Playing the last round in Badugi is highly opponent dependent, probably more so than most forms of poker. For example, some players will never call on the end without a badugi while others will call with any decent tri hand 100% of the time. Some players will overrate a weak badugi on the last round while others may be afraid to put in appropriate action with a strong one. The key is to pay attention to the action on the last round and see what your opponents show down. This knowledge can help shape your strategy against each particular opponent. Let’s discuss some various topics on how to play the last round after all of the draws have been completed.
Calling for the Size of the Pot
On the end you are getting tremendous pot odds to call a single bet and thus you need to call the vast majority of the time but you should never resign yourself to being an automatic pay station. Have the courage to save that last bet when the time is right. You should never call getting 10 to 1 when the probability that your hand is best might be greater than zero but probably by not much. This much should be obvious but there are some players that will never fold any hand on the river. Playing in this manner will make you exploitable as your opponents will simply value bet everything and essentially stop bluffing.
If you happen to be wrong in your fold and are shown a bluff it is results oriented thinking to consider it a pot sized mistake. All of the bets saved in previous similar situations as well as those that will be saved in the future offset the cost of the pot that you would have won in that one particular hand. It may increase the swings somewhat because the loss of one big pot makes it more likely you will end up a loser in any one particular session, but aren’t we always told that we should “Embrace variance!” in attempt to increase our hourly?
Bluffing after Bricking
You really should not be bluffing that much on the end when you were chasing a badugi and brick out. For one thing many players will always call for the size of the pot. Also, from a game theoretical basis there are not many cards you should bluff.
For example, suppose there are seven bets in the pot on the end so after your wager your opponent is getting 8 to 1 odds on his call. Assuming you had eight outs that you would choose to value bet, in theory there should only be one card that you should choose to bluff in order to make your opponent indifferent between calling and folding. The odds against you bluffing are then the same as those your opponent is getting from the pot. Since Badugi is often played in a mixed game rotation it is often best to just try and exploit any possible mistakes that your opponents may be making. Don’t throw money away trying to bluff players who will never fold.
However, if you are up against players who have the ability to lay down a hand you can implement a bluffing strategy using game theory as a guide. For example, if it is game theory optimal to bluff one card you could choose to bluff two or three to possibly exploit a player’s possible penchant for folding too often. The actual cards you choose do not matter, but it helps to predetermine them in advance in order to make the bluff look more natural. For example if you hold A♠ 2♥ 5♣, in addition to value betting a jack badugi or better you could bluff the A♦, 2♦, and maybe even the 5♦.
Interestingly enough it may be more profitable to try and bluff two opponents as opposed to just one on the end. Let’s assume a three handed pot where the cut-off raised initially and was called by the button and yourself in the big blind. The cut-off stays pat on the first draw while you and the other villain draw one for the entire hand. You brick out on the end but a bluff could put the initial raiser may be holding a marginal badugi to a very difficult decision. For him to win the pot a parlay needs to happen. You need to be bluffing and the player on the button has to miss his draw. Many tighter players will fold here and it’s typically the right play for them to do so.
Betting/Raising on the End for Value
Suppose you were dealt QT98 and have been betting the whole way against one opponent drawing one. Given that your opponent was still incomplete heading into the last draw there is over an 80% chance that you have the best hand on the end. However, you do not have a profitable bet because for a bet to be profitable you have to have the best hand over 50% of the time that you are called. In this example, when you get called or raised on the end you will probably not have the best hand over 50% of the time. Unless you have been playing fairly crazy or are up against a massive calling station it probably isn’t even close However, if you obtained a queen badugi on the first draw and have been caught snowing recently you should tend to bet the queen on the end.
On the other side of the equation, let’s say you have been on the draw and hit your hand on the last draw. Whether or not you can raise a bet from a pat hand depends on your hand strength, your opponent, and when they stayed pat.
Against someone who stayed pat on the first or second draw, the line between value raising or just calling is usually around a good eight. Remember drawn badugis are stronger than ones from the initial deal so they easily could have a better badugi especially considering the fact they bet the river. Also if you just call you can gain valuable information regarding your opponent. Do they value bet any badugi? Were they snowing? Make them show the hand and you will find out.
Against someone who stayed pat initially you can probably value raise with any eight, a good nine, or possibly even worse on the end. Your opponent’s tendencies make a huge difference here as some will bet and call a raise with any badugi. Against more seasoned opponents with a tighter range this value raise is a lot thinner but it is profitable if they will be bet/call with nine and ten badugis. They will bet because it feels weak to check and then they will talk themselves into calling due to the size of the pot.
River Showdowns are a Treasure Trove of Information
It is critical to pay attention to the hands that are showed down on the river because they provide a lot of useful information in how to best exploit the players at your table. River play in Badugi offers a lot more information than in a game like Hold’em because there play on the end is influenced a lot by the texture of the board. On one board, top pair top kicker can be a clear value bet, but on others it may be a crying call that can only beat a bluff. Badugi does not have the same complexities therefore you can typically gain a lot more useful information quickly. So what type of information is available and how should you adjust?
Let’s say you observe hand where a player stood pat after the first draw and bets the entire way against a single player drawing one. One the end the bettor shows A38K and the caller mucks which means he almost certainly called with an unimproved tri hand. That caller was obviously playing sheriff against a snow so you should probably refrain from snowing this particular player and stick to value bets. In addition, you should also tend to call this player down on the river with your good tri hands. If he suspected a snow in the hand you observed that indicates he understands the play and probably uses it with enough regularity to make a river call profitable.
What about the player who bet the king badugi on the river? Some inexperienced players who just keep bet on the end whenever they have any badugi. Against these players you can make more marginal turn calls because you have more implied odds. When you hit your hand they will typically call a raise due to the size of the pot.
It has been a long journey but this concludes the series on Badugi and I hope everyone enjoyed it. These were my thoughts on the game and I look forward to any debate and discussion as that is how we all improve.