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Best of John Grochowski

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Beating Three Card Poker

12 July 2005

If there's a way to beat a casino game, somebody will figure it out.

Three Card Poker play against the dealer should be an unbeatable game. The house edge, 2 percent of total action or 3.4 percent of the ante, is narrow enough that we can win sometimes, but in the long run the casino will grind out its profit.

That's the way it's supposed to work, but sometimes there's a small glitch. Dr. Henry Tamburin, one of my fellow speakers at the recent Frank Scoblete Gamblers Jamboree at Casino Windsor, pointed one out.

Tamburin was kind enough to sit in on my session on newer table games. When I'd finished explaining that the best strategy to attack play against the dealer in Three Card Poker is to bet with Queen-6-4 or better, and to fold anything less, Tamburin spoke up.

It seems he had a surprise recently in Las Vegas. He spotted some blackjack-playing friends, known advantage players who have no use for a game they can't beat, headed for the Three Card Poker tables. The reason? Some dealers have been exposing their bottom card as they deal the cards.

Seeing one of the dealer's cards before you decide whether to bet is a huge advantage --- especially in a game where that one card represents a third of the dealer's hand. If the dealer flashes a King, are you going to bet with Queen-6-4? Nope.

* * *

In my new games session, I also covered Four Card Poker, and that led to a little adventure with Tamburin. In Four Card Poker, each player is dealt five cards from which to make to best four-card hand. The dealer gets six cards to make a four-card hand --- that extra starting card gives the house its edge.

After seeing the cards, the player may either fold, losing an ante, or bet one to three times the amount of the ante. Best strategy for the game is to fold with a pair of 2s or less, bet an amount equal to the ante with a pair of 3s through 9s, or raise three times the ante with a pair of 10s or better.

That's an easy strategy, one Tamburin had memorized before the session was over. Nonetheless, I got to witness a nice show in the casino later on. He needed to do a little research for a magazine article. So, after dinner at Casino Windsor's high-end restaurant Cache, he told me, "I need to see Four Card Poker. Come on. You can be my adviser."

Henry bought in for $100 then acted a little befuddled. "OK, now what do I do?" he asked.

There was certainly no beginner's luck involved in the first hand --- unless a little beginner's luck by proxy rubbed off on the dealer. Among the dealer's six cards were King of spades, Queen of spades, Jack of spades, 10 of spades --- a four card, King-high straight flush.

But after that, Henry had a nice run of cards. With a pair of 6s, he'd turn to me and ask, "What do I do with that?" I'd say, "Bet one unit" --- even though I knew he understood the strategy as well as I did. He was dealt three of a kind a couple of times, each time asking me what to do. And each time, even as he was raking in his chips from a win, the other players would admonish him for not making the Aces Up bet, a wager similar to the Three Card Poker Pairs Plus option, except that it takes a pair of Aces or better to win.

Play against the dealer is the better bet, and Henry was playing at optimal level. He left the table with a few extra chips, and I told him, "You know you were the only one at the table playing the right way."

"I know," he said, "and I was the only one winning, but everybody wanted to tell me what I was doing wrong."

* * *

I didn't gamble much on the trip to Windsor. We were busy with seminars all day, dined together in the evenings, I didn't really go bankrolled for table play, and the video poker pay tables were on the low side --- although I was assured by a casino executive that the video poker will be getting better soon.

I spent a little time with oddball games such as Reel 'Em In Poker and 3-5-7, taking advantage of their presence to get a thorough handle of the games for a couple of columns I'm preparing. But my gambling highlight of the trip came on the last night, with the last $20 (Canadian) I was prepared to donate in the name of research.

For the final experiment of the trip, I sat down at a quarter Double Down Stud machine. This is stud poker, not draw, so five cards are all you get. After your first four cards, you have the option of doubling your bet. Playing the Deuces Wild version, it was a no-brainer when three of the first four cards were deuces. After I doubled my bet, up popped the fourth deuce.

Sometimes, you just have to be lucky.

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

The Craps Answer Book

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

Winning Tips for Casino Games

> More Books By John Grochowski