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Best of John Grochowski

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Three Card Poker pay tables

16 March 2010

Video poker players know the drill: To get the most possible out of the game, you have to check the pay table first.

That's a lesson table games players need to learn, too, with the variety of available pay tables in the Pair Plus option of Three Card Poker.

Pair Plus is easy, a bet that your three-card hand contains a pair or better. As originally developed by Derek Webb, Pair Plus paid even money on any pair, flushes paid 4-1, straights 6-1, three of a kind 30-1 and straight flushes 40-1. The house edge of 2.32% was among the better deals around in recently developed table games, especially for a game that requires no skill.

Webb eventually sold the game to Shuffle Master Inc., the leader in automated card shufflers that also distributes table games including Caribbean Stud Poker and Let It Ride, and is making an impact with automated table games such as Rapid Roulette.

One thing Shuffle Master does very well is satisfy casino operator demand for adjustable house edges. On Three Card Poker's Pair Plus option, the easiest way to adjust the house edge is to change the pay table.

Webb's original pay table remains available, but every time I look, it seems fewer operators are offering it. The most commonly available Pair Plus pay table today lowers the flush return to 3-1.

The rest of the pay table remains intact, but one little change makes a huge difference. We're dealt flushes a tad less than once per 20 three-card hands. Dropping the return by a unit raises the house edge from 2.32% to 7.28%.

I don't know where you draw your line, but mine is well below house edges of 7%. With that pay table, I will not play Pair Plus.

There are other pay tables available to operators. One lowers straight flush returns to 35-1 and three of a kind to 25-1. Those hands come up a lot less often than flushes — we get straight flushes about once per 460 hands and three of a kind once per 425. So even the bigger payoff drop doesn't make as large an impact. The house edge here is 4.58%.

Still too high for my taste, but not as bad as 7.28.

My advice is to watch that flush payback. Flushes occur more often than straights in Three Card Poker, and a lot more often than three of a kind or straight flushes.

Look for the original pay table. If you can find it, you know you have a good game. If you see a 3-1 payoff on flushes, you can be sure you're seeing a bankroll-eater.

**The potential rewards at Three Card Poker's Pair Plus option aren't as large as those at other table games with pay tables. You can't win tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars for a $1 side bet like you can with a royal flush in Caribbean Stud. With a $5 bet, a three-card straight flush will bring you $200 — not bad, but not exactly lifestyle changing.

The flip side, of course, is that you'll see a straight flush A LOT more often in Pair Plus than you'll see a royal in Caribbean Stud. At once per 460 hands, you'll average a Pair Plus straight flush about once per eight hours of play at full tables. At Caribbean Stud, royals come an average of one per 649,740 hands. Odds are against you seeing one in your lifetime.

The first time I ever was dealt a straight flush in Three Card Poker came the next hand after another player was dealt three of a kind, so we had the two highest-ranking hands in back-to-back hands. When I picked up my cards, I nodded to the dealer and said, "She just dealt three of a kind and a straight flush back to back."

No one thought I was serious. The dealer laughed, and another player said, "Sure, wouldn't that be nice?" It wasn't until the dealer turned my cards face up that everyone realized I wasn't just making a lame joke. I had $5 on Pair Plus, $5 on ante and $5 on bet for play against the dealer, so I collected $200 for my Pair Plus winner. On play against the dealer, I collected $5 wins on both ante and bet, and an extra $25 for the 5-1 bonus on the ante for having a straight flush.

For a little low-rolling fun and $15 at risk, I padded my bankroll by $235, and walked away with a fun story.

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:

> 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:

> More Books By John Grochowski