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Best of Mark Pilarski

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3 cards, 2 plays, 4 wins . . . WOW!

19 May 2003

Dear Mark,
In a recent column, you mentioned a game called Three Card Poker. I guess my questions are, what is it and how do you play? Kerry D.

Three Card Poker, with the right pay table (ya had better check out next week's column), is a fast and exciting poker game that offers two ways to play and four different ways to win. Got that? The three-card format makes the game quick, and darn easy to learn and play.

Three Card Poker is played on a blackjack-style table with a 52-card deck. Unlike the contest in regular poker, Three Card Poker players compete against the dealer, or against a posted payout schedule, not against other players (for simplicity's sake, schedule = dealer).

In front of each player are three betting areas: a Pair Plus circle, an Ante circle, and a play square. Players can either wager that their hand will outrank dealer's hand, or they can wager that their hand will consist of a pair or higher (Pair Plus).

Betting on a pair is a simple matter of making a Pair Plus wager. You know immediately whether you have won in Pair Plus as soon as you scan your hand. With Pair Plus, there is no raising or discarding, and the dealer's cards don't count for squat (oops! wife says not to use that word). OK, so they are immaterial. How's that?
Payoffs on Pair Plus wagers are made according to this schedule, regardless of the dealer's hand:

Straight flush: 40 to 1
Three-of-a-kind: 30 to 1
Straight: 6 to 1
Flush: 4 to 1
Pair: Even money 1 to 1

Betting against the dealer's hand uses the Ante circle. You put some money there, get your cards, frown and smile, and then decide whether to challenge. If YES, plop down some green in the Play Square, equal to the amount you put on Ante; or if NO, fold, losing your Ante as well as any additional Pair Plus wager that you may have made.

The fate of your Ante and Play wagers depends on the dealer's cards. But there's a hitch‹lucky for you! The dealer's cards have to "qualify" with a queen high or better. If your hand is better than the dealer's, you win even money on your Ante wager as well as on your Play wager.

If the dealer's cards do not qualify, you win even money on your Ante wager, no matter how terrible your cards are. Unfortunately in that case, your Play wager is returned without a payoff, even if you got a kick-butt hand. But wait, there's more! as they shout in the infomercials. If you call in the next twenty minutes... hypnotic, isn't it?

If the dealer's hand fails to qualify or beats your hand, you may still have a chance at vast riches: A hand with a straight or better qualifies for an Ante Bonus payoff. Ante Bonuses are paid on the Ante wager, but not on the Play wager, according to this scheme:

Straight: pays 1 to 1
Three-of-a-kind: pays 4 to 1
Straight flush: pays 5 to 1

The only playing decision involved in Three Card Poker is whether to make the Play wager or fold. As for strategy, it's as simple as queen-6-4. Anytime you have a queen-6-4 or higher, follow your Ante with a bet. If it's lower, FOLD. How easy is that, Kerry?

On the surface, not only is the game easy, but it also has a low house edge (2.01%). Yet, you will want to read this rocket next week, as I expose how the casino can pillage your pocket by altering the payoff schedules in their favor. "In their favor"? How odd.

Gambling quote of the week: "Hold'em is known in some circles as seven card crack." -- Andy Bellin

Recent Articles
Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.