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Sunday, February 27, 2005

Home Game Badugi
I play in about 2-3 home games a month, but for some reason I usually don't blog about them. Mrs. Cheap Thrills and I have been hosting a semi-regular Thursday night game where we play for mere .25/.50 limits. Usually we drink and laugh and push a few dollars around, and the overall experience is more about the socializing than the poker. In the last one we hosted we played some Triple Draw, which was kinda neat. We've hosted a few small tournaments in the past, but at some point I decided that running a tournament was a lot less fun than playing in one, and that doing both is just too hectic.

Then last night we attended the monthly game with some friends of ours closer to Boston. They play dealer's choice, .50/$1 limits for half the evening, then we do a $10 buy-in No-Limit tourney for the second half of the evening.

In the dealer's choice portion of the evening I introduced Badugi, and it turned out to be a big hit! I explained how this game is played in a previous post, but I'll recap briefly: The game is played like Ace-to-Five Triple Draw Lowball, but you only get 4 cards. This makes it a slightly better game for 7 or maybe even 8 people, whereas Triple Draw is best with 6 (since with more than that you end up running through the deck and having to reshuffle the muck for draws). The best hand in Badugi is A234, all of different suits. Having two of the same suit is bad. As2c3h4h would beat Ac2s3d5d, but both hands would be beaten by 3s7c9hJd.

(Update, May 23, 2005: Some of the strategy musings below are based on a misunderstanding of how the hands rank in Badugi. Check out this post for details.)

There are some interesting decisions. For example, in the first hand, everyone played loose and drew several times, but no one improved to what we called a "rainbow," and instead the best "double low" (2 cards of the same suit) won. But then in 2 later hands I started with a good double low, such as an 8. I had to make a decision whether to draw to a "rainbow" (all 4 different suits), or stick with my double low. If someone else stands pat on the first draw, they may have a rainbow, but it's unclear how good it may be. Or they could be standing pat on a decent double low. Position is a huge advantage in this game -- after seeing how your opponents' draw, you can decide whether to risk a draw, "snow" (bluff by standing pat), etc.

One thing is that if you do have a decent double low, it is tough to improve on a draw. Let's say you have an 8 double low, like Ac2s3d8d, and one of your opponents has stood pat. (I was in this kind of situation twice last night.) If you toss away the 8 on a draw, you need to catch a heart. You'd prefer it be a low heart, but not the Ah, 2h, or 3h, otherwise you'll pair up and will be beaten by any non-pair rainbow, and won't really have improved at all. So you have 10 outs to a non-pair rainbow, but you can't really like the Kh, Qh, or Jh at all. So make that 7 outs. Realizing this, you might not like your chances to improve to a decent rainbow.

However, once the group realized the difficulty of improving on a draw, we started standing pat with good double lows . . . which then made standing pat and raising with rainbows all the more sensible! All of this made decisions like those in the above paragraph much more about reading your opponent.

Going beyond first street, in one hand I stood pat on a Q-high rainbow, and after the second draw it was clear that one of my opponents liked his hand. I probably should have folded, but this being a low-limit home game, I instead drew on the third draw. By that time the pots odds might have even justified it. . . . Very interesting stuff.

Also, I came in second in the tournament :-)

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