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# Three Card Poker Dissected

19 December 2021

QUESTION: I remember when the recommended play for Three Card Poker was to bet on a Queen or better. Then it changed to Queen-6-4 or better.

How much difference does that really make?

ANSWER: If you make a bet equal to your ante with Queen-6-4 or better, the house edge in the ante-play portion of Three Card Poker is 3.37 percent of your ante. If you bet with Queen or better, the edge is 3.45 percent.

You bet on a few more hands when your strategy cutoff is Queen instead of Queen-6-4, so your wagering total is higher. When accounting for both ante and bet, the house edge against total action, also called the element of risk, is 2.01 percent if your benchmark is Queen-6-4 and 2.07 percent if you bet on Queen or better.

Some players like to bet on every hand, taking a chance the dealer will not have a qualifying hand of Queen or better. That's not a play I recommend. The house edge is 7.65 percent of your ante. Since the bets take your total wager to double your ante, the element of risk is half the edge, or 3.83 percent.

QUESTION: I'm sure the video poker strategies you write about are the best over millions of plays, but I'm not there making millions of plays. I'm playing this one hand, right now.

Do you think there's anything to the idea that the best play for one hand is different from the best play for millions of hands?

For example, in 9-6 Double Double Bonus Poker, if I'm dealt three Aces, a 2 and an 8 or something that doesn't matter, you say the odds are best if you hold the Aces and throw away both the 2 and the 8. I think maybe for one hand, you're better off holding the 2 with the Aces and going for the big 2,000-coin payoff for four Aces with a 2.

ANSWER: The strategies I recommend are the plays that will yield the best average returns.

There's never any guarantee that any play will be the best at that instant. It's certainly possible by discarding the 2 I miss a Aces-plus-kicker jackpot. It's also possible that by holding the 2, you miss out on a fourth Ace that would either pay 800 coins for a five-coin bet or 2,000 if you also drew another low-card kicker.

In fact, missing the Ace by drawing only one card instead of two happens a lot more often than missing the jackpot by drawing two cards instead of one.
If you hold A-A-A-2, you have a 1-in-47, or 2.13 percent, chance of drawing the fourth Ace for the 2,000-coin bonanza.

If you hold Ace-Ace-Ace and discard the 2, there are 1,081 possible draws. Eleven, or 1.02 percent, bring the fourth Ace plus a kicker, so you have a little less than half the chance at the jackpot hand if you discard the 2.

However, by discarding the 2 you also open 35 chances in 1,081, or 3.24 percent, of drawing a fourth Ace with no kicker for a 200-coin payback. That remains a good outcome, and it's not available to you if you hold the 2.

To balance that all, the average return is 62.45 coins if you hold A-A-A, and 59.15 if you hold A-A-A-2.

I can understand a player who takes a live for today, all or nothing approach wanting to go for the jackpot. I've played millions of hands since the late 1980s, and I prefer the best average play and a better chance at quads.
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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.

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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.