Reading Your Opponent’s Hand in Badugi

Knowing how to play your own hand in a game of poker can make you a breakeven player at best, but learning how to play your opponent’s hand will push you into the realm of profitability. Because the game of Badugi is a triple-draw lowball variant, there is a basic mathematical framework to deducing hand possibilities, so taking the time to study Badugi hand tables and the probability of having various hands dealt to you is a great place to start. When you have committed this numerical foundation of Badugi strategy to memory, you can start exploiting that knowledge by effectively reading your opponent’s holding. By combining the power of position with a bit of Sherlock Holmes-styled elementary deduction, you can start seeing through other player’s “snows” and making hero calls with tri-hands.

The first factor to take into account when trying to narrow your opponent’s hand range in Badugi is the number of cards they decide to pitch during each drawing round. Drawing a single card indicates a player breaking up their tri-hand while attempting to draw at a four-card badugi. Conversely, when your opponent pitches multiple cards it is clear that they have been dealt junk and are simply trying to make a decent tri-hand to move forward with. Obviously these are general guidelines and each player exhibits their own particular drawing style, but with a little observation you will quickly identify patterns and peg players into specific categories. For the most part, novice Badugi players will not be capable of varying their drawing frequency to disrupt your hand reading, and these opponent’s draws should be viewed as conventional until proven otherwise. In other words, unless an opponent has shown themselves to be a cagey player, you should be able to judge their hand strength by the amount of cards they choose to draw. So when a beginner takes a card off on the first and second drawing rounds, before suddenly standing pat on the third, you can almost be assured that they aren’t “snowing” in this situation and give their bet the respect it deserves.

In order to set up a situation which allows you to exploit your hand reading skills, you must lay the groundwork by recognizing your position in each hand. When your opponent is forced to act first, you are given the advantage of knowing how many cards they chose to draw, and this knowledge can help you determine the type of hand they are trying to improve. For example, if your opponent is first to act and takes one card during each of the three drawing rounds, it is very likely that they were searching for the perfect card to make a four-card badugi. In this case, holding any made tri-hand gives you a superior holding when they miss, and based on their facial expressions, body language and reaction to the last card, you can bet, call or raise accordingly.

Identifying patterns and connections between your opponent’s betting and drawing is the key to reading hands in Badugi, and this adage is proven every day in online poker rooms. Because the best online Badugi sites spread several games simultaneously across various stakes, many players sit at multiple tables. This habit enables them to play many more hands at a faster rate, however, the speed of the decision making which is required limits their ability to make creative or unconventional plays. Instead, online Badugi multi-tablers often settle into predictable patterns with both their drawing and betting frequencies, and if you are shrewd in studying their game, you will soon find yourself reading their hands with astounding accuracy.

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