Last week, I introduced you to Badugi and described it as the “strange beast” of poker, due to its unconventional hand ranking system. If it’s a strange beast, though, then Badacy and Baducy are its mutant offspring. Although Badugi is offered on PokerStars, to the best of my knowledge no site offers Badacy or Baducy at this time.
Badacy and Baducy are split pot games, but rather than mixing highball and lowball play as is normal, they mix two different forms of lowball: Badugi, of course, and A-5 or 2-7 Triple Draw respectively.
As with many of the less-common games, Badacy and Baducy are popular in high stakes cash play. They, along with several Razz/Badugi mashups, are extremely new inventions, and so “correct” strategies have not yet been established. For that reason, they have the potential to be very exciting when selected, since players are still experimenting with new tactics and so you really never know what might happen next.
Prior to showdown, the game plays exactly the same as Triple Draw Lowball. Players are dealt five cards face down, small and big blinds are posted as usual, and then there are four rounds of betting (two small, two big) with three drawing rounds in between. Players can exchange any number of cards.
At showdown, the pot is split between the best lowball hand and the best Badugi hand. Remember that badugi hands are similar to lowball hands except that only unpaired cards of differing suits can be used, and that the number of usable cards is considered before the ranks of those cards (i.e. any four-card hand beats any three-card hand).
In Badacy, A-5 rules are used for the lowball half of the pot, so Aces are low and straights and flushes don’t matter. A2345 is therefore the nuts for that half, and also for the Badugi half of the pot, provided the A, 2, 3 and 4 are all of different suits.
In Baducy, it’s 2-7 rules which apply. Aces are high – for both halves of the pot! – and straights and flushes do count against you for the lowball half. 23457 is therefore the nuts for the lowball half, and 2345 of different suits for the Badugi half.
When I talked about Omaha Hi/Low, I said that it’s important to focus on the easier half of the pot first and foremost, and then hope to pick up some kind of equity in the other half as the hand progresses. The same logic applies to Badacy and Baducy.
From last week, we know that making any kind of four-card Badugi hand is pretty tricky, and catching the nuts almost impossible. So it should be no surprise that the lowball half of the pot is the “easy” one.
Starting hand requirements are therefore very similar to Triple Draw Lowball, except that your hand’s Badugi potential or lack thereof will affect your exact range to roughly the same extent as your position. So a two-card drawing hand might be a fold from early position in Triple Draw, but if your three low cards are of all different suits, you would probably open with it from any position in Badacy or Baducy, since it has good two-way potential. Conversely, you might choose not to play a marginal one-card draw if you only have two suits among your low cards, since the best you could hope to hit would be a 3-card hand for the Badugi end.
Unlike in Badugi, high pat Badugis are not playable in Badacy and Baducy. In order not to break the badugi, you can only be drawing one card for your lowball hand, and the presence of a high card means you will never be strong for that end of the pot. A medium-strength made badugi (say a 9-high badugi in Badacy) might be playable, as it could potentially scoop, but you have to be careful, because a player drawing to the lowball nuts may back into a stronger badugi in the process and scoop you instead.
In evaluating the strength of your Badugi hand, keep in mind that because everyone is (or should be) focusing on their lowball hand first and foremost, and not splitting up a strong lowball hand once they’ve hit, it is very often a 3-card hand and not a full badugi which wins the Badugi half of the pot. This is unlike straight Badugi, where 3-card hands are mostly valuable as bluff catchers, but can only be bet for value in specific situations.
Beyond that, it is difficult to say much about the strategy for these games because they are both new and complex. Winning strategy is, as I said, not something that’s been firmly established, and even the very best players will often disagree on the right move in a situation. There is a lot of room for creativity and bluffing, both in drawing and in raising, but the optimal spots and techniques are yours to discover. In all likelihood, what works or does not work is going to depend on how your opponents are playing, which is going to vary a lot precisely because there is no standard strategy at this time.
Differences between the games
The difference between Badacy and Baducy is exactly the same as for the Triple Draw Lowball games. Draws which have the potential to make a straight are relatively weak in Baducy, while hands containing both a 2 and a 7 are considerably stronger. Overall, hitting the strongest hands is harder in Baducy than Badacy, and a 7-high lowball hand can lose to a better 7-high.
The Badugi half of the game is not affected directly, but Baducy may present more opportunities to play aggressively with a strong Badugi hand and a poor lowball one – any good badugi is a also a good lowball draw in Badacy, but in Baducy you could have something like a 3456 badugi, which makes for a very poor draw – with a hand like that, you likely want to try to make everyone fold, as you will be splitting most of the time if called down, so you’re essentially freerolling on a bluff.
The choice of whether or not to select Badacy or Baducy on your turn is largely going to come down to the uncertainty of these games and the fact that no one can really claim to have mastered them. They’re an aggressive choice, possibly even an intimidating one, if your opponents seem uncomfortable dealing with murky situations.
They’re a particularly good choice against orthodox, by-the-book players, because there is no book for them to follow. General poker strategy and knowledge of odds and outs apply, of course, but in terms of identifying and exploiting the games’ unique characteristics, it all comes down to individual intelligence and creativity.
They may also be good against loose-passive players (though of course it’s hard to go wrong with any game against those players). Split-pot games in general lead to poor players calling too much and making fundamental errors in terms of chasing one half of the pot with little chance at the other. In particular, in these games, poor players may make the error of keeping a medium to high Badugi hand, almost guaranteeing you the lowball half of the pot while effectively freerolling for the scoop.
For the same reasons, these games are poor choices when you’re not feeling comfortable with your current situation or your opponents. You’re likely to end up facing a lot of tough decisions, so if your primary concern is avoiding any stupid mistakes, just about any other game is a better, more straightforward choice.
Up Next: 7-Card Stud Hi
The Dealer’s Choice series runs weekly, with one game (or pair of related games) explained every Tuesday. If you’d like to start from the beginning, click here.
Alex Weldon (@benefactumgames) is a freelance writer, game designer and semipro poker player from Montreal, Quebec, Canada.