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Badugi: Snowing And Snow Defense

by Kevin Haney |  Published: Jun 02, 2021

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Snowing is the act of standing pat without a made hand in an attempt to get your opponent to fold, and it probably has a greater role in badugi than in any other draw game. It’s relatively difficult to make a badugi, so if our opponents are folding too often, the expectation of snowing with our rougher draws will frequently exceed that of playing in a straightforward manner… provided we don’t go to the well too often.

Here’s an example of a standard snow. We open on the button with 4Club Suit 7Diamond Suit 9Spade Suit and the big blind calls. With this weak three-card badugi we can take one draw in an attempt to make a badugi and should we fail to improve, the option is there to turn our hand into a snow. Many players don’t consider a three-card nine to be a playable badugi hand, however, the combination of many factors can make it a profitable open. The blinds may fold, we can make a relatively strong badugi on the first draw, and if none of those possibilities materialize, we can turn our hand into a bluff.

Another type of holding with which we can attempt a snow is when we are in later position with a low suited hand such as AHeart Suit 2Heart Suit 7Heart Suit 8Heart Suit. If we open and pick up a caller, we should mix up our play by either patting right away or “faux draw one” on the first draw and then proceed with the snow on the second draw.

Since we don’t have a chance to make a legitimate hand with AHeart Suit 2Heart Suit 4Heart Suit 5Heart Suit, what’s the point of drawing? The answer is that when we draw one and then pat, we are representing a much stronger badugi as opposed to when we pat from the onset. If we pat from the get go, we will lose whenever our opponent chooses to test us with a raise in an attempt to get us to fold (or break) a weaker badugi that we will often have.

We should never turn a good three-card badugi into a bluff. If it is likely we have the best draw, our best play by far is to keep betting for value and protection and hope to improve our hand. Even when it seems highly probable that we don’t have the best draw, we will most often fare better drawing as opposed to turning our hand into a bluff as long as we have the ability to make strong hands. In addition, if we are snowing with hands other than the very worst of our draws we run the risk of bluffing at too great of a frequency.

Whenever an opponent is drawing two, we can slightly lower our snowing standards as we have increased fold equity. For example, suppose we open the button with 4Heart Suit 5Diamond Suit 8Club Suit and get called by the big blind that is drawing two. If we miss on the first draw but see that our opponent is still drawing two on the second draw, we can turn our three-card eight into a bluff and pat.

On any particular draw, an opponent who is drawing two will only make a three-card eight or better around 50% of the time. This means that unless our opponent is very loose and calls with an unimproved A-2 type hand or three-card nines (and potentially worse) the pot should be ours with a turn bet approximately 50% of the time.

However, if our opponent does call the turn, we can still win with a bet on the river. And if he chooses to fold then we have won the maximum. We shouldn’t often turn better draws than this 4Heart Suit 5Diamond Suit 8Club Suit into a snow because a three-card hand is a favorite over a two-card draw and we forego our chances of making a badugi.

In general, most of the time we choose to snow it should be implemented on the second draw. As previously discussed, when we pat on the first draw we are representing a relatively weak badugi range and if we wait until the third draw it is too late in regards to maximizing turn fold equity. However, with some of our slightly better draws it may be optimal to take two draws in an attempt to make a real hand before ultimately choosing to snow-pat on the final draw.

For example, suppose an aggressive opponent opens from the button, we three-bet from the small blind with 3Heart Suit 5Diamond Suit 7Spade Suit, the villain calls, and both players draw one. In this scenario, there’s some chance we hold the best hand although we might be a small underdog in that regard. Still, we should play the hand as if we are in the lead and if we choose to snow it’s probably best to wait until the third draw

As opposed to prior examples where we started out with rougher draws, with the 3Heart Suit 5Diamond Suit 7Spade Suit we can make stronger badugis and should our tri hand (three-card hand) currently be in second place, we may be able to grab the lead by reducing our incomplete. Since with this draw we can make stronger hands, we should give ourselves an extra opportunity to do so. Also, given the fact that this is a re-raised pot and our opponent has position there probably isn’t much in the way of turn fold equity to be had anyway should we have decided to snow on the second draw.

In order to defend against possible snows, we should consider our opponent, reflect upon how the hand has been played, and use this information to estimate the relative likelihood that a snow may be in play.

Consider a hand where an aggressive opponent opens on the button, we defend the big blind with AHeart Suit 3Spade Suit, and on the first draw we draw two while our opponent takes one. We fail to improve on the first draw but make the automatic call on the flop getting good odds. On the second draw we improve to AHeart Suit 3Spade Suit 5Club Suit and make an easy check-call on the turn as we very well could have improved to the best hand.

Unfortunately, our opponent was pat on the second draw and we failed to make a badugi on the final draw. If he bets the river, we should most often look up this aggressive player as he very well could have started with a rough draw that he decided to snow.

We should, however, fold the strongest of our bluff catchers (even A-2-3) in hands where it’s highly likely our opponent started with a strong three-card badugi. For example, suppose we open from early position and get re-raised by the hijack who initially draws one. If he pats at any point in the hand, we should tend to believe it’s a real hand.

Before the first draw against an early position opener and with so many people left to act it’s highly unlikely our opponent would three-bet without quite a good hand. It doesn’t have to be a premium holding, but the probability is low that villain has a rough holding that he would choose to turn into a bluff.

In order to effectively defend against potential snows, we should sometimes call with three-card fives and possibly worse, however in other situations it is correct to fold A-2-3. We should not simply make our call or fold decisions based upon the absolute strength of the hand we hold. In all forms of poker, it’s crucial to understand the context in how a hand was played in order to make the best possible decisions at the table. ♠

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 haneyk612@gmail.com.