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As promised in last week’s column, I conclude my story about Four Card Poker.  

Check out Part 1 Here

I had been writing for Gaming Today for just a couple of months when I wrote my first column about something other than video poker. It was a column about Three Card Poker.

Shortly after it published, I received an e-mail from a reader who complimented me on the column and asked if I had ever heard of Four Card Poker. Ironically, I had read about that game earlier that day while reading Shuffle Master’s quarterly earnings report.  

After going back and forth in a few e-mails, I asked the reader if he had some sort of financial interest in the game. He responded that he was the recently appointed CEO of Shuffle Master – Paul Meyer.

I guess I didn’t read the quarterly report carefully.

As this was early in 2004, there were not a lot of table games to write about.  For the most part, there was Let It Ride, Caribbean Stud and Three Card Poker. Four Card Poker had just been introduced and was being received well.

I decided to analyze Four Card Poker from scratch. I didn’t have a lot to guide me other than the game description and the basic strategy that Shuffle Master provided on their rack cards. I have to admit I was a bit doubtful that a gaming company would really give the player a solid strategy to guide them.   

A few months later, I published my analysis of Four Card Poker in Gaming Today. The analysis included the payback for the basic strategy provided by Shuffle Master and a more ‘expert’ strategy for those that wanted a bit more payback.

I commended Shuffle Master for providing a respectable basic strategy as well. A few days later, I received another e-mail from Paul.  He told me that I nailed the strategy and paybacks completely. It matched their original analysis completely.

He then asked if it was O.K. to pass my contact information on to their Table Games manager – Roger Snow. That began a professional relationship that has lasted nearly 15 years. In that time I’ve analyzed dozens of successful games (and hundreds of unsuccessful ones) for Shuffle Master, Bally and Scientific Gaming. All because I wrote a column about Four Card Poker.   

As I promised last week, I will also present the full Expert Strategy for Four Card Poker today. The strategy is broken into two parts. The first deals with when to fold vs. play 1x. The basic strategy from last week said to fold anything below a pair of 3’s. Expert Strategy makes one tiny tweak to this. If you have a pair of 2’s and the dealer’s upcard is a 2, then you don’t fold.

The more significant strategy changes occur in the when to play 1x vs. 3x.  Basic Strategy was very simple here.  If you have a pair of 10’s or better you bet 3x.  The Expert strategy is a good deal more involved, taking into account the dealer’s upcard.  

The strategy is as follows:

• Bet 3x on all pair of Aces or Better.

• Bet 3x on all pair of Kings except when facing an Ace and you don’t have an Ace in your hand.

• Bet 3x on a pair of Queens except when facing an Ace or King unless you have the dealer’s upcard in your hand.

• Bet 3x on a pair of Jacks facing a 2 through Jack. If the dealer has a King or Queen up and you have one in your hand (matching rank), still bet 3x. Bet 1x facing an Ace.

• Bet 3x on a pair of 10’s facing a 2 through 9. Bet 1x if the dealer has a Jack through Ace up. If the dealer has a 10 up, and you have a Jack or Better kicker, bet 3x.

• Bet 3x on a pair of 9’s facing a 2. Bet 1x on all other pairs. 

Is learning this more complex strategy worth it? It raises the payback from 98.41 percent to 98.60 percent. That may not sound like a lot but turn it around and you change the house edge from 1.59 percent to 1.4 percent or a reduction of about 12 percent.

I would say that if you can manage to learn this strategy it pays. If trying to learn it is going to somehow cause you to make more mistakes, then it might not be worth it. 

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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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