Four Card Poker employs different strategies

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What happens when you add one card to Three Card Poker? You must get Four Card Poker, right?

Actually, you don’t. As far as I know, there are no poker-style games where the player is dealt four cards. After a several-year lull following the invention of Three Card Poker, Roger Snow of Shuffle Master came up with two games that are based on a 4-card poker hand, but both involve being dealt more cards.

The two games were Crazy 4 Poker and Four Card Poker. These games were very important to the history of table games for two critical reasons.

The first is that they re-opened the gates to new table games. The second is that Crazy 4 Poker, specifically, introduced the Super Bonus wager which would eventually be renamed the Blind Wager for many other games. This wager pushes unless the player wins and has more than a relatively low hand. This effectively becomes the mechanism for providing a house advantage that allows the game to offer other benefits to the player.

Let’s take a closer look at both of these games. Starting with Four Card Poker, we find a game with a betting structure a lot like Three Card Poker. To begin play, the player makes an ante wager. The player is dealt five cards face down, while the dealer is dealt six cards, one face up and the rest face down.

The player may review his hand and then either fold or make a play wager of up to three times his ante wager. Unlike the games that came before it, there is no dealer qualifying. Every hand plays fully.

From here it is quite straight forward. If the player plays, he is paid even money if his hand outranks the dealer’s hand. If the dealer’s hand outranks his, he loses all his wagers. Regardless of the outcome of the head-to-head play, the player will win an ante bonus if he is dealt a Three of a Kind or better.

The strategy for Four Card Poker is a bit more involved than for Three Card Poker. First of all, there is an extra layer to the strategy as not only must he determine when to play, he must decide when to play 3x vs. 1x. 

When Four Card Poker was first introduced, Shuffle Master provided a basic strategy for the game. It turns out that it was a solid strategy, but still not quite what I like to call Expert Strategy. 

The basic strategy for the fold vs. 1x strategy says that you should fold a pair of 2’s or less. The expert strategy is similar with one small exception – you should play 1x if you have a pair of 2’s looking into a 2.

The next part of the strategy is when to play 1x vs. 3x. The basic strategy said to play 3x on a pair of 10’s or better, leaving the player to play 1x on a pair of 3’s – 9’s.

Expert strategy is a good deal more complex here as it takes into account the dealer’s upcard to a much greater degree. Per expert strategy the player should play 3x on all pairs of Aces or better. Beyond that, the following rules should be used:

• Play 3x with a pair of Kings except play 1x if it is against an Ace and you don’t have an Ace in your hand.

• Play 3x with a pair of Queens looking into a 2 thru Queen. Play 3x vs. a King or Ace if you have the dealer’s upcard in your hand as well.

• Play 3x with a pair of Jacks looking into a 2 thru Jack. Play 3x looking into a Queen or King if you have the dealer’s upcard in your hand as well. Play 1x vs. an Ace.

• Play 3x with a pair of 10’s looking into a 2 through 9. If the dealer has a 10 upcard and you have a Jack or better ‘kicker’ play 3x. Play 1x vs a dealer Jack through Ace.

• Play 3x with a pair of 9’s looking into a 2.

• Play 1x for all other pair of 9’s

Basic strategy will get the player a payback of 98.48 percent while expert strategy will raise this up to 98.60 percent.

This is not a huge difference, but it does cut the house advantage by nearly 10 percent which will add up over time.

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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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