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Let It Ride and Caribbean Stud Poker were the first two proprietary table games and it would be wrong not to recognize their contributions to changing the casino floor forever.

But neither of these games had the impact that Three Card Poker would have on the industry.

I’m not sure of the exact count of table, but I believe there are somewhere around 2,000 Three Card Poker tables worldwide. Together, I don’t think those first two games even got to half that amount.

Three Card Poker was simplistic in its beauty. The game, for its time, was flawless. It is a basic game with the player’s hand competing against the dealer’s hand. You didn’t need to really know much about Poker because there were only three cards.

Thus, you only had to know what Straights, Flushes, Three of a Kind and Pairs were. The betting structure was straight forward.

You make an ante wager. You see your 3-card hand. You either fold or make a play wager equal to the ante.

Can you get any simpler for a strategy? If you have Q-6-4 or better, you play, otherwise you fold. Even if you followed the dealer’s qualifying (Queen High) as your strategy, you’d be playing very close to perfect.

Derek Webb invented Three Card Poker in the mid 1990’s or so. He originally intended to call it Brag after the British game that was hundreds of years old. But, as his target market was the United States, it was changed to be the more self-describing Three Card Poker.

He wound up reaching out to my father, Lenny Frome, who worked through the math of the game. Somewhere in my garage, I have a 2-3 inch think folder with the countless variations that the game went through before the current one was conceived.

Derek spent a few years promoting the game and got about 50-100 tables placed before selling it all (except the British Isles) to Shuffle Master. Shuffle Master used its considerable salesforce to expand the game to the powerhouse it became.

As stated earlier, the rules of play are rather simple. The player makes an ante Wager and receives three cards face down. The dealer also gets three cards face down. The player may review his hand and may either fold, forfeiting his ante, or make a play wager equal to his ante.

Once each player has acted, the dealer reveals his hand. If his hand is not at least a Queen high, the hand does not qualify, and the player’s play wager pushes and his ante is paid even money. If the dealer’s hand qualifies and the player’s hand outranks the dealer’s hand, he is paid even money on both wagers.

The player can also earn an Ante Bonus if he is dealt at least a Straight, regardless of the showdown with the dealer. It should be noted that in Three Card Poker, Straights outrank Flushes.

Developing the strategy for Three Card Poker is relatively easy as we can create a computer program that plays every possible hand. From this, we can know for each player hand whether he should play or fold.

Keep in mind that playing does not mean the player has a hand that is likely to win. Frequently it means he will lose less than if he folds.

It was from this analysis that we determined that a hand of Q-6-4 or better is worthy of being played. But it is not until the player has a hand of Ace high or better than he can expect to win money.

Earlier I stated that Three Card Poker was flawless, for its time. I have often said that if it were being invented today, it would have a tough time competing with many of the more modern games.

Every successful table game invented has been part of a progression. Three Card Poker when it was invented lacked what some of the current games offer. One of these items is a chance to win a lot of money on a single hand.

Three Card Poker has an optional side bet called Pair Plus. In its original form, the highest hand was a Straight Flush that pays 40 to 1. At some point, the top payout became a 3-Card Royal, paying as much as 100 to 1.

It was only when the 6-Card Bonus game into existence that Three Card Poker was truly able to keep up with some of the newer games. The 6-Card Bonus combines the player’s 3-card hand with the dealer’s 3-card hand.

For the most part, you are still looking for the best 5-card Poker hand from the six cards. The exception is the top payout — a 6-Card Royal in Diamonds.

There are a variety of different top payouts, with the highest one being a $1 million payout on a $5 side bet wager. This optional wager has proven to be extremely popular and breathed new life into Three Card Poker,.

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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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