Starting hands are a make or break deal when it comes to badugi, especially since bluffing largely depends on it during fixed limit games. Read our detailed full article on badugi starting hands and ranking values. This guide contains very in-depth details about the subject, contains a full table of the top 10 starting hands as well as graphic visuals of how to determine which cards to throw away when you get pairs, same suits or both.
The most important thing to remember is that if you get even a lousy 4 card hand, such as 10-J-Q-K (the worst 4 card hand possible), this will beat out all and any 3 card hand. In turn, any 3-card hand beats 2-card hands, which beat all 1-card hands. Any 4-card hand is known as a “badugi”. The goal is to get the lowest cards possible without getting cards of the same suit or pairs. If you do get cards with matching spades, hearts, clubs or diamonds in a type of flush, you must ignore and throw out all but one. The same goes for pairs, three of a kind or four of a kind.
The highest ranking cards (the strongest) are actually the low cards. You want to get the low cards such as Aces, 2, 3, etc. In fact, the “royal flush” of badugi is A-2-3-4 where each card is of a different suit. Aces count only as low. The face cards like Jack, Queen and King are the weakest cards in this game. So if you get a matching suit or pair of cards, the weakest cards get thrown out. For example, if you have an Ace and King of hearts, you would throw out your King and keep your good card.
Determining which hand is most powerful is simple: Your hand is only as powerful as it’s weakest card. For example, if you have a hand of A-2-3-K, then a person with 9-10-J-Q would actually beat it because the Queen is lower than King. Which of these hands would win: A-3-5-6 or A-3-4-6? If you chose the second hand, then you are correct. The two highest cards (the sixes) tie up, so you must rank the second lowest cards to determine the winner. The 4 is lower than the 5 so it would win. If a player gets a complete tie or the exact same hand, then the pot gets split and it doesn’t matter what the suits are either.
Now if you get a pair of cards in your hand, such as A-3-6-6, you must discard one of the sixes. This would make a 3-card hand of A-3-6. Fortunately, you have 3 rounds of drawing where you can trade in your worthless six and try for something better. The same type of thing goes for suites as well. The worst possible hand you can get is if you are dealt K-K-K-K or four of a kind. Then you must get rid of all of your kings except one, leaving you with a 1-card hand. Check out the articles mentioned above for more ranking examples and visuals.