Badugi is a meld-making comparing card game in the draw poker family of games. Badugi Poker can be seen as the ‘low-hand’ equivalent of Five-Card Draw Poker, as the mechanics and phases of the game are very similar to Five-Card Draw, despite being “low-handed.” This also makes Badugi an excellent introduction to low-hand or Lowball-type games.
Low-handed poker is a lesser-known genre in which players attempt to form the “nuts” or the worst possible, rather than the best possible hand. This means that melds in Badugi actually count against the player, with the best possible hand being an assortment of the lowest-ranking cards in the game.
How to Play Badugi Poker?
Badugi is played using the standard 52-card Anglo-American deck pattern. A Dealer should be determined by random means, after which point they will shuffle the deck.
Each player must pay in an Ante if they wish to be dealt cards. The Dealer will then deal four cards to each player at a time, all face-down. Players are allowed to inspect their cards, and the first betting phase will begin.
First betting phase
This betting phase will follow the standard rules of poker, with the player to the immediate left of the Dealer taking their first turn to bet, and the Dealer betting last in the first rotation around the table.
Players are free to make the four betting positions of traditional poker:
Players that fold are essentially “quitting” the hand. They do not need to participate in the draw, nor do they need to wager any additional money to match the highest outstanding bet at the table. However, Folding players also forfeit their right to any money that was already placed into the pot, and to the winnings of the pot even if their cards would have won had they not folded.
Players may check if there are no outstanding bets at the table. If a player goes first, or if all players that took their turn before them folded or also checked, then they may check. A check is simply a bet of 0, allowing a player to “pass” their turn to bet until another player has wagered first.
Calling or Betting
Players that Call are simply matching the highest outstanding bet. For example, Player 1 bets 10, so Player 2 calls by betting 10. When matching another bet, it is known as a call. However, when a player is making the first bet of the betting round, it is known only as a “Bet.”
Players may also raise if they feel confident in their hand’s ability to beat their opponent’s hands. A raise is an increase upon the previously highest bet. For example, Player 1 bets 5, so Player 2 raises 10, for a total of 15 into the pot from Player 2. This means Player 1 must then call Player 2’s raise, paying an additional 10 chips into the pot.
Once each player has folded, or made their wagers for this betting round, then the Draw phase may begin. Each player may discard up to three of the cards in their deck, handing them to the Dealer in exchange for an equivalent number of cards from the deck. Player 1 discards 3 cards, and receives 3 cards from the deck. Player 2 discards 2, receives 2, and so on.
After this Draw phase, the second betting phase begins.
Afterward, players enter the Showdown. Players that have not yet folded reveal their cards to each other, and compare them against the card hierarchy explained below in the “Hand Ranking” section.
The player with the highest ranking meld wins the whole pot. If two players have the same meld, the player with the highest card in their meld will lose.
For example, Two badugi melds (the best in the game) are compared at the end of a hand.
- One player has a badugi of A♥ 2♣ 3♦ 4♠
- Another player has one of 2♣ 3♦ 4♠ 5♥
The first player would then win the pot, as they have the lower cards in their meld.
If players have the same melds, with cards of the same rank, then the pot will be split evenly amongst those players.
Once a round is over, the new Dealer is chosen (either randomly, or by moving the Dealer position to the immediate left) and the cards are reshuffled. The game then begins again.
A summary of the official rules can be seen below:
- Badugi is a low-handed poker game. As such it is the player with the lowest possible hand that wins the pot, rather than the highest.
- Players are allowed to discard up to three cards from their hands.
- Straights do not count in this game, and neither do the majority of five-card poker hands. Instead, Badugi is based predominantly on the suit, rather than rank.
- Three-Kinds are considered “paired cards” and as such count against a player.
|Badugi||Best (the nuts)||A♦ 2♠ 3♣ 4♥|
|Three-Card Hand||Second-best||3♥ 4♦ 5♣ 6♣|
|Two-Card Hand||Bad||2♦ 3♦ 4♣ 5♠|
|One-Card Hand||Worst||2♥ 3♦ 4♦ 5♦|
Badugi does not follow the traditional low-card hierarchy. Instead, it is based on a system of cards matching each other’s suit. It will be explained in further detail below:
The best possible hand in the game is “badugi”, or 4 cards that are unpaired, and all have different suits. As Aces are always low in Badugi, the best possible hand a player can have is A♦ 2♠ 3♣ 4♥.
The actual suits do not matter, so long as they are all different for all four cards.
If a player cannot form a badugi, the second best hand is a “Three-Card Hand.” A Three-card hand is 3, unpaired cards that are different suits, and a fourth card that is still unpaired but matches the suit of one of the other cards.
For example: 3♥ 4♦ 5♣ 6♣
Below the Three-Card hand is the Two-Card Hand. As one would expect, it follows the same rules as the Three-Card Hand, except there are only two unpaired, uncolored cards.
Example: 2♦ 3♦ 4♣ 5♠
The worst possible hand in Badugi is the “One-Card Hand.” In a one-card hand, all of the four cards are matching in suit, or only have one outlier.
For example: 2♥ 3♦ 4♦ 5♦ or 2♥ 3♥ 4♥ 5♥
These hands are extremely weak, and will almost certainly lose.
Imagine the following is your hand at the start of a game of Badugi Poker:
10♥ 10♣ 5♠ K♠
Since high cards are weak in Badugi, there is a pair in this hand, and players are only permitted to discard a maximum of three cards, players should therefore discard the following:
10♥ 10♣ 5♠
These are the following cards dealt to the player:
A♣ 8♦ Q♠
This hand is much stronger than the previous one. Although this player cannot form badugi, a Three-Card hand is still formed. If no other players at the table formed badugi, this hand could possibly win the pot.
However, the game is based on the highest card in the hand, in a way that the player with the highest card loses if two players have the same meld.
For example, if two players have badugi, and one player has a badugi of 4 5 6 7 and another player has one of 5 6 7 8, then the 4 5 6 7 player will win the pot.
What is the nuts in Badugi?
The “nuts” of a particular card game is its best possible hand, one that beats all others. The nuts in Badugi is, as the name of the game suggests, the badugi. This is an assortment of four low-ranking cards of different suits.
What is the best starting hand in Badugi?
The best possible starting hand in Badugi is the A 2 3 4 of all different suits. Otherwise, a strong starting hand would be a pre-made 3-card hand, as it is still very strong even though it is not Badugi.
If two players have a badugi, then the player with the least high card wins. For example, 2 3 4 5 would beat 3 4 5 6.
How many players can play Badugi?
Like most poker games, Badugi is best played with 2 to 8 players. Although it is possible to add an additional deck, and therefore increase the number of players at a given table, traditionally poker games should only be played with a single deck, as the likelihood of “Five-of-a-kind” hands would then exist.
Do pairs count in Badugi Poker?
Pairs do count in Badugi, however, pairs actually count against your hand’s ranking. This is because players want to have unpaired cards that do not match their suit.
Pairs are actually a detriment to the player, as a pair practically automatically disqualifies you from winning the pot for that hand. In order to win, every other player at the table would have to have a higher pair, or a three or four of a kind.
How do you win in Badugi?
The player who wins the pot formed the highest-ranking hand compared to the other players at the table. Hence, the reason for calling poker a “comparing” game. Players compare their hands, with the highest ranking winning the pot.
As it is a comparison against other players, it is possible to still win a game of Badugi with a very low-ranking hand, although it is unlikely. For the best odds, players should try to form badugi or a three-card hand. Strategy can also help you win.