticking around on any one-card draw (even to kings!), and often any two-card draw!  These players clearly do not understand the odds of the game, and are almost guaranteed to spew money away, often blaming their bad luck when they are beaten, time and again.

Second, players will chase a draw to the bitter end, even if there isn’t that much money in the pot.  It is important to remember just how many outs you have to actually complete your hand, even if your opponent has a relatively weak Badugi (four unpaired cards of different suits).  For example, even if you have A-2-3, the best possible three-card hand, if your opponent has K-Q-J-10 of different suits, you are left with, at most, only nine cards in the deck that will make a winning hand (since three of the suit you need will pair one of your cards, and your opponent has another of them in his hand).  If you are playing at $1-$2, and there is only $5 in the pot, it is not worth it to try and draw out.  Saving that extra bet, not to mention another one after the final draw, is critical to long-term profit at this game.

Third, when you are dealt a pat hand to begin with, you will often find players who will re-raise you with one-card draws.  This will even happen after the first or second draw, when someone has decided you don’t really have the hand you are representing.  Once again, this is a mistake in strategy.  Someone without a made hand, especially if the draw is a very strong one, should want to keep as many players as possible in the hand, since if his draw hits, he will be able to win a much larger pot.  Remember that, even with three draws to come, a one-card draw is still an underdog to a pat hand, so isolating the one player who has you beat is definitely an error.

Fourth, there are still not too many “tricky” players at the Badugi cash games right now.  Since there are not that many people who understand the game very well, especially at the lower stakes levels, most players are fairly straightforward in their approaches to the game.  They have a range of hands with which they will raise or bet, and you can usually tell whether or not your hand is good by the bets other players make, especially after the later draws.  While there are a few players who will run a bluff, either by standing pat right away and betting aggressively throughout the hand, or standing pat later in the hand when you are still drawing, most people you see at these limits are A-B-C players, who are quite predictable 98% of the time.

Fifth, Badugi is not a labor-intensive game, and so, it is a perfect complement to playing something like no limit hold’em or stud high/low at another table at the same time.  Since you don’t see any cards at all, and you can follow how many cards everyone is drawing in the chat box, Badugi takes less concerted mental effort than most other poker games.  While you are focusing on all the cards showing at a 7 Card Stud game on another table, you can still be bringing in additional money at Badugi, without it compromising your Stud play.

Depending on how a Badugi table is shaping up, I might stretch the limits of the one-card draws I see up front.  However, with the games as loose as they are, I’ve been recently playing almost no two-card draws whatsoever, as the number of bad one-card draws that are usually in the hand mean that even a great three-card hand will most often be beaten at showdown, as one of the many players still in will likely hit a Badugi at some point.

Incidentally, there are times when the opposite occurs at the low-limit Badugi games, when you suddenly run into a very tight table, where 20% or even fewer of the players are seeing a draw.  Obviously, your strategy will be different here, and you will look for opportunities to steal blinds in late position, more like a hold’em game, where you can use position to bluff out players in the blinds who are on a draw that doesn’t hit right away.  In this case, simply draw one card less than your opponent, or stand pat if he draws one.  It can sometimes be quite a while before anyone figures out what you are doing.

See you at the tables!

*Read Clearspine’s blog*

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