Badugi Poker History ( Korean 바둑이 )

PokerStars.comBadugi Poker is a fast growing variant of lowball triple draw, believed to have Korean origins. The game is quite odd compared to other variants of poker, as it uses four cards instead of five, and has its own unique set of hand rankings. In Badugi Poker the goal is to make the lowest hand possible with each card coming from a different suit. For example A-2-3-4 in four suits is the best possible hand, and A-2-3-5 in four suits is the second best hand. More details on game play can be found on our page: How to Play Badugi.

Play Badugi Poker Online

Badugi Poker (Korean Poker) has caught on like wild fire since PokerStars added it to their software in November 2008. As the world’s largest poker site, they had the traffic and platform support Badugi Poker and were successful in accomplishing what other sites were not. Previously, Badugi Poker had a brief run online on the Tribecca Table Network which powered Doyles Room, VC Poker and several other sites. After Tribecca was absorbed by the iPoker Network, the game was dropped and did not appear online until later when, now the Merge Poker Network (Carbon Poker) began spreading the game. On Merge sites Badugi Poker is not popular due to low overall player volume.

Today the only places to play Badugi online are PokerStars and Merge Gaming sites. is clearly the top site for Badugi Poker, and you can read more about their offerings on our page PokerStars Badugi.

Badugi Poker Origins

Badugi Poker is widely believed to have been created in South Korea, due to the game having been popular there since the 1970’s. A number of Badugi Poker articles have suggested that badugi is a Korean word meaning “spotted dog” and this relates to the need to make multiple suits in a Badugi Poker hand. This theory has been debunked, because, go figure, no such word meaning “spotted dog” exists in the Korean language and the word badugi (in Korean: 바둑이) is only used in Korean when referencing Badugi Poker.

Badugi Founder Paul Eskimo ClarkAt this time whether or not the word badugi has Korean origins or not remains up for debate. The one thing we do know is that the game is more commonly pronounced “Padooki” in Korea and when the game was first brought to North America by Paul Eskimo Clark, it was listed on the game boards of high stakes Las Vegas card rooms as Padooki (or sometimes Paldugi). Realizing this, we researched the Korean origins further and discovered there was in fact a 1970’s character in Korea used in elementary school books named Paldugi, who actually was a spotted dog. The problem with this being a theory to link the game’s origins to Korea, is that the game was around in Korea prior to the character having been invented, so its more likely the dog was named after Badugi Poker than that the game’s name had anything to do with a spotted dog when named and invented.

The exact date Badugi Poker was invented and first spread is unknown. In Korea the game has existed since at least the late 1960’s, and there have been reports of it being played in Vietnam as early as 1971 and Iran in 1978. Paul Eskimo Clark claims to have invented the game, saying he brought it back to the US after serving in the military in Vietnam. The fact Paul Eskimo Clark was the first to introduce the game in North America has not been challenged by any credible source, so while he may or may not have invented it, he likely was the one who brought it to the United States.

Badugi Korean Language Notes

Korean Born Poker Pro Steve SungAs we’ve covered a bit on the history of Badugi Poker already, we decided at the risk of boring our readers by taking the article too far, to explain the likely reason Badugi has had so many spellings and pronunciations. It only recently after the Badugi Poker became available online that the spelling Badugi (pronounced: Ba-Do-Gee) became the standard. In the past Padugi (Pa-Do-Gee), Padookie (Pa-Doo-Key) and Badooki (Ba-Do-Key) were also used. This is because the Korean word 바둑이 can be Romanized different ways, and is not pronounced with the same consonants we use in the English language.

Korean language uses consonant sounds that have no English equivalent. An important one to note in regards to 바둑이 (badugi) is the sixth letter of the Korean alphabet which is a blend of the letters b and p. In Korean, it doesn’t sound like either the b or p we know in English, but is often Romanized as a p, but spoken closer to a b sound. The other is the first letter of the Korean alphabet which sounds kind of like a k and a hard g attempted to be pronounced at the same time. This character is Romanized as both a g- and as a k- depending on how and when it is being used.

This info might not have much relevance now that Badugi seems to be the standard spelling, but might make good table conversation in the future when looking to distract or annoy your opponents. If the topic of best Korean born poker players comes up, the obvious answer is Steve Sung. Yes, this is important stuff to know when it comes to Badugi Poker Strategy.

To get started playing 바둑이 online visit the PokerStars website.