Winning Strategies by Elliot Frome | This week, I received an e-mail from a reader who had a question
about Tre Card Stud Poker.
Tre Card was originally a Mikohn/Progressive Gaming game and was
recently purchased by Shuffle Master when they purchased all of Progressive
Gaming’s table games.
As there are only two games in the marketplace, this column is
not so much about trying to educate you on how to play the game, but to show you
what the impact of seemingly minor changes can do to both the strategy and
Tre Card Stud is essentially the same as Three Card Poker with
one difference. The dealer must have at least a Queen-8 or better to qualify. In
Three Card Poker, only the Queen is required.
This would seem to be a rather minor change to the game, so how
much difference could it make? How many hands have a Queen high, but not a
As it turns out, 900 of 22,100 hands meet this requirement. This
works out to be just over 4 percent of the hands. When you consider that the
player plays roughly 2-of-3, these extra non-qualifying hands costs one unit on
most that don’t cause you to fold. This should equate to about 2-3 percent in
payback that the house keeps.
There is a law in physics that goes something like this: For
every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This concept sort of
holds true in casino gaming. For every rule change, and paytable change, there
are strategy changes that the player can make to help offset the impact.
I always find it humorous that various casinos have different
‘house ways’ for a game like pai gow poker. The impact to the payback is
barely noticeable as for every minor change the casino makes, the player can
pretty much match it and leave the payback in the same place. Of course, this
‘law’ is not always true.
When some casinos changed blackjack so it paid 6 to 5 instead of
3 to 2, there was little the player could do to offset this other than to change
where he plays the game.
In the case of Tre Card Stud, what can the player do to help
offset this rule change, relative to Three Card Poker? The answer is to fold
less often. Because the dealer will now qualify 4 percent fewer times, the
proper strategy is staying in on a few more hands and taking advantage of ‘so-so’
cards that you’ll now win automatically because the dealer will not qualify.
So, the player should now play all hands with a Queen high or
better. The impact of the player having a Queen (which reduces the likelihood
that the dealer will qualify) and the extra requirement of the 8 makes these
hands now playable.
Additionally, the player should also play any Jack high hands
that include two additional cards above a 7. This amounts to playing J-10-8 and
J-9-8. Because the player has three cards of 8 or above, this also causes the
dealer to not qualify just often enough to make these hands playable.
So, when the player makes the appropriate adjustments to
strategy, we find that the payback of Tre Card Stud is about 1.5 percent below
Three Card Poker, before taking into account the ante bonus. This means our
strategy change has cut the advantage the house gets by changing the qualifying
hand by roughly half.
Also, in this particular case, I don’t believe the original
goal of Tre Card was to create a game with a lower payback, but rather emulate
the very successful Three Card Poker while avoiding the stare of the patent
lawyers. So, the ante bonus can easily be used to make the payback similar to
that of Three Card Poker, but only if the player adjusts his
Again, the point of this week’s column is not to make you an
expert at a relatively hard to find game. It is to show you how what appear to
be small changes in how the game is played requires the player to alter his
This is especially true for video poker. Even a minor paytable
change (reducing the flush payout by one) can cause strategy changes. Games like
Bonus Poker (and its variants) can offer excellent paybacks, but not if the
player insists on continuing to use the same strategy he learned for the
original Jacks or better.
You may not lose a lot by using the original strategy, but as I
covered last week, there is a big difference by giving just an
extra point to the house.