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Poker Strategy | Poker Variants

Selecting Starting Hands in Badugi

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As is true in every poker game, the most important and basic part of a successful player’s strategy is knowing which starting hands to play and which to throw away.  Badugi is no different.  While you will see many players in this triple-draw game play as many as 80% of the hands they are dealt, this is a path almost guaranteed to produce losing results.  If you see players like this at your table, lick your lips and prepare for profits!  Just DON’T follow their examples!  The following article will give you a solid foundation in selecting starting hands in Badugi, so that you can consistently win at this very entertaining game.

Any “pat hand,” meaning a hand that already contains a card from each suit with no pairs, is worth playing, and worth raising and re-raising with.  Even something as weak as a king-high Badugi will often play well in a heads-up situation with someone who doesn’t yet have a pat hand.  However, be aware that the more players that stay in the hand, the better the odds are that at least one player will draw and make a better Badugi if your hand is a weak one.  Therefore, at tables where 50% or more of the players are seeing the first draw, REGARDLESS of what they are dealt or how the betting goes, you will need to play stronger pat hands and more drawing hands that can make better pat hands, and be more cautious with your weaker Badugis.  Remember that each time a player draws one card his odds of improving to a Badugi are about 21%, since 10 cards will improve his hand.  The lower your pat hand is, the fewer outs he has to beat you.  For example, if you have a 7-4-3-2 Badugi and he is drawing to 6-6-3-A, he only has three possible winning cards, the 2, 4, or 5 of an off suit, since anything higher will make a worse hand, and the ace or three will pair his hand.  The odds are better than 15 to 1 against him.

If you are not fortunate enough to be dealt a pat hand, the hands you play should be dictated by both the looseness and tightness of your table and your position in the hand.  A general rule to follow is to play a 7-low or better one-card draw in any position, an 8-low one-card draw in late position if no one has entered the pot, and two-card draws 5 or better in late position.  

At very loose tables, you will be successful also playing the 5 or better two-card draws in early positions as well.  Remember that a hand worth playing is usually a hand worth raising, especially if you are the first to enter the pot.  However, if players are routinely capping the first betting round regardless of the quality of their hands, you need to be aware of the extra variance that will bring into the game, and decide whether both your bankroll and risk tolerance will support that style of play.  Also, if a player has raised before you and you have a hand on the weaker end of this range, simply call and see what the draw brings.  However, you should put in a third bet with a pat hand, because most of the time the original raiser will be on the draw and you want to eliminate all the other players if possible to get heads-up.

At a tighter table, if players before you have already raised the pot, use a gap concept in deciding whether or not to play your hand.  For example, if you know that the raiser would not have opened without one of the hands listed above, your hand must be that much better in order to stay in.  If two players have already raised, and you know that they are both solid players, all but the best pat hands and one-card draws should be mucked.  Although it is tempting to stay in any time you get a good hand, in this situation you may be drawing dead right from the start, so look for a better situation to exploit.

Following these rules for selecting starting hands in Badugi will put you well on the way to success in this fast-growing poker variant.  When you combine these ideas with other strategies found on PokerWorks, you will become a force to be reckoned with at the table, and will consistently leave the game with more money than you brought with you.

Introduction to Badugi Strategy

*Introduction to Badugi*

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