Badugi is a poker variant in which the object is to end up with the lowest four-card hand. It’s a triple draw, lowball game, meaning that after the cards are dealt, each player gets three chances to discard a desired number of cards from their hand, and draw new cards in an effort to make the best hand.
As in any lowball game, the winning hand is the lowest, or worst hand at the table following traditional poker hand rankings. In a Badugi poker game, the best/lowest hand you can possibly have is A-2-3-4 of four different suits.
Let’s go through this fun, action-filled game and take a look at the Badugi poker rules.
- Rules and Origin
- Badugi Hand Rankings
- Betting Rules
- Sample Hand Walkthrough
- Final Thoughts
Badugi Rules and Origin
The ace only counts as a low card in this game and your aim is to achieve the lowest four-card hand to win the pot.
A four-card hand of four different suits and no paired cards is known as a “Badugi”. Pairs, as well as two cards of the same suit, are bad in Badugi, and any hand containing these cannot qualify as a four-card Badugi.
At the end of each hand, the lowest four-card “Badugi” wins the pot. If there are no four-card Badugis, the best three-card hand wins the pot, and so on.
Badugi is thought to originate from Korea and be named after the Korean word “baduk”, which translates roughly to “black and white pattern.” This game can be found in some online and live poker rooms, and has been played as part of the mix in the “Dealer’s Choice” events at the World Series of Poker.
Let’s watch WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel gives us a brief Badugi overview:
Badugi Hand Rankings
Let’s take a look at some possible Badugi poker hands to better understand what we’re trying to achieve in this game. These hands are ranked from best to worst as we scroll down in this article:
Straights do not exist in Badugi, so four cards in a row do not hurt your hand, and Aces are always low. If you have two or more cards of the same suit, only the lowest one counts. The same goes for paired cards. If you have a pair, only one of those cards count.
Four unpaired cards of different suits.
If multiple players hold a Badugi, the player with the lowest high card wins.
2. Three-Card Hand
Three unpaired or unsuited cards, with a fourth card that pairs or is suited with one of the other three cards.
Because the hand above has two spades–the 8♠ and the 5♠–only one of them counts, making this a three-card hand of 5♠-4♣-3♦.
3. Two-Card Hand
Two unpaired cards of different suits, with two other cards that pairs of is suited with at least one of the other two cards.
The hand above is a two-card hand of 4-3 because it has both a pair and two diamonds, which discounts the 5♦ and a 4.
4. One-Card Hand
The worst possible hand is 4 cards of the same suit (or four-of-a-kind, which is extremely rare).
The three highest cards are discounted in the hand above, making this a one-card hand of the 2♠.
If multiple players have the same hand-type and highest card, the player with the lowest second-, third- or fourth-highest card wins the pot. Discounted cards are never used when breaking ties.
Watch here as Andreas Froehli plays the final table of a Badugi tournament on PokerStars:
Badugi is played with the traditional poker betting structure involving “blinds”, or mandatory bets that rotate around the table and ensure that every player in the game has to put money in the pot during an “orbit” of the blinds around the table.
If you’re not familiar with the blinds and betting structure of poker, take a look at this article explaining the betting rules of No-Limit and Limit Texas Hold’em.
These same betting rules apply to many other poker formats, and once you’re comfortable with them you’ll be able to sit down at any poker table and understand the basic structure of the game, no matter which poker variant you’re playing.
Each player is dealt four cards, face-down, in a Badugi poker hand, and a round of betting begins with the player immediately to the right of the big blind. This player has the opportunity to either call, or match the big blind amount; raise to a higher amount, and therefore make other players at the table match the amount to stay in the hand; or fold, giving up their cards and forfeiting any chance to win the pot.
This choice of call, raise, or fold goes around the table until each player has matched the highest amount either called or raised, or folded their hand.
When this round is complete, the first drawing round occurs, and starting with the first active player remaining to the left of the dealer, players can choose to discard any number of their cards and draw new cards. If you choose not to discard anything, this is known as “standing pat”, and players that do this are usually indicating that they already hold a strong hand.
Another betting round takes place after the draw, and this process repeats two more times, with the final betting round commencing after the third drawing round. Overall there are four betting rounds in Badugi, which include the opening betting round, followed by a betting round after each draw.
Sample Badugi Hand Walkthrough
$2/$4 Limit Badugi
You’re sitting three seats to the right of the big blind in a six-player game (this position is known as the cutoff). You’re dealt:
With three hearts in your hand, this qualifies as a “Two-Card Five.” It’s only a two-card hand for now but has potential to draw to a winning Badugi.
The blinds are $1 and $2 in this limit-format game. The player to the immediate right of the big blind calls for $2, followed by a fold from the player to your left.
You call, also putting in $2. The player to your right (whose position is known as the button) folds, and the small blind calls. The big blind exercises his option to check, having already put the minimum $2 to call in the pot.
Now comes the drawing round, and you decide to discard the T♥J♥ and pick up two new cards. You end up with:
The first draw has improved your hand to a “Three-Card Nine”, as the 5♥ is dropped to give you A-5-9. Not a bad hand, and there are still two more draws to go.
The second betting round commences, with four players still active in the hand and $8 in the pot. The small and big blinds both check. The player immediately to his right (in the lojack position) puts in a $2 bet, and you raise to $4.
Both blinds fold, and with $14 in the pot you’re heads-up against the lojack going into the second drawing round. The lojack discards one card, indicating he already has at least a three-card hand (unless he’s bluffing). You discard the 5♥ and pick up one new card, ending up with this hand:
You’ve made a badugi and have a great chance of winning this hand. The minimum bet goes up to $4 in the final two betting rounds (as per limit betting rules), and the lojack bets $4.
You raise to $8, the lojack re-raises to $12, and you re-raise to $16. The lojack calls, and this betting round is capped with both you and your opponent putting in the max bet of $16.
The pot is now $48 going into the third and final drawing round. The lojack doesn’t discard anything and keeps all four of his cards, known as “standing pat”. You also stand pat.
The lojack checks and you decide to check back and showdown your A-5-6-9, which is good for a “Nine Badugi”. The lojack has:
The lojack also has a badugi, but since your “Nine Badugi” is lower than his “Ten Badugi”, you’ve won the pot!
Final Thoughts on Badugi
- Badugi is usually played with limit, pot-limit or half-pot limit betting rules so be sure you’re familiar with the differences in these structures
- Any badugi beats a three-card hand, regardless of hand strength. Any three-card hand beats a two-card hand, and any two-card hand beats a one-card hand.
- The highest card in the hand determines the strength of the hands. For example, a 6-7-8-9 (Nine Badugi) beats an A-3-4-J (Jack Badugi)
- In the later drawing rounds, you’re better off folding weak hands requiring a discard of three or more cards.
- Pay attention to what other players are doing in the drawing rounds. When an opponent stands pat they often have a strong hand, but they could also be bluffing in an effort to make you fold a strong hand.
- Other variants of Badugi exist, including Badugi 2-7 Triple Draw, Baducey, Badacey, and Razzdugi. All of these games have different rules, so be sure you’re clear on what variant you’re playing.