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Blackjack Bob asks about Four-Card Poker25 September 2014
“Penny slots, too,” Bob piped in when I saw him in early August. “I never invest more than $20 at a time, but as long as I can cover all the paylines for a quarter, they’re fun on the cheap.”
Add penny slots to Bob’s repertoire.
“There’s another game that has me curious,” he said. “I don’t see it everywhere, but some of the bigger casinos have Four-Card Poker. I’d give it a go, but I wanted to see what I could find out about odds and strategies first. I saw there was an ante-bet thing, and then a side bet, so I take it Four-Card Poker is a lot like Three-Card Poker.”
There are similarities. In the ante-pay portion, you start with an ante, then may either fold or stay in action by making an additional bet after seeing your cards. However, instead of the bet being equal to the ante, you may bet either one, two or three times the ante.
“What is the qualifying hand?” Bob asked. “In Three-Card Poker, the dealer has to have Queen or better, or you get paid only on the ante.”
There is no dealer qualifying hand in Four-Card Poker. The house gets its edge in different way. You’re dealt five cards, and choose four to make your best hand. The dealer gets SIX cards, then discards two to leave his best four.
“That’s a pretty big advantage for the dealer,” Bob said.
It is, but the house gives some of the edge back. Tied hands don’t push. You win even-money payoffs on both ante and bet if your hand beats or ties the dealer. Also, there are bonus payoffs on three of a kind or better, and you get those regardless of whether you win the hand. I’ve played games where you get a 25-1 payoff on four of a kind, 20-1 on a straight flush and 2-1 on three of a kind.
Bob nodded. “I take it three of a kind outranks straights and flushes, like in Three-Card Poker.”
Correct. You’ll get three of a kind about once per 44 hands in Four Card Poker, compared with about one flush per 23 hands and one straight per 26 hands. However, flushes do outrank straights, as in five-card games, rather than the other way around, as in Three-Card Poker.
“So what’s my strategy? Bob asked.
According to Michael Shackleford’s wizardofodds.com site, game analyst Stanley Ko devised a strategy that calls for you to bet three times your ante when you have a pair of 10s or better, or make a bet equal to your ante with a pair of 2s through 9s. With anything else, fold. That strategy yields a house edge of 3.4 percent.
Shackleford said James Grosjean has devised a 10-step strategy that can reduce the house edge to 2.8 percent with the bonus pays described above, or 3.2 percent if the bonuses are 30-1 on four of a kind, 15-1 on straight flushes and 2-1 on three of a kind. For that more detailed strategy, you’ll need to seek out Grosjean’s book “Beyond Counting.”
“That all sounds about what I’d expect from these change of pace games,” Bob said. “That’s what I use them for, to relax a little away from blackjack. So what about the side bet?”
The side bet is called Aces Up, and it’s just what it sounds like. You win if you have a pair of Aces or better. It’s the four-card equivalent of Pairs Plus in Three-Card Poker, where you win with a pair or better.
With the most common pay table, you win even money with a pair of Aces, 3-1 on two pair, 4-1 on a straight, 5-1 on a flush, 8-1 on three of a kind, 40-1 on a straight flush and 50-1 on four of a kind. Four of a kind shows up an average of once per 4,165 hands. In Three-Card Poker Pair Plus, the biggest paying hand is straight flush, and that occurs about one per 455 hands. So it’s much longer between top payers in Aces Up.
The house edge on Aces Up at that pay table is 3.9 percent, a few tenths higher than on the ante-bet portion of the game.
Bob looked thoughtful.
“Hmmmm,” he said. “That sounds easy enough, thought the house edges are a little high. It won’t have me rushing from the blackjack table, but I’ll probably give it a go at break times.”
Look for John Grochowski at www.casinoanswerman.com, on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44) and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).
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