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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Married poker and the eight commandments

5 March 2007

Dear Mark: I love Three Card Poker. My husband says that the only bet I should make when playing the tables is on the Pairs Plus. Do you have any ideas on that? Also, I hear that Three Card Poker has the best odds behind craps. Is that true? Mary Jo H.

Ah, yes, he clearly speaks with love. Three Card Poker is an exciting poker game that offers two ways to play and four different ways to win. The game is quick, and a snap to learn. No hidden risks to worry about, no troubling calculations.

In front of each player are three betting areas: first, the wager you like, Mary Jo, Pair Plus, then an Ante circle, and finally a Play square. Players can wager either that their hand will be higher in rank than the dealer's hand, or they can wager that their hand will consist of at least a pair, hence Pair Plus.

Betting on a pair is a simple matter of making a Pair Plus bet. You know immediately whether you have won a Pair Plus payoff as soon as you look at your cards. With a Pair Plus bet there is no raising or discarding, and the dealer's cards are immaterial.

Payoffs on Pair Plus wagers are made according to the following 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

Hubby is somewhat right in that the Pair Plus wager has a relatively low house edge of 2.3%. But surprisingly, the Ante/Play alternatives, when using the strategy of betting when you have at least a queen, six, and a four in your hand, lowers the house edge even more to 2.1%, You might stun Mister H. with this news sometime.

As to Pair Plus having the best odds next to craps, well, select video poker machines, basic strategy in blackjack, the bank and player hands in baccarat, and yes, a handful of bets on the crap table all offer an even better — well slightly better — choice for the knowledgeable player. Which leads me to my official recommendation, that being: since you can't put a price on a good time, and you love playing Three Card Poker and the Pair Plus bet, with the relatively low house edge of 2.3%, keep playing.

Dear Mark: I sometimes forget to bring my basic strategy card for blackjack to the casino. Do you have any simplified rules to follow that will cut the edge on the game? Gary Z.

For starters, Gary, find a casino that offers some decent rules that are favorable to the player, such as these eight: single deck game, early and late surrender, the ability to double down on any two cards, doubling after splits, multiple pair splitting and the re-splitting of aces, deep deck penetration, and dealers that stand on a soft 17.

Next, memorizing these few simple rules below will enable you to knock the house edge down to less than one percent.

If your hand is a 12 through 16 and the dealer's up card is between 2 and 6, stand. If it's 7 through ace, hit. If you have a 17 or more, regardless of what the dealer up card is, stand. The only exception to this would be a soft 17; here you always hit.

If you have 10 or 11, double if the dealer has a 2-9 showing.

If you have a soft 13-18, double if the rules allow when the dealer is showing a 5 or 6.

Always split eights and aces.

Never take insurance.

Finally, if you have a pair of deuces, threes, sixes, sevens or nines, split if the dealer is showing a 2-7. One exception; stand on your nines if the dealer has a deuce.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week:
"My luck is so bad that if I bought a cemetery, people would stop dying." -- Ed Furgol (an ex-professional golfer)

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.