A completely different style of game than the standard poker forms most players have become accustomed to, Badugi Poker
presents players with an independent hand ranking guideline within a triple draw, lowball format. Utilizing an effective Badugi Poker strategy will enrich a player's results well beyond the luck of the draw in this addictive betting game.
When playing online Badugi, it is possible to watch a table for a while to get a bead on the other players. At the end of a Badugi game, all active hands are revealed in the showdown, allowing every person participating in or railing the game to see each player's hand. Watching a table for several hands can inform an observer as to which players are likely to "snow" (stand pat in order to bluff that they have a Badugi), who is likely to call a suspected "snow" without a Badugi, who at the table plays the tightest game, and who plays loose or limps into the pot.
Information such as this can help a player to gain position on the player who is most aggressive, and likely to snow when selecting a seat, as well as give the player a good deal of information about their opponents. These details about the opposition can be recorded in the notes section of the online poker
table for reference.
In live Badugi ring games or Badugi tournaments, table scouting isn't always an option. Careful observation of each opponent's betting patterns, folding rate, and final hands will help a player to determine the most strategic approach to playing the table. If most of the players at the table are playing loose, it is best to play a tighter game. Conversely, when the majority of one's opponents are playing tight, it is generally advantageous to loosen up. However, individual analysis of each player will offer greater insight if play comes heads-up, or when there are only a few players staying in the hand.
The number of players at a Badugi poker table can have a significant influence on how strong the final hand needs to be in order to win the pot in a showdown. At a table of six to eight players, a Badugi is almost always required in order to win, as at least one player is likely to achieve a four-card hand. Fewer players (two to four) reduce the likelihood of any player acquiring a Badugi, and often the hand can be won with a decent three-card hand.
Another factor that affects hand strength in Badugi Poker is player position relative to the dealer button. Played with blinds, Badugi position remains static in the course of a hand, rotating clockwise upon completion of each hand. Awareness of one's position - early, middle, or late - is an indispensable Badugi strategy that can help a player decide whether to play a hand, or go ahead and save their chips by folding before the first draw.
In early position, it is important to play a tight game. This may result in folding many starting hands when one is among the first to act. Any six-high three-card hand should be played (6-5-4-x or better). Seven-high would also be playable if the other two cards are equal to or less than four (7-4-3-x or better).
From middle position, a good rule of thumb for Badugi strategy is to play any seven-high three-card hand or less (7-6-5-x, or lower). If one of the cards is an Ace or a two, a five-high two-card hand (5-2-x-x) would also be worth staying in the hand for the first draw.
Playing from late position offers much more freedom. Just about any hand can be played, with the intention of snowing opponents if the first draw doesn't improve the hand. However, to avoid falling into a predictable pattern, a player shouldn't bluff every time they are in late position. Therefore, one can use the guideline of two-card hands lower than five (4-3-x-x or better), or three card hands lower than 8 (7-6-5-x or better) when a snow isn't likely to succeed.
The ability to calculate the odds of drawing a card that will improve one's hand to a Badugi is a tremendously beneficial tool for any player's Badugi strategy. The mathematically inclined can compute precise statistical data, however, a simplified formula can be used to determine estimated draw odds (see "Simplified Badugi Draw Odds Estimation" below) with limited time or effort.
The formula for determining precise draw odds is 'total unseen cards' / outs = odds. For example, a starting hand of Ac-3d-7h-9d requires drawing a spade that is not an Ace, three or seven in order to improve the hand to a Badugi. That leaves 10 cards that are capable of turning this hand into a Badugi (2s, 4s, 5s, 6s, 8s, 9s, 10s, Js, Qs, and Ks).
Before the draw, only four cards have been seen (the starting hand), leaving 48 cards that have not been seen (the opponents' cards are counted, too, because they are unknown at this point). Therefore, the draw odds for the above hand would be calculated by dividing 48 by 10, which is 4.8. That is a 4.8 to 1 (4.8:1) chance of drawing an out on the next draw. To convert the odds into a percentage, divide 100 by 4.8; 100 / 4.8 = 20.83%.
If the draw missed the Badugi, recalculate the odds using the adjusted 'unseen cards' number (47 if only one card was drawn). Also, one may not wish to include the highest card values in their calculations, as a King-high Badugi may not be good enough to win the pot with. One can instead calculate the odds of drawing a qualifying spade that is most likely to win the pot by counting only the outs one believes will be strong enough.
Though not as precise, it is possible to work out a reasonably accurate estimation of the Badugi draw odds. Two pieces of information are required for this: the number of outs that can produce a Badugi, and the number of draws remaining. The formula for estimating Badugi draw odds is (2 x 'number of outs') x 'number of draws left' = 'statistical percentage of drawing an out'.
Using the same Badugi hand example from above, but assuming that one doesn't expect to win with anything higher than a ten of spades, the computation would look like this: (2 x '7 outs' = 14) x 3 draws = 42% chance of drawing a 10-high or better Badugi hand over all three draws (the precise statistic is 38%). With two draws left, the odds of drawing an out are reduced. (2 x 7 outs = 14) x 2 = 28% (very close to the true percentage of 27%). Knowing even the approximate odds will assist any player in making a more informed decision about how to play the hand.