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The best hand in badugi, a four-high badugi.
The best hand in badugi, a four-high badugi.

Badugi (also known as Badougi or Padooki) is a draw poker variant similar to triple draw, but with differing hand values than traditional poker. The betting structure and overall play of the game is identical to a standard poker game, but unlike traditional poker which involves a minimum of five cards, players' hands contain only four cards at any one time. During each of three drawing rounds, players can trade zero to four cards from their hands for new ones from the deck, in an attempt to form the best badugi hand and win the pot. The object of Badugi is to win pots, the share of money put in by oneself and one's opponents during the hand. The winner of the pot is the person, who has not folded, with the best badugi hand at the conclusion of play (known as the showdown).

Believed to have originated in Asia, Badugi is becoming popular in the United States.

Play of the hand

An illustration of the blinds
An illustration of the blinds

Play begins with each player being dealt four cards face down. Each player may observe those four cards he is dealt, but not the cards dealt to other players. The hand begins with a "pre-draw" betting round, beginning with the player to the left of the big blind (or the player to the left of the dealer, if no blinds are used) and continuing clockwise. Each player must either call the amount of the big blind (put in an amount equal to the big blind), fold (relinquish any claim to the pot), or raise (put in more money than anyone else, thus requiring others to do the same).

Once everyone has put the same amount of money in the pot or folded, play proceeds to the draw. Beginning with the first player still in the pot to the left of the dealer, each player may discard any number of cards and receive an equal number of replacement cards (called the "draw"). Replacement cards are dealt before the next player chooses the number of cards to draw. The discarded cards are not readded to the deck but are discarded from the game.

The first draw is followed by a second betting round. Here players are free to check (not put in any money, but also remain in the hand) until someone bets. Again betting proceeds until all players have put in an equal amount of money or folded. After the second betting round ends, there is another draw followed by a third betting round. After that there is the final draw, followed by a fourth betting round and the showdown, if necessary.

If at anytime all players but one have folded, the sole remaining player is awarded the pot. If there is more than one player remaining at the conclusion of the final betting round, the hands of those players are compared and the player with the best badugi hand is awarded the pot.

Hand evaluation

Badugi has a different ranking of hands than traditional poker. Although every player has four cards to use, the rules of the game require that certain cards be removed to construct a one, two, three or four card badugi hand. At the showdown (after all betting has concluded), a player is forced to remove one of any two suited cards and any paired cards from the four. This generates a badugi hand of one to four cards. Any four card badugi hand beats a three card badugi hand, three card badugi hands beat a two card badugi hand, and two card badugi hands beat a one card badugi hand. A four card badugi hand is often referred to simply as a "badugi".

Two badugi hands containing the same number of cards are evaluated by comparing the highest card in each hand (where ace is low). As in lowball, the hand with the lower card is superior. If there is a tie for the highest card, the second highest card (if there is one) is compared. If the ranks of all the cards in the badugi hand are the same the two hands tie. As with standard poker games, suits are irrelevant in comparison of two hands.

Here are a few examples:

  • 2♠4♣5♦6♥ beats A♠2♣3♦7♥ (both are four card hands) since the highest card is compared first and the 6♥ is smaller than 7♥.
  • 4♠5♣6♦K♥ beats 2♠3♠4♦7♥ the former is a four card hand and the second is a three card hand (the 3♠ must be discarded making the hand 2♠4♦7♥).
  • 2♠3♠4♦7♥ beats 4♠5♠6♦K♥ both are three card hands, the highest in the first is the 7♥ while the highest in the second is the K♥.
  • 5♦7♣K♣K♥ beats 2♠3♦K♠K♦ the former is a three card hand (made by discarding the K♣) the later is a two card hand (made by discarding the two Kings which must both be discarded because they are the same suits as the other two cards).

If one can construct two (or more) different badugi hands with the same four cards (as in the final example), the better badugi hand is evaluated against the other hands. This occurs when there are at least two card of the same suit one of which is paired. Here removing the paired, suited card generates a better hand than removing the two other cards.

Example hand

The blinds for this example hand
The blinds for this example hand

Here is a sample deal involving our four players. The players' individual hands will not be revealed until the showdown, to give a better sense of what happens during play:

Compulsory bets: Alice is the dealer. Bob, to Alice's left, posts a small blind of $1, and Carol posts a big blind of $2.

First betting round: Alice deals four cards face down to each player, beginning with Bob and ending with herself. Ted must act first because he is the first player after the big blind. He cannot check, since the $2 big blind plays as a bet, so he folds. Alice calls the $2. Bob adds an additional $1 to his $1 small blind to call the $2 total. Carol's blind is "live" (see blind), so she has the option to raise here, but she checks instead, ending the first betting round. The pot now contains $6, $2 from each of three players.

First draw: Each player may now opt to draw up to four cards in an attempt to improve their hands. Bob, who is to the dealers immediate left, is given the first chance to draw. Bob discards two cards and receives two replacement cards from the top of the deck. Bob's discarded cards are not added to the deck, but removed from play. Carol now chooses to also draw two. Finally, Alice chooses to draw one.

Second betting round: Since there are no forced bets in later betting rounds, Bob is now first to act. He chooses to check, remaining in the hand without betting. Carol bets, adding $2 to the pot. Alice and Bob both call, each adding $2 to the pot. The pot now contains $12.

Second draw: Bob draws one. Carol opts not to draw any cards, keeping the four she has (known as standing pat). Alice draws one.

Third betting round: Bob checks again and Carol bets $4. Alice, this round, raises making the total bet $8. Bob folds and Carol calls the additional $4. The pot now contains $28.

Third draw: Since Bob has folded Carol is now first to act, she opts to draw one. Alice stands pat (does not draw).

Last betting round: Carol checks and Alice bets $4. Carol calls.

Showdown: Alice shows 2♠4♣6♦9♥ for a nine-high badugi (or four card hand). Carol has 3♠5♦7♣8♥, an eight-high badugi. Carol wins the $36 pot.

Betting structures

In casino play, it is common to use a fixed limit and two blinds. The limit for the first two rounds of betting is called a small bet, while the limit for the third and fourth betting rounds is called a big bet and is generally double the small bet. The small blind is usually equal to half of a small bet, and the big blind is equal to a full small bet.

This game is also played pot-limit, half-pot-limit, and no-limit. These structures allow for more range in the amounts bet.


Badugi shares many strategic similarities with other forms of draw poker, and many of the strategic concepts used in draw apply to badugi as well. In general, drawing on the last round against an opponent who has not drawn is considered a mistake, unless special circumstances warrant this maneuver.

Like other games with a fixed order of play, position can be an important component in badugi strategy. Players who are last to act often have an opportunity to bluff since they are able to observe the actions of other players before they act. In addition, players in late position are able to determine the strength of their hand more accurately by observing the actions of other players.

Another aspect of the strategy of badugi involves the number of people at the table. The more people there are at the table, the more likely there is to be a 4 card badugi. Bluffing with a 2 or 3 card hand is not usually advisable when playing at a 6 player table. However, when you are playing with fewer than 4 people, a 3 card hand can often win with a good bluff.

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