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Four Card Poker 101

7 September 2004

Dear Mark,
I just saw a new game called "Four Card Poker." I do not believe you have written anything on the game yet. Is the game anything like Three Card Poker? Also, any chance of a quick summary of the game? Dominic B.

The game, Dominic, is akin to Three Card Poker, but as the name signifies, you use four cards instead of three. Other key differences are that there is no dealer qualifying hand and the player can raise up to three times his ante. Oh yeah, the kicker: the dealer gets one extra card to form his best hand.

The object of the game is for the player to form a four-card poker hand higher than or equal in rank to the dealer's hand. Players use their best four of five cards dealt against the dealer's best four of six cards.

There are three ways to play. The game allows the player to wager against the dealer, to wager on the value of his own hand against a pay table with a bet called Aces Up (see below), or to wager both against the dealer and on the value of his own hand.

After each player at the table places an initial "ante wager" in a designated area of the layout, the dealer deals both the player and the dealer five cards face down. A sixth "dealer" card is then revealed face up.

After each player examines his cards, he or she then has the option to fold the hand and forfeit the ante wager, or to place an additional "play wager" ranging from an amount equal to the player's ante bet up to three times the ante wager.

After all betting decisions have been made; the dealer will turn over his cards and select the best four of six cards, then compare that best four-card hand to each player's best four-card hand. If the dealer's hand is higher, the player loses both the Ante and any raise wagers. If the ranking of the player's hand is higher than, or equal to, the dealer's hand, the happy player wins and is paid even money on both the ante and the play wagers. The following is the ranking of hands from lowest to highest: high card, pair, two pair, straight, flush, three-of-a-kind, straight flush, four-of-a-kind. To boot, Dominic, players who place an ante wager and a play wager win a bonus payout on the ante wager for three specified high value hands: 25 to 1 for four-of-a-kind, 20 to 1 for a straight flush, and 2 to 1 for three-of-a-kind.

Four Card Poker also features an optional side wager (similar to the Pair Plus in Three Card Poker) called the "Aces Up wager." If the player's hand contains a pair of Aces or better, the player wins the Aces Up wager. The Aces Up bet can be placed independently or in conjunction with the ante wager and play wager. Its outcome is determined independently of the outcome of the player's ante wager and play wager. Players receive Aces Up payouts regardless of the dealer's hand. Payout odds for a winning Aces Up bet range from a minimum of 1 to 1 for a pair of aces up to 50 to 1 for four-of-a-kind.

A simple, yet effective basic strategy is to fold with less than a pair of deuces, raise one unit with a pair of threes through a pair of nines, and raise three units with a pair of 10s or greater.

Yo, Dom, two reasons why I'm not a fan of this game. First, I ain't givin' an extra card to anybody, face up or not, and worse, it crosses my 2% casino edge threshold. Look for more on the odds of the different wagers, plus strategies unlike the one above that ignores the dealer's up card in a future column.

Gambling quote of the week: "A drunken monkey can be as successful at slots as a sober Einstein." Bob Dancer, gaming author

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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.