Three Card Poker Variations

Published: 17/06/2012

Just a little over a decade ago, Three Card Poker was virtually unknown outside the game’s birthplace in London, except for a few casinos along the Las Vegas Strip. In 1999, Shuffle Master purchased the intellectual property rights to the game from inventor Derek J. Webb, a British professional poker player. Buoyed by the company’s marketing efforts, today some 1,200 tables have been installed around the globe.

Since the introduction of the casino version of Three Card Poker, or “Tri Card Poker” as it is called in some venues, a number of variations have evolved. Some resemble British Three-Card Brag, the game upon which this one was based. Others are more closely akin to a three-card American party game, Three Card Poker, related to five-card stud and in existence since the early 20th century. And more than a few are completely new versions, with House Rules modified to attract curious players, most notably the following:

California Three Card Poker – Los Angeles County poker rooms have come up with a number of rules changes, enabling one of the Dealer’s cards to be dealt face up. One of those changes is the elimination of the Ante bonuses. Another states that whenever the Dealer’s hand fails to qualify, the Player’s hand still has to beat it to win the Ante. Pushes are allowed, too, with no payouts. A few of the California poker rooms take a “rake” (commission) of 1% on all wagers. When all of these rule changes are considered together, the overall House Edge is 4.3%.

Macau Three Card Poker – There is no qualification requirement for the Banker hand. Every deal results in a heads-up showdown between the Player and the Dealer. The payouts have been modified, too, as wins pay just 19-to-20 instead of 1-to-1, which is the same as deducting a 5% commission. Ties result in a push, no winner, and the House Edge remains low at 2.5%. The former Portuguese colony has adopted some other variations as well, which can be found under the names “Fortune Three Card Poker” and “Q Poker.”

Prime Side Bet Three Card Poker – This game is played the same as standard Three Card Poker, with the addition of a side bet that pays 3-to-1 whenever all of the cards in the Player’s hand are of the same color. If every card in the deal is the same color, the side bet pays 4-to-1. The House Edge comes in at 3.62%.

Six-Card Bonus Three Card Poker – This game also offers a unique side bet, a wager on the highest five-card poker hand that can be formed by combining the Player’s three cards with the Dealer’s three cards. A payout schedule indicates how much can be won, starting with Three of a Kind at 5-to-1 up to a Royal Flush at 1,000-to-1. The House Edge is a whopping 15.3%.

Three Card Poker Progressive – Another version featuring a side bet similar to Pair Plus, this progressive game provides an ever-increasing jackpot, which is awarded for a “Mini Royal” in spades. The required wager is one unit. In some casinos, this game also features an “Envy Bonus”; if a Mini Royal appears, every player at the table who made the side bet gets a payout of 25 units, regardless of who actually won the prize. Because the House Edge decreases as the jackpot grows, this becomes a very attractive wager when the prize pool is large enough.

Tournament Three Card Poker – Charging a fixed entry fee, this version of Three Card Poker is played much like traditional Poker tournaments, with the table winners from a qualifying round moving up to the next round and eventually to a final table. Such tournaments have been held at LVH (formerly the Las Vegas Hilton) and Sam’s Town Tunica, as well as other casinos. Once a year, Shuffle Up Productions conducts its annual Three Card Poker World Championship, offering $1 million in total prize money. Roughly half of that amount goes to the player crowned World Champion.

Ultimate Three Card Poker – In this variation, a raise is allowed up to 3X the initial Ante when making the Play wager. If the Dealer’s hand fails to qualify, the Player’s hand must still beat it in order to win the Ante bet. Ties result in a push, no winner. The House Edge is 5.42%.

Published on: 17/06/2012

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