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Poker News | PokerWorks Op-Ed

Grinding Online - 8-Game and Badugi on PokerStars

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Hey kids!  Have you checked out these games at PokerStars?  PokerStars both ring games and tournaments in 8-game (HORSE plus limit triple draw 2-7, no limit holdem and pot limit Omaha) and Badugi.  

What’s Badugi?  It’s another triple draw game, where the object is to make the lowest four card hand where each card is unpaired and of a different suit (the best possible hand is A-2-3-4 of different suits, since straights don’t count against you).  Any hand with no pairs and four different suits is called a badugi, and hands are compared based on which one has the lowest high card.  A four card badugi beats any hand with a pair or two suited cards, no matter how low the other cards may be.  Let’s take a look at what you might find at each of these tables, focusing on the low limits where Yours Truly spends his online hours ($2-$4 and lower).

If you like variety, but easily get bored with just playing limit games, then 8-game is a perfect place for you to land.  A full table consists of just six players, and six hands of each game are played before moving to the next one.  Triple draw leads off, followed by the HORSE quintet, with the two non-limit games finishing off the rotation before starting all over again.  In order to balance out the pots, the no limit and pot limit hands are played with a lower blind structure than the limit games.  So, for example, at a $2-$4 table, the blinds for both NLHE and PLO are $.50 and $1.  Notice that this leads to a normal pre-flop raise of 3-4 big blinds being in the range of the limit structure.

As in any game, what is crucial at 8-game is taking notes on the other players, and as quickly as possible, finding out what their strong and weak games are.  Since there are relatively few tables of 8-game being dealt right now, you will find yourself sitting down with the same players much more frequently than at a no limit hold’em ring game.  Getting to know their tendencies is very important, and doesn’t have to take much time if you are observant.  Some players will play almost every pot in every game; others will be much more aggressive in the non-limit games.  Some will seem to have no idea at all of how to play triple draw or razz, which are the least familiar of the games to most players.  Keep working at it, as just about every player, especially at low limit tables, will have at least one or two games where he or she is weak.  Those are the games in which you need to exploit their deficiencies and build your bankroll.

In choosing a table to play at, I tend to look for one where a high percentage of players are seeing the flop (or 4th street, in the case of the stud games).  You will sometimes see as many as 65% of players active in each and every hand!  If you combine that with high average size pots, you have the opportunity to be very profitable just by playing a solid game and being a bit more conservative than the table.  

In general, the three games in the rotation that seem to attract the most action are triple draw and the two Omaha rounds.  In triple draw and limit Omaha high-low, this leads to people chasing lots of draws, since the pot odds are usually in their favor, even on the more expensive streets.  However, in pot limit Omaha, you can make it very expensive for people to draw to an unmade hand.  With a high percentage of players in the pot, there are numerous opportunities to push people off hands with strong bets.  Once again, it is essential to watch your opponents and see how often they attempt to bully the table in PLO, particularly on ragged boards.  Chances are they are bluffing at least some of the time and a well-timed re-raise can win you a nice pot, even if you don’t have the nuts yourself.

Now, let’s move over to Badugi.  The beauty of this game is that many of the players playing it haven't played it before!  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve sat down at a table, and had at least two or three players say something like “I just learned this game yesterday,” or “This is my first time playing.”  What attracts people to the game is its seeming simplicity, and the number of chances you get to make your hand.  This also leads to players making LOTS of bad decisions during the play.  You will find people in every hand they are dealt, and drawing to the end, no matter how badly they seem to be beaten.   Do not become one of these players!  Instead, be the player who takes advantage of those who are giving their money away.  How?  By employing a solid starting strategy.

As with any drawing game, you want to play either a made hand (a dealt four-card badugi) or a draw that, if it gets there, will almost surely win the hand.  My suggestion is to play three unsuited cards seven or lower, or two unsuited cards five or lower, in addition to the pat hands.  You can alter these starting requirements a bit when you are in the blinds.  

What you don’t want to do is to play a lot of trash draws like three cards to a 10, since even if you hit the hand you are much more likely to lose to a better Badugi.  You need to be aware at all times of how many cards your opponents are drawing, and also how they have played previous hands.  

Badugi is a game that seems to attract a lot of bluffers.  One of the most common plays people make is to represent a pat hand at some point during play, trying to push everyone off their draws.  This can be a very good play at a table where people will fold a weaker draw, figuring that they don’t have the pot odds to continue.  If you are planning to stay at the table for awhile, and you smell something fishy, don’t be afraid to risk some money to see how honest players are being with their cards.  Sometimes, the information you gain will, in the long run, be much more valuable than the few dollars you lose.

As with many opportunities in cards and in life, the early stages of something new often allow for profits to be made.  As time goes on, I expect that the level of play in both 8-game and Badugi will improve greatly (remember how bad no limit holdem play was at the beginning of the poker boom?).  Right now, there are a lot of people trying these games out, and there is dead money at the tables.  Will you be one of those to claim a share?

See you at the tables!

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