Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was the table game landscape in a casino.
The first two games to come along were Let It Ride and Caribbean Stud Poker. Then there was a sizeable lull until Three Card Poker came along. This was not just another successful game as it became the 800 pound gorilla.
With roughly 2,000 tables in the world, nothing is really even close in terms of proprietary table games in terms of volume. One would think Three Card Poker would’ve opened up the casino to a whole new world of casino games. In one regard, it did.
With the incredible success of Three Card Poker, the casinos were much more ready to try and accept more table games. The problem was, no one seemed to come up with any good ones. It was about 2003 when the games started flowing.
It began with a 1-2 punch of Four Card Poker and Crazy 4 Poker. Two similar, yet different, games invented by Roger Snow of Shuffle Master (now Scientific Games). This was just before I got into the industry, but Four Card Poker played an integral part in my entry as well.
I was asked about the game by Paul Meyer, then the new COO and president of Shuffle Master in early 2014. This prompted me to publish a column in GamingToday about the game after I completed my analysis. Paul saw my column and put me in contact with Roger Snow. This started a collaborative process that has lasted 12 years between Roger and myself.
Four Card Poker is structured a lot like Three Card. This is not an accident, nor is it cheating. Three Card Poker was very successful, so why not make some changes and let it fly! As I’ve written many times in the past, games have not really been successful by being clones of other games. The successful games build on prior games and then add something to the process. Four Card Poker did that.
In Four Card Poker, the player gets five cards and the dealer gets six – each to make their best four-card hand. Already we have created a new mechanism for the house advantage. The house gets an extra card. This is a very significant advantage. The player must get something back in return. In fact, he gets two.
One is the dealer does not need to qualify and the other is the player may wager up to three times his Ante wager after reviewing his cards. So, if the player has a killer hand, he can reap the rewards on it. He’ll also win full value even if the dealer has off-suit 2-3-4-6-7-8. The dealer will also reveal one of his cards before the player acts, but this is only a minor help for the player.
The result is a game that plays with more volatility than Three Card Poker. It takes a larger bankroll to play and you’ll get a more exciting ride than Three Card Poker. The payback is higher in Four Card than Three Card, but the average wager is a bit higher. The strategy is still relatively simple, but it is more complex than Three Card Poker as the player needs to know when to fold and when to bet 3x vs. 1x.
At no time should he bet 2x even though this may be allowed. When the player has the advantage, he needs to go all in, in order to maximize the payback, which comes in at 98.6% using Expert Strategy.
Crazy 4 Poker, Four Card Poker’s “crazy” sister game is a bit closer to the original Three Card Poker. The player and dealer each get five cards to make their best four-card hand. Because the dealer does not get that extra card, qualifying is used to create that house advantage. The dealer must have at least a King High to qualify.
The betting structure in Crazy 4 Poker introduced a concept used in many of Shuffle Master’s later games. It is called the Super Bonus. In later games, it is called the Blind. To begin play, the player makes an Ante Wager and a Super Bonus Wager. The Super Bonus pushes if the player wins unless he wins with a big hand. This wager is what creates the majority of the house advantage as the player will lose or push a good deal of the time.
This extra wager is needed because the game also allows the player to make a Play wager that is two times his Ante if the player has a Pair of Aces or better. Otherwise, he must make a one times wager. The bottom line is a strategy that resembles Three Card Poker. Fold a K-Q-7 or less. Play 2x on Pair of Aces and up. Play 1x on everything in the middle.
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Elliot Frome is a second generation gaming analyst and author. His math credits include Ultimate Texas Hold’em, Mississippi Stud, House Money and many other games. His website is www.gambatria.com Email: [email protected]