Mastering Badugi Part 6 – Middle Rounds (Making Moves)

Last month’s article focused on the play of the middle rounds assuming we either had the best hand or were simply content to call and try out draw a better one.  This article focuses on some plays that we can use to try and win the pot with the worst hand.   There is also some discussion on how to possibly induce your opponent to snow which can also be highly profitable.

Raising on the Draw

Let’s consider a hand where you hold A25 on the button and re-raise a cut-off opener.  Your opponent four-bets and you call the raise.  He stands pat and you fail to improve on the first two draws.  After your opponent bets after the second draw you are getting 7.25 to 1 pot odds which means you require around 12% equity or approximately six outs in order to proceed.  Against the majority of opponents you will have sufficient outs as they will typically re-raise with any badugi that they opened.

So given position and some implied odds you probably have a profitable call but a raise should also be considered.  You are investing just one more bet in order to try and get your opponent to either break or fold his hand.  Even if it doesn’t work this particular hand it can pay dividends in the future.  It will make you a tougher opponent as well as gain you more action in the future on your value hands.

It is usually best to do this in position because your opponent will obviously not break a badugi if you draw.  However, an out of position check-raise will look stronger so you may have more fold equity when you make a move at pot out of position.  Your opponent will sometimes fold right away especially if they don’t have a good draw underneath their badugi.

Typically you want a five high tri or better when raising on the draw.  Regardless of the eventual outcome it is a great result if your opponent breaks and draws, but it would be quite the shame if he breaks but his underlying tri is better than the one you are holding.

This play doesn’t have to work that often because since there are so many bets in the pot and you could probably profit by calling anyway.  Figuring out exactly how often it needs to work is difficult because so many different things could happen.  Your opponent could fold instantly or he might re-raise you with a rare monster badugi.  He could call your raise, stay pat, but then you outdraw him.  Or your opponent could call and break which would then make you the large favorite if you have the best three card badugi.  All things considered your opponent probably only needs to fold or break around 10-15% of the time for the play to be profitable. If you have your opponent ranged to include most if not all badugis, how often will your opponent have a weak badugi?  If you forget refer back Part 2 of this series for your answer.  The short answer is a lot more than 10-15% of the time which makes the play quite powerful.  It is a really tough decision for him when he is holding a mediocre or weak badugi as your turn raise gives makes him think that most of the time he is going to have to call two big bets to get the hand to showdown.


Snowing has a much greater role in Badugi than in any other draw game because its suit restrictions make it much harder to make a hand.  As we discussed many times, badugis acquired via drawing are on average stronger than those initially dealt.  Since you can represent a stronger hand after drawing, logic dictates that you should primarily snow after taking one or more draws.  In addition, delaying the snow also gives you a chance to make a real badugi.

Choose your targets carefully; you should not often snow draw specialists or people who you have observed snowing themselves.  As in all poker games, it is less effective to try and bluff the bluffers.  When Badugi is played as part of a mixed game rotation many players play the round very straightforwardly.  Mostly they are in there just trying to make badugis, think making badugis is easier than it actually is, and tend to believe anyone who stays pat has a badugi.  These are the players and situations that you should look to exploit.

Your current image is another key consideration, so if you have been caught snowing recently you should probably lock it down for at least a little while and just value bet all badugis.  If you get caught snowing you can always try and pretend that you thought you had a badugi and simply misread your hand.  I have been known to have a few cocktails while I play so people tend to believe me which allows me to keep the play in my arsenal.  It can be highly beneficial to your bottom line to look like a fool who doesn’t know what he’s doing.  So never shy away from it even if you do make an unintentional mistake as it helps keep the atmosphere fun and lively.

It is preferable to snow in position because if your target stands pat at some point in the hand there is the chance to abort the play and draw.  If you were not check-raised the chances are pretty decent that you are drawing live because many players will check-raise eight badugis and better but check-call with worse.

Never snow with premium three card badugis; just keep betting and drawing to your strong hand because you can win a showdown.  It is more effective to snow with bad tris but there is more to it than just looking at the highest card.  For example, it is probably better to snow with 865 than A59 because with the A59 you have a better chance to win by reducing the incomplete.

The optimal time to snow is usually after the first draw because fold equity increases if you can put them to decision before the higher limit kicks in.  But sometimes you want to mix it up by snowing after the second draw and your holding can act as a randomizer for this timing decision.  Snow your very worst hands like 987 and 865 after the first draw but snow slightly better holdings such as A59 and 754 after the second.  You can make stronger tris and badugis with the latter hands so it makes sense to take two shots at making a real hand.  However, if you opponent drew two cards on the first draw you should tend to snow right away. As we previously learned, they will fail to improve 50% of the time and thus will often fold thinking they are two cards behind.

If your opponent believes that you started with a really strong tri hand and thus have showdown value he would be more apt to believe that you have a badugi.  This is a previously discussed benefit to re-raising before the first draw.

Typically you want to target only one player with a snow but sometimes you may be presented with a multiway situation that is too good to pass up.  Suppose you have open A68 on the button, get called by the small blind, and re- raised by the big blind.  You and the small blind call and the draw goes 2/1/1.  After the first draw, the small blind checks, the big blind bets, and you decide to raise even though you did not improve.  The plan is to stay pat and keep betting the hand through.  Unless the small blind helped his two card draw in a big way he is going out and his dead money helps provide an overlay for your play.  The three-handed pot helps add some credibility to the story you are trying to tell and since you are in position you also have potential to abort the play at any time if your opponent calls and stays pat at some point in the hand.

Inducing Snows

Against opponents who love to snow you may choose to defend your big blind against a button raiser by just calling instead of re-raising with a strong hand like A35.  You are a sizeable favorite against a steal range thus you are sacrificing some pre-draw expected value in order to disguise your holding.  By just calling the raise your opponent is likely to put you on a weaker tri hand that needs to improve in order to stay in the hand.

Button openers will have many weak three card badugis in their range and you are playing in a manner that will help encourage him to turn it into a snow.  If he does choose to snow his equity goes down to 0% while his chips keep on going into the pot.

Premium three card badugis such as A23 have too much expected value against a loose open so you should re-raise and take the value.  Five high tris have less of an overall equity edge but still have enough showdown value versus a bluffing range which makes prime candidates to induce a snow.  A side benefit of this play is that it helps camouflage some of your weaker tris that you will also call with from the big blind.

As you can see there can be a lot more to the game than simply trying to hit big hands.  Try and discover what your opponents are trying to do and use that information to exploit them.  This has been a long journey but next month we conclude the series with some guidance on playing the final round after all the draws have been completed.