Brag is a gambling game for four to eight players that is popular in Britain. Although it is often compared to poker, which displaced it in the United States, there are several key differences between the two games. Most importantly, the betting is very different—in Brag, it is possible for betting to come down to a stalemate where players continue betting until someone finally gives up.
Object of Brag
The object of Brag is to be one of the players remaining at the showdown with the best Brag hand.
Brag uses one standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Since you’re playing Brag, you may as well play it with some cards you can brag about; that is, Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You will also need something to bet with, such as poker chips.
Before play begins, there should be a mutual agreement as to the size of the ante and the bets. This should include both the minimum and maximum amount that the first player may bet, as well as the amount the bet can be increased by each subsequent player. This can either be a hard numerical limit, or the game can be played at pot limit.
All players ante. Shuffle and deal three cards face-down to each player. Players may look at their cards if they want to, or they may abstain from this and play blind (see below).
Rank of Brag hands
While Brag hands resemble poker hands, they have different names, and the ranking is slightly different. Notably, because of the different probabilities involved in three-card versus five-card hands, a run outranks a flush (whereas the opposite is true in poker). The rank of Brag hands, from highest to lowest, is:
- 1. Prial
- (derived from pair royal) Three cards of the same rank. The highest-ranked prial is 3-3-3, the next lowest ranked is A-A-A, then K-K-K, and so on down to 2-2-2.
- 2. Running flush
- Three cards of the same suit in sequence, e.g. 9-10-Q♠. Ties are broken by the highest card. Equivalent to poker’s straight flush.
- 3. Run
- Three cards of any suit in sequence (e.g. 6-7-8). If all cards are the same suit, it becomes a running flush. Ties are broken by the highest card. Equivalent to poker’s straight.
- 4. Flush
- Three cards of the same suit, not in sequence (e.g. 4-7-J♦). Ties are broken by the rank of the highest card, then by the next highest if necessary, and so on until the tie is broken.
- 5. Pair
- Two cards of the same rank, plus one unmatched card (e.g. 5-5-9). Ties are broken by the rank of the pair, then the rank of the unmatched card if necessary.
- 6. High card
- Three cards unmatched in suit or sequence. Ties are broken by the highest card, then next-highest, and so on down.
Good Brag etiquette is to keep everything to yourself. Cards should never be shown to anyone but the player they were dealt to (except, of course, at the showdown). Similarly, players should never verbally state the supposed contents of their hand. Also, as in poker, it is very important that betting and folding be executed in turn, not early.
Play of the hand
Betting starts with the player to the left of the dealer. The first player, if they desire to bet, must do so according to the agreed-upon limits. Each subsequent player must bet at least as much as the last player to bet before them. If a player does not wish to bet, they must fold (also called stacking); they are out of the hand, and their cards are placed, unrevealed, at the bottom of the stock. Betting continues in this same manner around the table, even after it reaches the players who have already bet; players must continue betting if they wish to remain in the hand, and anyone can raise whenever they wish.
Players also have the option to play blind. So long as the player has not seen their hand, their money essentially counts as double. Blind players are only required to bet half the amount bet by the player before them, and the player after them must bet double the amount that they did. For example, if the player to the right of the blind player bets $10, the blind player is only required to bet $5, and the player to the right must still bet $10. However, should the blind player wish to bet $20, the player to their left must bet at least $40, or else fold. A person playing blind may choose, before betting, to look at their cards, although this, of course, requires them to return to the usual betting rules.
Betting continues until all but two players have folded. These two players go on betting until either one of them folds, thus awarding the pot to the other player, or one of the players decides to see the other, by doubling the previous bet and stating “See you”; a doubled bet does not necessarily constitute a see unless it is specifically declared as such. When a player sees their opponent, the opponent must reveal their cards. If the first player has a higher hand, they reveal it and take the pot. If not, their opponent wins the pot; the losing seer may choose to simply fold their hand without revealing it. Should the hands tie, the seer loses the pot.
A special rule applies when one or both of the final two players are playing blind. That rule is stated as “you can’t see a blind man”; that is, should your opponent be playing blind, you do not have the option to see. You must either continue to bet or fold, or hope that they either look at their cards or fold. A blind player, can, however, see their non-blind opponent, if they wish to do so. If both players are playing blind, they may see each other.
Should a player run out of money, they may cover the pot by placing their cards face-down on top of it. The other players carry on without them, placing all further bets in a side pot. The winner of the side pot is determined first, then, the winning hand is compared with the hand covering the pot, and the winner of those two hands takes the main pot.
The next hand is customarily dealt immediately, with no shuffle. Shuffles only occur when a pot is won with an exposed prial.