Starting Hand Selection

Badugi Strategy – Starting Hand Selection

If you are new to Badugi, playing for real money can be risky. But, if you know a few strategies, you can up your game and the ante. In turn, this will allow you to make the most of the money-making opportunities offered by Badugi.

Just as in any poker variant, your starting hands are the key determinant of whether you will land the pot. So, before you make a bet or you fold, evaluate the strength of the starting hand dealt to you. The best hand that you can play is a pat hand which has a card from all the suits sans a pair. Don’t stop with just betting the hand, try raising and re-raising it, especially if you are up against a hand that is highly unlikely to be a strong one.

Avoid playing average-weak hands against opponents who are aggressive because there is a good possibility that at least one of them will draw to a higher Badugi than yours. You can take a call on whether you should play an average-weak hand based on these factors:

Percentage of players in the pot

If you are in a hand where at least 50% of the players are making their way to the first draw – irrespective of what their starting hands are and the way betting progresses – play a pat hand. Watch out for hands where more than 50% at the table see the first draw. In this situation, the majority of the hands you play should be draw hands which can improve to become high-ranking pat hands.

Odds of drawing

Every time an opponent draws a card, the odds that his hand will improve are a little over 21%. In this case you should play pat hands that are very low. When you have a strong hand, there is a high probability that the opponent will have just a few outs. For instance, if your hand has 7-4-3-2 and your opponent is drawing to 7-7-3-A, he has four possibilities for winning – 6, 5, 4 and 2 (off-suit). If he gets a card that ranks higher than these, his hand value will drop. If an ace or a 3 shows up in his hand, he will have a pair that will drastically reduce his chances of winning.

Low starting hands

Pat hands are the best to play. However, the possibility of getting one every hand is low. This brings up the question – what do you do when you get low starting hands? Play them after considering your position at the table and the tightness and looseness of your opponents. A basic rule beginners should follow is to use seven-low or better one-card draw from any position, eight-low one-card draw from late (provided your opponents have not added to the pot) and five or better two-card draws from late. The last set of hands can be played quite profitably in early position if you are at a loose table.

At a loose table

Hands are considered good to play with if they can be raised at a loose table. But hold back on the raising if you come across opponents who regularly cap the 1st round of betting without considering the strength of their hands. This will bring additional variance, which will affect your bankroll if you have little to wager. Weigh this aspect along with your risk tolerance before you play the hands.

If a player raises before you and you have a weak hand you want to play, call to reach the first draw. If you have a pat hand on a loose table, you should wager one-third your bet. This will help eliminate other players so you can get into a heads-up match against the raiser.

At a tight table

If you are facing several raises, decide whether to play based on the likelihood of your opponents having a seven-low or better, an eight low, or a five or better one-card draw. Most who open-raise have one of these hands. With that in mind, assess whether your hand is better. If it is strong, stay in the hand. If two raises are made by strong players, abandon all hands except the top pat and 1-card draws.

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