How to play Badugi

Terrance Reid
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Posted on: June 9, 2023 12:23 am EDT

Another new WSOP event made its debut yesterday. The first-ever Badugi tournament kicked off at the World Series of Poker at Horseshoe and Paris Las Vegas.

There were questions about the level of interest in a tournament dedicated solely to the variant. Those questions were laid to rest yesterday.

Barry Greenstein played in the inaugural WSOP Badugi Event
Barry Greenstein played in the inaugural WSOP Badugi Event

Apparently, all you need is a game that’s “super bumpin'”,* and players will show up in droves. A total of 516 players showed up in support of the $1,500 buy-in event, more than most mixed games at a similar price point.

How to Badugi

It’s a lowball game

Unlike No-Limit Hold’em, the “worst” hand wins in Badugi. You want to make the lowest four-card hand possible to win the pot. An ace counts as a low card, so Ace-2-3-4 is the best possible hand. However, suits are what make the game interesting.

All about the suits and pairs

While going for the lowest four, unpaired cards, you also have to be aware of the suits you hold. Only one card of each suit can count towards your final hand. So, if you have A♠2♦3♣4♠, you only have a “three-card hand,” because the second spade isn’t going to count towards your final hand.

It’s a triple-draw game

You get dealt four cards at the start of the hand. There’s a button, a small blind, and a big blind; and the action starts left of the big blind. After an initial round of betting, all players in the hand can discard as many cards as they like and draw new ones to replace them. This process repeats three times before a final round of betting.

It’s a limit game

Unlike No-Limit Hold’em, Badugi is a limit game. You can only bet and raise specific amounts based on the stakes of the game. Limit games don’t have as crazy of swings as no-limit games, but hand selection becomes increasingly important. Because you’re often getting great pot odds, it’s easy to get committed to the pots you play. Learn to not get committed with bad hands.

Hand rankings

1. Four-card hand (aka a Badugi)

A hand consisting of four unpaired cards of four different suits. Examples: A♠2♦3♣4♥, 3♦8♠J♣K♥

2. Three-card hand

Three unpaired and unsuited cards, the fourth card is either a pair or matches the suits of one of the other cards. Examples: 2♠5♦7♣8♣, A♠6♦8♣8♥

3. Two-card hand

Two unpaired and unsuited cards, the other two cards are either a pair or match the suits of one of the other cards. Examples: 2♠3♠4♦5♦, A♠A♦6♣6♥

4. One-card hand

The worst hand possible. Four cards, all of the same suit. Don’t play this, and you should never end up with anything like this when you’re putting money in the middle. Example: 2♠5♠6♠7♠

So, if Player A has the worst Badugi possible, which is 10♠J♦Q♣K♥, that beats the best possible three-card hand, such as A♠2♦3♣4♣.

Breaking ties

So, what if two players both have a Badugi? Whoever has the lowest hand within that hand ranking wins. And remember, with low games you always count down from the highest card to find the winner.

For example, if Player A has 2♠4♦7♣8♥ and Player B has 2♥3♣7♦8♠, they both have an eight-high Badugi. So, to find a winner, you go to their second-highest card. Here, they both have a seven. Ok, then to the third-highest card. Now, we see Player B has the lower of the two with their 3♣, so they win the hand.

Why play mixed games?

Frank Casella gets into the mixed-game spirit at the Badugi Event

Mixed games offer a variety that the two-card counterparts just can’t. Players are often more talkative and interactive, creating a fun environment at the tables.

Additionally, if you’re looking for value as a poker player, mixed games attract a wide variety of skill levels. Get good at mixed games, and you can find very lucrative games against players who aren’t as proficient as you are.

Badugi has always been a part of the WSOP “Dealer’s Choice” events. Now, it’s on the schedule as its own event as of this year. Based on the turnout, I’d be surprised if it wasn’t back next year as well.

Dealer's Choice tournament
Dealer’s Choice tournaments offer multiple games to hone your mixed-game skills.

Learn the game now, and it may lead to a future WSOP bracelet as mixed games see continual growth within the poker community.

Tiffany Michelle breaks down Badugi in 60 seconds.

*Title and reference are to the song “Teach Me How to Dougie” by Cali Swag District. This footnote isn’t for credit, it’s just to apologize.