Badugi Poker

Badugi Poker

The game of Badugi (also known as Padooki) is a variant of traditional poker that has its roots in Asia, particularly Korea, but has found its way to the casinos of North America and Europe, and – more recently – to the hundreds of online poker sites on the internet. The game is slowly but surely becoming a very real alternative to the more mainstream poker games such as Texas Hold'em, thanks to its fast pace and interesting twist on poker rules and hand rankings. Badugi is similar to other variants of lowball poker such as 2-7 Triple Draw, however its hand ranking system sets it aside from other types of draw games.

Badugi, in a nutshell, is a triple draw four card game of poker, and its most distinguishing factor is that the lowest hand is the one that wins. Players need to go through three rounds of game play in betting rounds that are similar to Texas Hold'em, but with the ultimate objective to create the lowest hand that is made of four cards.

While it may take some time for players to adjust to the need to create low hands instead of high hands, the rewards are excellent and the game is one of the most exciting available on the circuit today.

Click for details on history, hand rankings/nicknames and poker terminology/glossary.

The Best Poker Hand in Badugi

The best hand in Badugi is a four-card hand with the lowest possible rank. As such, the best hand is one comprising of cards where none are of the same suit and rank. The player who manages to create a hand consisting of an ace, two three and four, where all four are of different suits, has created the best hand. This low hand is called – naturally - a Badugi.

Hand Rankings in Badugi

There are essentially four different Badugi hands that players can make in the game. These are ranked in order of strength as follows:

  • The Badugi: As noted, this is a four card hand that consists of no pairs and no suits that match. An example would be Four of Diamonds, Three of Hearts, Two of Spades and an Ace of Clubs.
  • A 3 Card Hand: This is also known as a paired hand. For example, if a player has a Two, Five, Five and King, then the value of the hand is Two, Five and King, as only one of the pairs is used by the player. This hand needs to contain at least three different cards of different suits. While a 3 Card Hand is beaten by a Badugi, it will beat any 2 Card Hand.
  • A 2 Card Hand: Also known as suited hands, these hands contain at least two different cards of different suits. For example, should a hand contain an Ace of Hearts, a Seven of Clubs, a Nine of Clubs and a Queen of Diamonds, the player will choose the lowest of the two suited cards (in this case the Seven of Clubs) towards creating a 3 Card Hand, and ‘cancel’ out the Nine.
  • A 1 Card Hand: This hand contains one card that is of individual value or suit. This occurs when the player is dealt a hand that contains suited cards (such as four fives of different ranks or Four of Hearts, Three of Hearts, Two of Hearts and Ace of Hearts). This type of hand is not recommended as a good starting hand in Badugi strategy.

Additional Things to Note About Hand Rankings

  • Avoid flushes and pairs as they count against the player’s hand.
  • The Ace is always considered a low card in Badugi poker.
  • Straights do not count against the player’s hand in Badugi.

Betting Options in Badugi Poker

Players are presented with three different betting options when playing Badugi Poker at live tournaments or online poker sites.

  • Limit Badugi: This betting option has players make their bets in incremental units, with the lowest levels bet on in the first two rounds of the game. The highest level is bet on in the third and fourth rounds of the game. This betting option also sees betting capped at four bets for each round.
  • Pot Limit Badugi: Players can opt to raise any amount they wish during any stage of the game, however the amount is limited to the low limit and the value of the pot in the game of Badugi Poker. (The value of the pot reflects the value of the current bet).
  • Half Pot Limit Badugi: Players are able to raise to only half the value of the current pot as a top bet in this betting option of Badugi. This option is similar to pot limit Badugi.

Beginning a Game of Badugi Poker

The game of Badugi consists of three rounds of drawing and betting. In essence, players are dealt four cards in clockwise position, face down, one at a time from a standard deck of 52 cards. Play begins once all poker players have been dealt their cards, with the player who is seated to the left of the big blind. Play then proceeds around the table in the direction of the clock. Cards are kept concealed by all players.

Blinds in Badugi

The game of Badugi has blinds in order to stimulate betting action around the table. The players to the left of the dealer are assigned the small blind and the big blind. This essentially determines the order in which the cards are dealt in the game. Should a player buy into a Badugi game, they have the choice of waiting for the big blind to reach their position in the game before they start playing, or they can post a blind that is equal to the big blind in order to be dealt into the game immediately.

Badugi Poker Game Process

  • First Round Betting: The first player to start action is the one who is next to the big blind, and game proceeds in clockwise direction. This player makes a decision regarding his or her choice of play – to fold, call or raise. After the decision is made, the game moves on to the next player. All players, in turn, act around the table and, after all bets have been placed, the game of Badugi moves on to the first draw round.
  • First Draw Round: Players are able to draw up to four poker cards, each one in turn in a clockwise direction, again starting with the player to the left of the dealer button. In this round, players need to decide which cards to discard and replace, and which cards they wish to retain. One of the options is to choose a ‘standing pat’ – ie. when the player decides to draw no cards. When players opt for a standing pat, it could be that they have such a good hand that they don’t need to draw anything, or they want to bluff their fellow-players into thinking that they have a good hand.
  • Second Round Betting: The second round of betting begins after all the players around the table have completed their first draw, with the player to the left of the dealer button. It begins once all players have discarded in the last round and new cards will be drawn from the deck, with each player being dealt the same number of cards that were discarded. This round traditionally follows the same pattern as the first betting round.
  • Second Draw Round: This round follows the same pattern as the first draw round in Badugi Poker, with any player remaining in the hand given the opportunity to discard any or all of the cards or, alternatively, stand pat.
  • Third Round Betting: This round, once more, is similar to the second round of the betting. However, the major difference is that low stakes betting rises to high stakes as a betting increment.
  • Third Draw Round: This round follows the same pattern as the second draw round, with this being the player’s last chance to make the best possible hand. In this round, the dealer may – if necessary – include the discarded cards (reshuffled).
  • Final Betting Round: The last round of betting takes players following the third draw round. It follows the same format as all the previous betting rounds with higher stake betting increments. At this point in the game, if there is more than one player left, the game of Badugi Poker reaches the showdown stage.
  • The Showdown: All players that are still left in the game take part in this round. The player with the lowest hand of poker wins the pot. The player whose last bet was called needs to show the cards first. If this is not possible, then the first player in a clockwise position from the dealer button needs to show his cards. In rules similar to Texas Hold'em, players can opt to muck or show their cards if they have losing hands.

The Winner in Badugi Poker

This is the player who has the lowest hand value and who takes home the pot. If there is a tie for the best hand, the pot is split equally among the tied players. Should a hand reach the showdown stage and no player has a Badugi, the player with the best three card or two card hand wins the pot.

Badugi Poker Strategy

  • Keep calm and focused. Don’t become upset if a bad hand is dealt. Not only does this make it easier for players to ‘read’ you in subsequent rounds, it also throws you out in your own game strategy and leads you make bad decisions.
  • Keep a close eye on how the other players around the Badugi table are playing. What are they doing during the draw rounds? How are they acting?
  • Consider whether your hand stands a chance against a Badugi. If not, opt to fold. Knowing when to leave the game and cut your losses is a strategy that is just as important as any other.
  • Think about position. The player who is last to act is able to garner information on what hands the opponent has, based on the number of cards discarded. If a player who acts before you has opted not to discard cards, it could very well mean that he has a strong hand and doesn’t want to risk it. This information could serve you well when you need to make your own decision.
  • Bluffing is an important part of Badugi strategy, however it needs to be done with care and within reason. Badugi experts agree that the best time for a player to bluff is during the first and second draws. If, for example, a player decides to stand pat in the first draw stage of the game, opponents have only bet a little bit of money on the game and are therefore more likely to fold to the bluff. By the second draw phase, players should only semi bluff.
  • Practice discipline, whether it is with your bankroll or the time you spend at the gaming tables.
  • Beginners to Badugi are encouraged to read the rules and strategies of the game available on the internet or through how-to guide books. Strategy will obviously differ depending on whether players opt to play ring or cash games, tournaments or sit n go tournaments. As specific strategies exist for each one of these choices, it is wise to seek out articles geared towards each one.


Badugi Poker is fast become a game eagerly sought out by poker players at online gaming sites, as well as at land poker rooms around the world. Not only do they seek the fast action of a four card game of poker, they also enjoy the interesting angle of creating the lowest possible hand of poker, which is in direct opposition to games such as Texas Hold'em where the aim is to create the highest hand.

As players move from beginner to intermediate and then advanced level, they will learn to apply the strategies gleaned along the way, how to bluff their opponents and eventually become excellent Badugi Poker players.

Posted by CCJ Team