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Badugi: More From Dolly’s Game

by Kevin Haney |  Published: Oct 20, 2021

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In this issue we are going to examine another interesting $400-$800 Badugi hand from Dolly’s Game hosted by Doyle Brunson and produced by PokerGO. This time around we are only going to discuss one hand, because as you will see, there is quite a lot to talk about.

Alan Richardson started the action by opening from the cutoff with a king badugi (KHeart Suit QSpade Suit 7Club Suit 3Diamond Suit). Shaun Deeb folded the button, Kane Kalas three-bet out of the small blind with 2Heart Suit 4Club Suit 6Spade Suit X, and Doyle Brunson cold-called two bets from the big blind with 2Diamond Suit 4Heart Suit 5Spade Suit X. Alan then decided to cap the betting.

All of these actions are reasonable. Kane’s three-card six is ahead of many hands Alan would open from later position and Doyle’s hand is probably too good to fold. Alan caps the first betting round because simply calling would make it quite obvious that he holds a weak badugi.

Although Alan is playing his holding exactly how most experienced Badugi players would, this is actually quite a bad situation for him. Kane could easily have a badugi and if he does it is almost certainly better than Alan’s holding. Occasionally, Kane may also have a weak badugi (but still better than Alan’s hand) and decide to break once Alan puts in the fourth bet, however, the odds of that are somewhat reduced when Alan holds both a queen and a king.

The best-case scenario for Alan is the one that he finds himself in where Kane and Doyle are both drawing one; however, Alan still has the worst of the three hands from an equity standpoint.

Estimating Alan’s equity in the pot requires some assumptions with regards to how Kane and Doyle would proceed with some weak badugis they may end up drawing. For example, suppose either Kane or Doyle makes a queen badugi on the first draw, are they patting that hand?

For the sake of this example, we will assume that Kane and Doyle will break their queen or king badugis (that would beat Alan), but choose to pat any jack badugis or better. This seems reasonable as a jack badugi will beat more than half of Alan’s hands (if he’s playing any badugi) and under this assumption; Alan has approximately 29% equity in the pot:

Alan: KHeart Suit QSpade Suit 7Club Suit 3Diamond Suit – 29%
Kane: 2Heart Suit 4Club Suit 6Spade Suit X – 34%
Doyle: 2Diamond Suit 4Heart Suit 5Spade Suit X – 37%

As previously indicated, this is only Alan’s equity in his best-case scenario, so we must also consider the times Kane has a pat hand. In order to do this, we must estimate how often Kane has a badugi that he will pat compared with how frequently he has a three-card hand. As a side note, we have been assuming Doyle never has a badugi given his cold call, but that doesn’t always have to be the case.

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact range of three-card badugis Kane would reraise with, however, since he chose to three-bet the 2Heart Suit 4Club Suit 6Spade Suit X, we will assume that he would do so with all of his three-card sixes and maybe smooth seven draws such as AHeart Suit 2Club Suit 7Spade Suit X as well.

We are dealt a six high tri or better 5.85% of the time and if we include some smooth sevens, he will have a three-card hand around 6.5% of the time.

Kane would have been dealt a badugi around 6.30% of the time, however, in the face of this action he may choose to break his weaker queen or kings. However, as previously noted Alan blocks some of those cards which would slightly strengthen Kane’s pat range. All things considered, let’s estimate that Kane’s three-betting range contains a badugi he intends to keep around 3.5% of the time.

Under these assumptions, Kane will be drawing one around 65% of the time, pat 35% of the time, and Alan’s updated estimated equity in this situation would be calculated as follows:

(65%)(29%) + (35%)(0%) = 18.9%

Now certainly, the times Alan sees Kane is pat, he needs to break and draw two cards, and when doing so has approximately 10% equity against the range of hands Kane would choose to pat. Incorporating this 10% equity into the equation above yields the following result:

(65%)(29%) + (35%)(10%) = 22.4%

So where exactly are we going with all of this? Well, it’s helpful to put some numbers (albeit highly estimated) to this less-than-ideal situation that we face with a weak badugi where even under the best case scenario, we have two players taking three shots to outdraw a king.

In addition, the situation is even worse than it appears as equity does not equal win percentage. Alan will sometimes get bluffed off the best hand when he pats and also won’t fully realize his 10% equity when drawing two cards; sometimes he will fail to improve and/or face a raise from Doyle and be forced to fold before seeing all three draws.

All things considered, Alan will probably only win this pot around 20% of the time (maybe less) and also has reverse implied odds the times Kane and Doyle are both drawing.

It’s also an opportunity to ask some questions regarding this hand to see if we can possibly justify playing in a different manner than what may be considered standard. Whenever we end up in a gross spot, it’s always beneficial to think through if we should have even put ourselves in the difficult position to begin with.

Question 1: Should Alan have considered folding after Kane’s three-bet and Doyle’s cold-call?

When capping the action, Alan is putting another $800 into a pot which will total $4,800 once Kane and Doyle inevitably call. This means that in order to breakeven, Alan needs to win at least 16.7% of the time. As we arduously went through above, he will probably win around 20% of the time, but he may also experience reverse implied odds.

Alan is very close to the absolute bottom of his range, so in theory we can release our hand if we get check-raised, however, it would probably be tough to fold the river to a single bet in such a huge pot.

In addition, this can actually be quite a good spot for Kane to potentially check-raise the turn as a semi-bluff. Getting Doyle to fold has definite value and if Alan is ever instantly folding with the weaker part of his range, it can be a highly profitable maneuver.

If we are up against tricky aggressive players, a case can be made for simply folding before the first draw and relinquishing the initial raise invested in the pot since we are a definite underdog to win the hand. Had Alan originally opened from early position, the argument for folding would be even stronger. Kane’s three-betting range in this case would probably be tighter, and would have a higher concentration of badugis in his range.

Question 2: Should Alan have considered simply folding his hand the first time around?
When opening from the cutoff with a king badugi, we will run into a better badugi among the remaining three players around 12.5% of the time. This isn’t a huge percentage, however, when it does occur we are capping the first betting round with a very small chance to win.

Alan ran into a tough situation here but it could have been even worse if it was Shaun on the button that put in the three-bet and not Kane from the small blind. In that scenario, Alan wouldn’t know on the first draw whether or not he was up against a pat hand and thus would forego the initial opportunity to draw two. In addition, an opponent with the positional advantage is more apt to test a player holding a potential weak badugi with a raise at some juncture in the hand. This leads to greater uncertainty, which in turn increases your reverse implied odds.

From the cutoff, we could probably choose to lop off the weakest of the king badugis from our opens without losing that much. For example, instead of playing all king badugis, we can instead only open those that have a three-card eight (or better) underneath that we could break and draw to if we run into this type of situation and someone pats in front of us.

However, if we believe that a hand is profitable, we should play even though we will occasionally end up in difficult and high variance situations. Variance is the price that good players pay in order to maximize their profit. That said, if you are currently taking a shot at a bigger game or on a short bankroll then folding your weakest badugis is very understandable.

Badugi is a very complicated game and while the actions of all players involved were all reasonable, a case can be made that it should have been played differently. At any rate, this hand should make it clear that playing weak badugis can get rough, and they should be folded from earlier positions.

For those of you interested in the result, Kane ended up making a seven badugi and tried to check-raise the turn before Alan got a chance to bet. He was then forced to make a single bet, Doyle called, Alan folded his hand, and Kane ultimately scooped the pot.

Kane is one cool customer, but whenever someone is so anxious to raise you that they don’t even wait for you to bet, it is usually a very reliable tell that your hand is no good! ♠

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.