For poker fans weaned on No Limit Texas Hold’em, there can be no better feeling than the guilty thrill of betting big with nothing and forcing your opponent to fold the winner. Bluffing is one of the most exciting plays you can make in a poker game, and while the lowball variant Badugi may not seem like the best place to bluff, the game actually provides savvy players with several opportunities to test their poker face. In nearly every form of poker being in late position in the hand is a key source of strength, and the same is true in Badugi. When you learn how to exploit position to “snow” your opponents, or represent a better badugi while holding rags, you can soon build a big edge against the competition in the best online poker rooms. With the following primer on bluffing in Badugi, you will learn when to make daring plays for the pot, but most importantly, you will understand the motivation for making those moves.
Everybody who has played Badugi knows that, while the strategy of the game can be incredibly complex, at times the betting structure can be relatively straightforward. Prior to the first drawing round Badugi hands are played face-up in a sense, and aside from the occasional blind steal when circumstances warrant, bluffing is not an advisable play. Everything changes after players take their first card(s), however, and from this point until the showdown you will be well served by sprinkling a few “snows” into your Badugi repertoire.
Position becomes a prime factor after the second drawing round, and this is where you can begin to exploit the edges afforded by Badugi bluffs. For example, when your opponent has taken their second draw and leads out with a bet, you can represent a low badugi by raising with authority. If the other player has a marginal holding, say the 9-5-4-3 or some other non-Ace badugi, they will most likely respect your aggression and muck their cards. On the other hand, when your opponent happens to have cards worth drawing with, perhaps the 7-4-3-A or a similar low, four-card badugi, they will nearly always have the correct odds to try and improve their holding. In this case, you can still exploit the power of bluffing by standing pat when they take one off, signaling that you have made a powerful hand, and even the 4♠ 3♥ 2♣ A♦ best badugi. Often, you will find that this maneuver works wonders in the most popular online Badugi games, as players generally show deference to the hand standing pat after the third draw.
Knowing how to bluff in Badugi is only half the battle, as you must also be able to defend against getting “snowed” by veteran opponents. Beginning players are typically very timid without monster four-card lows, and they will usually release badugis with face cards in them to any amount of betting pressure. Being a bluffable Badugi player is a leak that can put a serious dent in anybody’s bankroll, so learning how to see through the “snow” is an essential skill. Observe your opponents and the way they play, identifying those who appear willing to make big bluffs, and when they try to “snow” you out of the hand call them down with good tri-hands, or three-card badugis. The value of a quality tri-hand, such as the 6-3-A, as a bluff-catcher should never be underestimated because Badugi bluffs are generally made with nothing but air.
The ability to balance your own willingness to bluff against your tendency to look up fellow bluffers is integral to becoming a proficient Badugi player. Just like in Hold’em and Stud, there are a few ironclad percentages and mathematical rules that can be memorized and strategically applied. Take one of the most common Badugi scenarios for instance, in which you find yourself facing a novice opponent who tends to pitch a single card on the second draw, while always following with a third draw when they miss. This beginner Badugi strategy will be encountered frequently in most online poker rooms, so it is good to know that this line results in a four-card Badugi about 40% of the time. By adjusting your bluffing frequency to account for this type of opponent’s ignorance of tri-hand strength, you can execute successful bluffs every time they miss and some of the times they hit. Another useful nugget to keep in mind is that when a player draws a single card for the first time, their chances of making a four-card badugi are nearly one in five. This means that by the second draw they will have a 21% of holding a Badugi, giving you ample room to represent a monster and bet them off when they miss.