Badugi: How to play

Badugi is a poker-like game played with four-card hands. To win the pot at showdown you need to have the lowest set of cards, with no two cards of the same rank or suit, ace ranking low. The best possible hand is therefore A-2-3-4 with one card of each suit.

Badugi can be played by from two to eight players, using a standard 52-card pack. The cards rank from ace (low) up to king (high).When comparing hands, within each hand all the cards must be different in suit and rank. If a player has more than one card of a suit, or two or more cards of matching rank, some cards must be eliminated to create a valid hand.

5D-9D-3S-JC: only one diamond can be used so this is a three-card hand J-5-3;
7H-4D-AC-4S: only one four can be used so this is also a three-card hand 7-4-A;
3H-6C-8C-6S: eliminating the six of clubs makes a valid three-card hand 8-6-3.
3H-6C-8C-3S: in this case two cards must be removed – a club and a three – leaving a two-card hand 6-3;
10D-10H-10S-8S: this is another two-card hand 10-8;
6H-5H-4H-2H: only one heart can be used, so this is a one-card hand: 2;
8H-KD-5C-QS: this is is a four-card hand, also known as a badugi, though not a particularly good one K-Q-8-5.

Any hand with more cards beats a hand with fewer cards. So a badugi beats any three-card hand, which beats any two-card hand, which beats any one-card hand. Between hands with the same number of cards, compare the highest card. The hand with the lower top card is better.

If the highest cards of equal-sized hands are equal, compare the second highest card, and the lower card wins. If these are also equal compare the third highest card (if present), and then the fourth highest. If two hands have the same number of cards and the ranks of the cards are the same, the hands are equal. There is no ranking of suits.

Badugi can be played as a fixed limit, pot limit or half pot limit game. As in any poker game, the turn to deal (or to have the dealer button if there is a non-playing dealer) passes clockwise after each hand. If there are more than two players, the player to the dealer’s left places a small blind, and the next player to the left places a big blind, which is normally twice as big as the small blind. In a “heads up” (two player) game, the dealer places a small blind and the dealer’s opponent a big blind.
The dealer deals four cards to each player, clockwise, face down, one at a time, and the players look at their hands. There is then a betting round, begun by the player to the left of the big blind. The minimum bet is normally equal to the big blind. If none of the other players does more than call, the player who placed the big blind is allowed to bet.

The players have three opportunities to improve their hands by drawing cards. Starting with the first active player to the dealer’s left, and continuing clockwise around the dealer, each player states how many cards he or she wishes to exchange, discards that number of cards face down to the muck (discard pile), and is immediately given an equal number of replacement cards face down by the dealer. Players can exchange any number of cards from zero to four: exchanging no cards is known as “standing pat”.
After each round of drawing, when each active player has had an opportunity to draw cards, there is a new betting round, begun by the first active player to the left of the dealer. There are therefore up to four betting rounds altogether: before the first draw and after each of the three rounds of drawing. In a fixed limit game, the size of the bet doubles after the second draw, so that the third and fourth betting rounds are played with big bets.

If at any stage only one active player remains, that player takes the pot without showing any cards.
If there is more than one active player at the end of the last betting round, there is a showdown in which the active players display their cards in turn, beginning with the last player who bet or raised in the final betting round, or with the first active player to the dealer’s left if all checked in the final betting round.

Players show all four cards, even if because of duplicate ranks or suits they only have a three-card, two-card or one-card hand. The cards speak for themselves, and the holder of the best hand wins the pot. If two or more players tie for best hand they divide the pot equally between them.