Selecting Good Starting HandsAs is applicable in any poker variant, the most basic and significant strategy of winning consistently in Badugi poker is about knowing the starting hands one should play and not play with. Although you may see a large majority of players playing around 80% of their hands, knowing that it’s triple draw per game, it’s actually a sure shot path for exhausting one’s bankroll. See any player like that at a Badugi poker table? Be prepared to win a good portion of his/her chip stack!
All pat hands are worth playing, worth raising bets and re-raising. A pat hand is one that consists of a card from every suit and doesn’t have any pairs. Having even a King-high Badugi is good enough to play with, as you may come out on top in a heads up confrontation with someone who doesn’t have a pat hand. However, please keep in mind that the more the number of players remain in the game, the better are the odds that one of them will draw and create a better Badugi then yours. Hence, a table is where at least half or more players see the first draw, you must play aggressively regardless of what they’re actually dealt and how the betting action proceeds. However, be cautious when it comes to weaker Badugis.
Please keep in mind every time your opponent draws a card, his chances of improving his/her hand to a Badugi stand at around 21%, as he/she has total of 10 cards to possibly improve his/are hand. Your opponent’s chances of beating you despite the draws may go down significantly if you’ve a lower pat hand. For instance, if you’re in possession of a 7 4 3 2 badugi, and your opponent’s drawing to a 6 6 3 A hand, he/she can use only three possible cards – 5, 4 or 2 of different suits to win, as anything higher will result in a worse hand. Furthermore he/she can’t use a 3 or an ace as they’ll pair his/her hand. The odds against this player are over 15 to 1.
In case you don’t get dealt a pat hand, your playable hands will be determined by the tightness and looseness of your table as well as your table position. A general thumb rule is to always play:
- A one-card hand of 7 low or better regardless of your position
- A one-card hand of 8 low in late position, provided no one has raised yet and
- A two-card hand of 5 or better in late position.
If you’re playing at a very loose table, you may succeed by even playing two-card draws of 5 or better in early positions. Please always keep in mind that if a hand is worth playing, it is normally also worth raising, especially if you’re the first player to raise. On the other hand, if your opponents are consistently capping the first betting round, no matter what their hands are like, you’ll need to consider the extra variants it’ll bring into the game, and make a decision whether you’ve enough risk tolerance and bankroll to indulge in such kind of play. Furthermore, if someone has raised prior to you and you’ve a weaker hand, just call to see the possible outcome of the draw.
On the other hand, if you’re playing at a considerably tighter table, and someone before you has already raised, you must employ the gap concept to decide whether you should play or not play your hand. To give you an example, if you’re aware that the player raising the bet wouldn’t have done so without having a strong hand, your hand must also be equally good to stay in the game. Furthermore, if couple of players have already raised the bet and both of them are pretty solid players, all hands barring one card draws and pat hands should be mucked.