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Poker, Beantown style

29 July 2005

Dear Mark, Do you know anything about a game called Boston 5 Card? Karl V.

Boston 5 Card is a relatively new poker game that is making an appearance in numerous casinos across America. Some readers have written me stating how much fun it is to play; its ultimate success, however, will depend not on fun, but on how much money it makes for the casino.

Play commences when the player makes an ante bet and a "first wager." The first wager must be exactly double that of the ante. Additionally, there is an optional three-card bonus bet, though you cannot make a bet on the three-card bonus wager alone. Each bonus player then receives three cards. If a player made the optional three-card bonus bet and has at least a pair, he/she then shows the dealer his/her cards to receive payment. If you can, find the following pay table: three-card straight flushes pay 40-1, and you get 30-1 for three of a kind, 6-1 for straights, 4-1 for flushes and 1-1 for a pair. The casino advantage on this wager is 2.3%. But if the flush payoff is 3-1 instead of 4-1, the house edge climbs to 7.3%.

Once the dealer makes the appropriate payoffs for those who made a three-card bonus wager, you review your first three cards and decide whether to raise or fold. If you fold, you forfeit your cards and all bets. If you raise, you must make a "second wager" exactly equal to the first wager. The dealer then deals the remaining players two more cards. Each hand is then individually compared to the dealer's five-card hand, and the higher hand wins.

If your five-card hand beats the dealer's hand, you win even money on the first and second wagers, and push the ante bet. If the dealer's hand beats your hand, you lose your first and second wagers, plus the ante. If both the dealer's hand and yours are exactly equal in value, the first, second and the ante bets all push.

Regardless of whether you or the dealer has the higher hand, you are eligible for a bonus for hands of two pair or greater, based on the ante bet. The full pay table on the ante bonus is as follows: royal flush, 1,000 x ante; straight flush, 200 x ante; four-of-a-kind, 100 x ante; full house, 25 x ante; flush, 15 x ante; straight, 10 x ante; three-of-a-kind, 5 x ante; two pairs, 2 x ante.

The strategy for 5 Card Boston is quite simple: raise on everything. Even if you have what looks like a willywuss three-card hand, it is a much better option to raise than to fold. Only by betting the ante-bet-bet combination on every hand can you lower the house edge to 3.32%.

Also, Karl, don't forget to avoid the three-card bonus bet if the flush pays 3-to-1 instead of 4-to-1, or if a three-of-a-kind pays 25-to-1 instead of 30 to 1.

Dear Mark, In a recent column you mentioned surrender, both early and late. I've never heard the phrase before. Can you explain what it means? John O.

Surrender is an option in which the casinos allow players to "surrender" half their original bet total after they have examined their first two cards and have viewed the dealer's up card.

Early surrender permits a player to relinquish half of the wager even if the dealer has a blackjack. With late surrender, a player loses the bet if the dealer possesses a blackjack. Never, John, think of surrender as giving up half your wager, but as just getting back half your probable loss.

Gambling wisdom of the week: "The rulers of the country generally believed that betting eliminates strikes. Men had to work in order to gamble." -Michael Ondaatje, Running the Family

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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.