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Badugi: Making Moves

by Kevin Haney |  Published: May 19, 2021


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Thus far in our discussions on badugi post-flop play we have either assumed that we hold the best hand and are betting for value and protection, or we are somewhat confident that we don’t and are content to simply call and chase when the price the right.

However, badugi does allow for an abundance of creativity, and in some situations making a move at the pot may have a higher expectation than either calling or folding. Sometimes we should get aggressive and pat without a made hand in an attempt to get an opponent to fold. In draw games, this is called a snow.

We can also raise a pat hand when we have a drawing hand. If our opponent breaks their hand, we can go from a large underdog to a big favorite. On your good days, an opponent may even fold immediately, which is a huge win.

Raising On The Draw

Suppose you are on the button with AClub Suit 2Diamond Suit 5Spade Suit X and three-bet a cutoff opener who then four-bets the action and stands pat. The majority of the opponents you will encounter will open with any badugi from the cutoff and then cap the betting after getting re-raised. This is an important read because when an entire badugi range is in play, the median holding is either a jack or a queen badugi. If your opponent will break with a reasonable draw underneath, the median is a jack, and if he is somewhat sticky it will be a queen.

Regardless, in this bloated pot we have the correct odds to chase the entire way, especially since we have position and mostly implied odds on our side. If we fail to improve on the first two draws, continuing on the turn is clear since we are getting 6.75:1 pot odds and on average have between seven and nine outs.

While we can profit by calling, we should also occasionally put in a raise to test our opponent in an attempt to get him to break or possibly fold immediately. When raising the turn, we are putting in two big bets with a chance to instantly win the 6.75 big bets in the middle.

An opponent will occasionally fold, but probably not quite at the 23% rate we require for the play to be immediately profitable, especially if we are playing in an aggressive online game. However, when our opponent calls and stands pat, we still have an opportunity to outdraw him on the final draw. Thus, the play does not need to work as often in order to be successful in the long run. (In addition, when the play initially fails but then you outdraw him on the last draw you also have potential “tilt equity” on your side.)

If we raise the turn and our opponent calls and stands pat, we will usually draw. However, we can choose to pat behind and continue the bluff if we have noticed that our opponent has the ability to fold in this situation on the river. In fact, if our opponent has a tendency to do this at too great of a frequency, the expectation of patting would probably exceed that of drawing.

Getting re-raised on the turn is a risk, but not a huge one if our opponent is only three-betting when he was lucky enough to be dealt a monster pat hand from the onset. From the villain’s perspective, if we made a badugi from drawing it will often be quite strong, thus he requires a rare premium initial pat badugi to put in this action. If our opponent is initially playing his entire badugi range he will only hold an eight or better hand around 10% of the time.

It’s very important that when making this play that we have a very strong three-card badugi to fall back upon in case our opponent decides to break. If we are successful in getting our opponent to break a king or a queen badugi, we aren’t in a much better position if our opponent has a better three card underneath and are still an approximate 4:1 favorite in the hand.

We should not expect our opponent to fold on the turn very often, especially if we tend to overuse the play. However, since we clearly have the pot odds to call, putting in one extra bet every now and then when the time seems right is extremely effective as it doesn’t cost that much and balances the times you make a real hand. It puts your opponent in a position where he has the potential to make a big mistake, and that’s what solid poker is about.

The Check-Raise Pat Bluff

Now let’s assume we open from the cutoff position with 5Heart Suit6Diamond Suit 8Club Suit X and get three-bet by a tight aggressive opponent on the button. We call and both players take one on the first draw.

The villain could easily have a premium three-card badugi such as A-2-4, however, you have some experience against this particular opponent and have noted that he never smooth-calls on the button against a cutoff open with any one-card draw. Therefore, it seems highly likely that he is playing a re-raise or fold strategy before the first draw, meaning six- or seven-high tri holdings such as 3-5-6 and A-3-7 would also be in his three-betting range.

We check-call the flop and both players are still drawing one on the second draw. Unfortunately, we fail to improve on the second draw, we check, and our opponent bets. Even though the pot is sizeable, we cannot profitably call with our rough draw since our overall equity is quite bad and we have reverse implied odds.

There is, however, an alternative to folding, and that is check-raising and turning our weak draw into a snow. Most often we are going to be risking three big bets in an attempt to win 6.75. Two big bets are going in on the turn and in most situations we will follow-up with another bet on the river. We are always going to bet the river if our opponent was still drawing, and with some small frequency we should continue with the bluff even when the villain calls and pats behind.

This risk/reward relationship indicates that the play only needs to work around 31% of the time in order to be profitable, meaning the villain needs to defend at a minimum 69% of the time. This places our opponent in a somewhat difficult position because over the course of the last two draws he will only complete a badugi approximately 38% of the time. (This 38% also includes the times he makes weaker badugis (e.g. kings or queens) on the second draw that he may choose to break.)

If an opponent will only call down when he makes a badugi, he will not come close to defending enough. any players will also look you up with premium three-card badugis, however, in this cutoff versus button scenario our opponent will usually have enough hands that he will fold.

Be forewarned that some opponents are very sticky, and since three-card sixes can beat bluffs, some players will just make you show them the best hand. It’s your job to figure out how people play and to choose your targets wisely.

The play becomes stronger if you have seen any pairs along the way, which reduces the probability of our opponent completing his hand. It’s also important to consider the positions from which you and your opponent originated from as that has a big impact on the play of a hand.

For example, if we had instead opened from early position and got reraised by an opponent one seat over, a check-raise pat bluff later in the hand is almost never correct. In this situation we are often holding a hand of much greater value where our expectation of calling and drawing would generally exceed that of turning our hand into a bluff. Secondly, villain will more often hold a premium three-card badugi that they probably intend to take to showdown no matter what happens in the hand.

This check-raise pat snow is just one example where turning our hand into a bluff can have a higher expectation than either calling or folding. Snowing plays a very large role in badugi and in the next article we will discuss this topic in more depth. ♠

Kevin Haney is a former actuary of MetLife but left the corporate job to focus on his passions for poker and fitness. He is co-owner of Elite Fitness Club in Oceanport, NJ and is a certified personal trainer. With regards to poker he got his start way back in 2003 and particularly enjoys taking new players interested in mixed games under his wing and quickly making them proficient in all variants. If interested in learning more, playing mixed games online, or just saying hello he can be reached at