Rules and Strategy

The Strategies in Three-Card Poker

In much the same way as all other casino games, three-card poker has a few strategies associated with it to help you gain a tactical advantage over the dealer. Today were going to look at two in particular which prove the most popular with three-card poker enthusiasts and, in essence, the strategies live at opposing ends of the spectrum.

One is the classic strategy used by the majority of three-card poker players and the other, called ‘Flashing Dealer’ is a little more controversial in its design and calls for certain factors to be in play before it can be used. Let’s have a look at both in a bit closer detail.

Basic Strategy for Three-card poker

The basic strategy which has been adapted for three-card poker is quite simple. In basic terms it dictates that you should always fold your hand if you’re holding anything less than Q, 6, 4. If you hold any hand that is equal to or stronger than a Q, 6, 4 you should continue to bet.

In order to quickly decide if you should play or not, as a rule of thumb if your first card is equal to or stronger than a Queen and your second card is equal to or stronger than a 6 you should continue regardless of the value of the third and final card. Consequently, if your second card is inferior to a 6 you should fold. The reasoning behind only looking at your first 2 cards is because hands are scored primarily on the highest card and then the second highest card if there’s a tie. It’s very rare to have to go to the third card to decide a winner.

The reasoning behind this strategy is based on sound mathematics, i.e. how much you would expect to lose by folding. Q, 6, 4 is the lowest hand to play simply because if you raise on anything lower you can expect to lose more than 1 unit by folding. If you raise on Q, 6, 4 you can expect to lose less than 1 unit.

The Flashing Dealer Strategy

A little bit more unconventional is a three-card poker strategy called ‘Flashing Dealer’. Literally, it’s a strategy that’s based on whether or not you get a glimpse of one of the dealer’s cards as they deal to themselves. Now it’s not uncommon to find a three-card poker dealer who exposes one of his cards due to the height and positioning of the auto shuffler. Right handed dealers tend to take cards on the side which has the potential to expose the bottom card as they are placed on the table. The best seating position for this type of strategy is at the first position to the left of the dealer, more commonly referred to as ‘First Base’.

Now how does this help us? Well if you can clearly pin point the rank of one of the dealer’s cards, then there’s a set list of plays you can use depending on which of the dealers cards you were able to get a glimpse of. The points below outline the exposed card and the appropriate action to take.

  • Cards with a value of 2 up to a Jack = Always Raise
  • Queen = Only Raise with Q, 9, 2
  • King = Only Raise with a K, 9, 2
  • Ace = Only Raise with an A, 9, 2

If all you’ve been able to see is that the dealer has a face card, then you should only raise if you hold a Q, J, 5 or better. If you’re able to tell that the dealer doesn’t have a face card, then you should raise regardless of whether or not you can be certain that they do not have an Ace because statistically speaking, more often than not they do not.

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