Crazy 4 Poker slowly gaining its fans

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A few weeks ago, I covered a game called Four Card Poker, which is one of the top proprietary games of all time. At about the same time Four Card Poker was being created, another similar yet different game was also hitting the market.

Crazy 4 Poker is not quite as popular as Four Card Poker, but the game has been growing slowly but steadily for years. It now boasts 100 tables in the marketplace. Both games are from Shuffle Master.

Crazy 4 Poker introduced the betting structure that has become very common in Shuffle Master games. To begin play, you must make two equal-size wagers called the Ante and Super Bonus (in more recent games, this is called the Blind Wager). The player and dealer are each dealt five cards to make their best 4-card hand.

After the player reviews his hand, he may either fold, forfeiting his ante and super bonus or he may raise, betting at least an amount equal to his ante. If the player has a pair of Aces or better, he may raise 3x his ante.

Because the player and dealer receive the same number of cards, the house must get its advantage from other sources. One source is the fact there is qualifying in Crazy 4 Poker. If the dealer does not have at least a King high, the player’s ante pushes and his raise wager will pay even money.

The super bonus pays the player only if that person has at least a straight or better regardless of whether the hand wins, loses or pushes. If the player wins and has less than a straight, the super bonus pushes. If the player has less than a straight and loses the hand, the super bonus loses.

The most common pay table in use for the super bonus is below:

As there are about 4 trillion possible hands, it is not possible to create a program to look at them all. Instead, we go in search of the “beacons,” which are the hands at which the strategy changes. We are trying to determine when to raise 1x vs. 3x and when to fold vs. raise 1x.

The rules of the game make the first decision rather easy. A quick analysis of a pair of Aces shows this hand will win about 80% of the time, thus we raise 3x anytime the rules allows us to.

If we could, we’d want to raise 3x on a pair of 4’s or better, but as the ability to raise 3x is a huge advantage for the player, this cannot be allowed without causing the game to have no house advantage.

The decision of when to fold vs. raise 1x was determined by running a simulation essentially in a trial and error mode. As is usually the case with games with dealer qualifying, the player’s strategy is in the neighborhood of the dealer’s qualifying hand.

Crazy 4 Poker is no exception. We find if the player has K-Q-8 (or better), he should raise 1x. If he has K-Q-7 or less, he should fold. This is not a perfect strategy as there are some K-Q-8 hands that he should fold and some K-Q-7 hands he should play. The impact, however is less than 0.01% of payback and asking a player to remember a strategy that includes suit makeup is just begging for trouble.

If you utilize this strategy, the payback will be a very respectable 98.92%, especially for a game with such a simple strategy.

Crazy 4 Poker also offers a side bet based solely on the player’s hand. It pays if the player has a pair of Queens or better. The most common pay table, which offers a payback of 94.68% is shown below:

If you’d like to learn more about Crazy 4 Poker and its sane cousin Four Card Poker, I have just finished updating my Expert Strategy booklet. Email me at [email protected] for details.

About the Author

Elliot Frome

Elliot Frome’s roots run deep into gaming theory and analysis. His father, Lenny, was a pioneer in developing video poker strategy in the 1980s and is credited with raising its popularity to dizzying heights. Elliot is a second generation gaming author and analyst with nearly 20 years of programming experience.

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