Superfecta is a betting game for two or more players. In Superfecta, players are betting on a horse race simulated by drawing cards from a deck. Players can simply bet on which horse they think will win, or can place more exotic wagers to try to predict the order of finish of two or more horses!
Superfecta is based on Horse Race, a much older game which appeared in John Scarne’s Scarne on Cards (written 1949, revised 1965). Horse racing has changed a lot since 1965, and so have card games. Bookmaking isn’t a part of horse racing anymore; horse betting is done with a parimutuel system, where the winning bettors are paid out from the bets of the losers. Fortunately, it’s much easier to implement such a system in a card game than it is to play bookie—most people don’t have such a reflexive grasp of probability to allow them to quote odds in real time.
Thus, we’ve updated the old game of Horse Race to create a new game we call Superfecta. We’ve eliminated the bookmaking, and worked in a few different wagers used in modern horse racing to add excitement to the game. We think the result is a smoother and more fun experience for your game night.
Object of Superfecta
The object of Superfecta is to win money by successfully predicting which of the four suits will win a race. Additional money can be won by successfully predicting the second, third, and fourth-place finishers.
To play Superfecta, you’ll need a standard 52-card pack of playing cards. Of course, using a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards will allow you to provide a polished and professional casino feel to your players.
You’ll also need something to bet with, like poker chips. Decide amongst your players whether you want them to represent real money or not. If so, each player buys their desired amount of chips. Otherwise, distribute an equal number of chips to each player. Determine what the minimum bet for each pool will be, for example $1. Additionally, you’ll need some paper and pen for each player to record their bets on.
The dealer will be responsible for managing three pots, each corresponding to the different types of bets available in the game. The three pools should clearly be labeled “WIN”, “EXA”, and “SFC”. You can create a betting layout on a piece of posterboard or felt. Another option is to place each pot in a bowl, or use the indentations in a cupcake tin. The exact form of the layout isn’t important, as long it clearly establishes which bet each pile of chips belongs to.
Remove the four aces from the deck and line them up on a horizontal row. This row represents the starting gate. Then, shuffle the remainder of the deck and deal a column of six cards perpendicular to the starting line, forming the rail. Refer to the attached image for an example layout.
Before placing any bets, the players can take a look at the rail to determine the probability of each horse winning the race. The more frequently a suit appears in the layout, the fewer cards of that suit are in the rest of the deck. Therefore, the more cards of a given suit are on the rail, the less likely that suit’s horse is to win.
After each player has decided on what they would like to bet on, they write down their name and their wagers on a slip of paper (their ticket) and pass it, along with the money needed to cover the wagers, to the dealer. Each wager must also list the horses the bets are placed on. The dealer verifies the correct amount of money has been provided. They then place the money in the three betting pools, according to the player’s bets. The dealer retains the ticket until later.
Types of wagers
There are three types of wager available to players: the win, exacta, and superfecta. Players may make bets on as many of these different wagers, or none of them, as they wish. The amount of each bet alone must equal the minimum bet. If the player chooses to bet a greater amount, it must be a multiple of the minimum bet. A player may make multiple bets of the same type, but must bet at least the minimum on each.
The three types of bets are:
- Win (WIN): A bet on one particular horse to win. The player is only paid if this horse wins the race.
- Exacta (EXA): A bet on a horse to win, and a second horse to come in second. The horses must finish in the exact order listed on the ticket (their order cannot be reversed).
- Superfecta (SFC): A bet on the exact order all four horses will finish in.
On their ticket, players list each bet on its own line, starting with the amount of the bet, then the type of bet, then the horses (in order) the bet covers. For brevity, horses can be listed as “H”, “D”, “C”, and “S” for hearts, diamonds, clubs, and spades respectively.
Here is an example showing how a player might fill out their ticket. In parenthesis is what needs to happen for that bet to win (this is for illustrative purposes, a player would not need to write this out). The minimum bet in this game is $1.
- Player: James
- $2 WIN D (diamonds comes in first)
- $1 EXA D/C (diamonds comes in first and clubs comes in second)
- $1 EXA C/D (clubs comes in first and diamonds comes in second)
- $1 SFC D/C/H/S (horses place in this exact order)
This ticket would have a total price of $5. Note that both exacta wagers cannot win here; the player is making multiple bets of the same type to increase the likelihood of realizing a payout from at least one bet.
Running the race
After all players have placed their bets, the race begins! The dealer begins to deal cards, one at a time, from the stock. With each card dealt, the ace of that suit is advanced one space toward the end of the line (using the rail cards as a guide). The dealer continues drawing cards until one ace crosses the finish line (i.e. seven cards of that suit have been dealt). That horse wins the race. Further cards are dealt to determine the second- and third-place finishers, with cards belonging to already-finished horses simply being ignored.
After the order of finish has been determined, the bets are paid out. The dealer checks the tickets to determine who has a winning bet. A player with a winning bet takes the pool of that bet type. If there are multiple players with a winning bet, they divide the appropriate pool among themselves as evenly as possible. Any remainder, as well as pools that have no winning bets, are carried over to the next race.
Game play continues until a predetermined number of races (such as 12). After this race, any money left in the pools is divided equally among the players.
If you give this game a try, let us know what you think in the comments! Any suggestions that would improve the game would be appreciated.
Trente et Quarante (Rouge et Noir)
Trente et Quarante (French for “30 and 40”), also known as Rouge et Noir (“Red and Black”), is a gambling game of French origin. From a player’s standpoint, it’s very similar to Baccarat—two hands are dealt out, and the only decision the player must make is which hand will win. Once popular in casinos throughout Europe, Trente et Quarante is now mostly found in France, Italy, and Monte Carlo.
Object of Trente et Quarante
The object of Trente et Quarante is to successfully predict whether the rouge (red) or noir (black) hand will have the lower score after each of them have been dealt cards totaling at least 31 points.
In order to play Trente et Quarante, you’ll need six standard 52-card decks of playing cards (such as Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards). Since you’re going to be managing 312 cards at a time, it might be a good idea to find a dealing shoe and discard holder, like those used in Baccarat. You’ll also need something to bet with, such as chips.
Like most casino games, Trente et Quarante is played on a printed felt layout, which is divvied up into various regions corresponding to the different bets available. The image at right shows the traditional layout.
Shuffle the cards (using the multiple-deck shuffling technique if needed). Square the deck up, then roll it forward. The back of the cards should be facing the players and the cut card on the bottom of the deck should be facing you. Give the spare cut card to any player and have them insert it into the deck wherever they wish. Complete the cut by sliding the bottom part of the deck behind the cut card away and putting it on the top (far side) of the deck. Remove the cut card that was on the bottom, and is now in the middle, of the deck, and place it into the deck near the bottom (usually about one deck from the end of the shoe). When this card is reached, the cards will need to be shuffled. Place the cards into the shoe.
Before any cards are dealt, players may wager on any of the following bets:
- Noir: A bet that the noir (black) hand will win.
- Rouge: A bet that the rouge (red) hand will win.
- Couleur: A bet that the hand of the same color as the first card dealt will win. That is, if the first card dealt on that hand is a black card, it is a bet that black will win; if the first card dealt is a red card, it is a bet that red will win.
- Inverse: A bet that the hand of the opposite color as the first card dealt will win. It is the opposite of the couleur bet; it always wins when couleur loses, and vice versa.
Play of the hand
The dealer begins by dealing a row of cards representing the black hand. A running total of the hand’s value is tallied as the cards are dealt. Aces are worth one point, face cards ten, and all other cards their pip value. When the hand’s value reaches 31 or greater, no more cards are dealt to it. (The highest score possible is 40, achieved by drawing a ten-value card when the count is 30.) Then, the red hand is dealt on a second row, following the same procedure.
Whichever hand has the lower total (that is, closest to 31) is the winner. The dealer pays out all winning bets at even money and collects the losing bets. The cards are then discarded in preparation for the next hand.
When the two hands tie, it is called a refait. A refait on a score of 32 to 40 is simply a push—bets neither win nor lose. On a refait of exactly 31, however, all bets on the board are imprisoned. They must remain where they are until the next hand. If an imprisoned bet wins on the next hand, it is returned to the player with no payout. If the bet loses, it is collected as normal. (In some games, a player may choose to immediately surrender half their bet rather than have it imprisoned.)
A player may place an insurance bet on any other bet they have on the board. This bet can be no more than 1% of the amount of the main wager. If the bet that it is tied to wins or loses, the insurance bet loses and is collected. If the bet pushes, the insurance bet also pushes. The only time that the insurance bet wins is on a refait of 31. Winning insurance bets pay out 49 to 1.
Backhand is a spinoff of Blackjack that removes one key element from the game—the ability to stand! In Backhand, the goal is not to be the closest to 21 without going over, as it is in Blackjack. Instead, the player must keep taking cards until they’re sure the next one is going to make them bust. If they’re right, only then do they win the hand!
Backhand was created by Louis Ginns in 2016 as a way of practicing Blackjack strategy. Ginns found himself focusing on guessing whether or not the next card to come was going to cause a bust, and soon abandoned Blackjack altogether in favor of developing a whole new game around this concept of predicting when a bust was going to happen. Ginns has since created an entire series of games based on the Backhand concept, introducing elements such as head-to-head play against a house dealer or another player.
Object of Backhand
The object of Backhand is to accurately predict when the next card to be dealt will send the value of the player’s hand over 21.
Backhand is played with one or more decks of playing cards, such as Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. One deck of cards is required for every two players in the game, so a three-player game would require two decks, a five-player game would require three decks, and so on.
Backhand can be played as either a betting game or simply to be the first to win a certain number of hands (or score a certain number of wins within a given number of hands). Ginns has also created a number of additional scoring systems to provide players with different challenges. If playing with betting, you’ll need something to bet with, like poker chips, and also to agree on maximum and minimum bets. Otherwise, you’ll need some way of keeping track of the number of hands each player has won. Pencil and paper works well for this purpose.
Players place the amount of their wagers in front of them (if playing with betting). Shuffle and deal two cards, face up, to each player. The remainder of the deck becomes the stock.
Before a player has the chance to act on their hand, any aces are discarded from the hand and replaced with a card from the stock. Aces are only discarded from the initial two cards dealt to the player; if an ace is dealt as a replacement card for a discarded ace, the newly dealt ace is retained. Players then evaluate the value of their hand. Aces are worth one point, face cards are worth ten, and all other cards their pip value.
The players act on their hands one at a time, starting with the player to the left of the dealer. When a player wins or loses their hand, their bet (if playing with them) is paid out at even money or collected by the dealer, respectively. Action then passes to the next player to the left.
Hits and backhands
If a player’s hand is valued at 11 or less, the player is dealt additional cards until they arrive at a score of 12 or higher. When a player has a score above 12, they may choose to hit or call backhand. Players choosing to hit receive one additional card. If the player’s new total exceeds 21, then they have busted, and the player loses. If the new total is 21 or less, the player has the option to hit again or call backhand, as before. Should a player hit to five cards without busting, they win the hand.
When a player calls backhand, one card is dealt face-up, but not added to the hand. (This card is not counted toward a possible five-card hand.) If this card would have made the player’s score higher than 21, the player wins the hand. Otherwise, the player loses.
Special rules apply to hands with a score of 17 through 20 on the first two cards (after any aces have been replaced). These hands are called push hands. In this situation, a player cannot immediately call backhand. Instead, they have the option to either hit or push the hand away. (This is not to be confused with the meaning of push in Blackjack, which is to tie.) If the player chooses the latter, the hand is discarded and two new cards are dealt. Any aces are replaced, as usual, and the hand proceeds as before. If the player is dealt another hand with a value between 17 and 20, they may push again, if desired.
A player may also choose to play the push, rather than push the hand. When playing the push, the player receives one additional card, as if hitting. If their combined total with this card remains at 21 or below, they win the hand. If they bust with this card, they lose the hand, as usual.
Triple Draw Lowball
Triple Draw Lowball (often called just Triple Draw) is a form of lowball poker for two to six players. It’s a fairly simple game, especially if you’re familiar with Five-Card Draw or other Draw Poker variants. However, having four chances to bet instead of one makes Triple Draw an exciting, competitive game with large pots and lots of betting action. Triple Draw has become popular in Las Vegas casinos, being included in many high-limit mixed game rotations.
Object of Triple Draw Lowball
The object of Triple Draw Lowball is to form the lowest-ranking poker hand after drawing new cards up to three times.
Triple Draw uses the same standard 52-card deck as most other poker games. We suggest that you give Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards a try if you haven’t yet. You’ll also need something to bet with, probably poker chips. The game is typically played with fixed limits (see “Betting in poker“), so all players should agree to what the limits will be.
The two players to the left of the dealer post their blinds (see “Blinds and antes“). Shuffle and deal five cards to each player. The dealer retains the deck stub for later use.
Upon receiving their cards, players evaluate the strength of their hand. Triple Draw is most frequently played with deuce-to-seven lowball rules. In this version of lowball, straights and flushes are taken into consideration when ranking hands, and aces count high. That means the lowest possible hand is 2-3-4-5-7 (because 2-3-4-5-6 forms a straight). The first betting round then begins, with the player to the left of the big blind (the player under the gun) starting the betting. Betting follows the typical rules of betting in poker.
After the first round of betting is resolved, the first draw occurs, starting with the player to the left of the dealer (the small blind). This player discards any number of cards, from zero to five, face down in front of them. The dealer then deals them the appropriate number of replacement cards from the stub. This continues, clockwise, until all active players have had a chance to swap cards. The dealer then collects the discards and sets them aside.
When the first draw finishes, the second betting round begins, starting this time with the small blind player. This is followed by a second draw (conducted the same way as the first), then the third betting round, then the third draw, then the fourth and final betting round. Betting limits are typically doubled on the third and fourth betting rounds. If there are at least two active players left at the end of the fourth betting round, they reveal their hands. Whoever has the lowest-ranked poker hand wins the pot.
Razz is a form of seven-card stud poker, typically played as a lowball poker game. It can support from two to eight players. While nowhere near as popular as the more well-known poker games like Texas Hold’em and Omaha, Razz has nevertheless been an enduring staple of high-level poker play. It was one of the games played at the second World Series of Poker in 1971. A Razz event has been held as part of the WSOP every year since 1973. Razz is the “R” in the frequently-used “HORSE” progression of poker games.
Object of Razz
The object of Razz is to win money by convincing the other players that you possess the best ace-to-five lowball hand. That is, you want the lowest-ranking hand according to the usual rank of poker hands, with straights and flushes disregarded.
Like most poker games, all you need to play Razz is a 52-card deck of playing cards and something to bet with. For the cards, you owe it to yourself to use Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. Most people use poker chips as their betting instrument. We’ve seen other things used, but can get really strange in a hurry. You’ll need to establish betting limits, as well. Razz is typically played as a limit poker game, so make sure you establish what the limits are before playing.
All players ante. Shuffle and deal two cards face down to each player, then one card face up. This face-up card is referred to as the door card.
The player with the highest (and therefore worst) door card goes first. In cases where multiple players hold a card of the highest rank present, ties are broken by suit. Suits rank in the order (high) spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs (low). This player is required to make a mandatory bet called a bring-in bet. This is a blind bet equal to half of a normal bet. However, if the player wishes, they may “complete the bet” by making a full bet rather than a bring-in bet. After this first player, betting proceeds according to the normal rules for betting in poker.
After the first betting round concludes, all remaining players are dealt another face-up card. Whichever player is showing the lowest (and therefore best) hand leads off another round of betting. A fifth card is then dealt to each active player, again face up. At this point, the betting limit doubles (and remains doubled for the rest of the hand) for the ensuing betting round, which is again kicked off by the player showing the best hand. This process repeats for the sixth card.
The seventh and final card is dealt face down to each player. Occasionally, because a large percentage of the players stayed in the hand, there won’t be enough cards to go around. In this case, simply deal one card, face up, in the center of the table. This card serves as a “community card”—the seventh card of every player’s hand.
After the final betting round, any players still remaining in the game reveal their cards. Whoever has the best ace-to-five lowball hand takes the pot.
Kabu is a Japanese banking game for two to six players. Kabu is quite similar to the game of Baccarat, where players do their best to reach a score of nine, and scores above nine have their first digit dropped.
Traditional Kabu is played with a deck of Japanese hanafuda, or “flower cards”. This adaptation of the game for the Western deck was created by the American game collector, inventor, and author Sid Sackson, who published it in his 1981 book Card Games Around the World.
Object of Kabu
The object of Kabu is, through selective drawing of cards, to obtain a score of nine or as close as possible to it.
Japanese Kabu is normally played with hanafuda, a traditional Japanese deck featuring four cards each of twelve “suits”, one for each month, January to December. In Kabu, the November and December cards are set aside. Each card uses the numerical value of the month it represents (1 for January, 2 for February, etc.) in adding up the player’s score.
To play Kabu with the typical English-style deck, simply remove all of the face cards from a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You’ll be left with a 40-card deck: ace through 10 in each of the four suits. You’ll also need some chips for betting. Distribute the chips evenly to each player. (Sackson recommends a starting stack of ten credits, plus fifteen for each player in the game. This would yield 40 credits for the two-player game, 55 for the three player game, etc.)
Shuffle and deal two cards, face down, to each player. The rest of the deck becomes the stock.
The player to the dealer’s left goes first. They look at their cards and add up their total value. Aces are worth one point, and all others their face value. If the score exceeds nine (the best possible score), the first (tens) digit is dropped to arrive at a score under nine. If the player is satisfied with their score, they may pass. Otherwise, they may request a card from the stock. Then, the next player has the opportunity to draw, and so on around the table. Players may draw a maximum of two cards (making a four-card hand altogether). Drawing continues until all players have either passed or drawn twice.
After the drawing portion of the hand is complete, each player reveals their hand and announces the total. Each player then pays each opponent with a higher score the difference between their hands’ values. For example, if Jim holds a seven-point hand and George holds a four-point hand, George would pay Jim three credits.
The cards are collected and shuffled, then the next hand is dealt. Game play continues until one player does not have enough chips to pay the amount owed to their opponents. That player does not actually pay any of their opponents. Instead, each player counts up the number of chips they hold. Whoever has the most chips wins the game.
Play or Pay
Play or Pay is a simple game from the Stops family for three or more players. One player starts a sequence, and each player in turn must play the next higher card that continues it—or pay up!
Object of Play or Pay
The object of Play or Pay is to be the first player to run out of cards.
Play or Pay uses a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. We accompany that statement with the familiar exhortation to give Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards a try. You’ll also need something to bet with, such as poker chips or some other convenient value-bearing token.
Discuss with your players whether or not actual money will be changing hands in the game. If so, sell the players the amount of chips they wish to purchase. Otherwise, distribute an equal number of chips to each player.
Shuffle and deal out the deck as far as it will go. Some players may receive more cards than others; this is perfectly fine.
The player to the dealer’s left begins the first sequence, playing any card that they desire, face up in front of them. The next player to the left must then play the next-highest card of the same suit if they hold it. If they don’t, they pay one chip to the pot and play passes to the left. Eventually, one player will be able to play the card (since every card in the deck was dealt) and the next player after them will be required to play the next card in sequence. This continues on up to the king of that suit, which is followed by the ace, and then the 2.
The sequence ends when the card immediately below the card that started the sequence—that is, the thirteenth card of the suit—is played. Whichever player holds this card immediately plays a card of one of the other three suits to start a new sequence.
Game play continues until one player runs out of cards. That player wins the hand. Each of their opponents pays one chip to the pot for each card they hold in their hand. The winner then collects the entire pot, and the deal passes to the left for the next hand.
Ultimate Texas Hold’em
Ultimate Texas Hold’em, often abbreviated as UTH, is an adaptation of Texas Hold’em to the player-versus-the-house format of casino table games. Two to eight people (including the dealer) can play. Introduced during the height of the 2000s poker craze, Ultimate Texas Hold’em is a more approachable game for players that may be intimidated by the more confrontational style of betting found in traditional poker games.
Like Three Card Poker, Ultimate Texas Hold’em is a proprietary game owned and licensed by Scientific Games. UTH was originally developed by Roger Snow of ShuffleMaster, a manufacturer of card shuffling equipment. As with Three Card Poker, ShuffleMaster created specialized shuffling and dealing machines customized for UTH. ShuffleMaster was later acquired by Bally Technologies, which was later purchased by Scientific Games.
As with Three Card Poker, you won’t usually find the UTH tables in the poker room. Instead, look for them in the pit, alongside the Three Card Poker and Blackjack tables.
Object of Ultimate Texas Hold’em
The object of Ultimate Texas Hold’em is to recognize when you hold a hand that is likely to form a better poker hand than the dealer’s. This allows you to take advantage of opportunities to bet higher (and thus hopefully be paid higher). Alternately, the object is determine when the hand isn’t worth playing and exit the game to avoid a greater loss.
Ultimate Texas Hold’em is played with a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. If you’re playing at home, why not take advantage of the opportunity to get out your Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards? You’ll also need chips for each player to bet with. The dealer should be provided with a generous amount of chips for paying out winning wagers.
Casino UTH tables are covered in a felt surface with betting circles pre-printed on them, to organize the four bets that are available to the players. (An example of such a betting layout is shown at below right.) Unlike public-domain games like Blackjack, you’re unlikely to find UTH layouts available from anyone but Scientific Games. If you’re planning on dealing a home game instead of just playing in a casino, you’ll need to put one together yourself.
Players make their initial bets, as described below in “Making the initial bets”. After each player has bet, shuffle and deal five cards, face down; these will be the board cards. Deal two cards, also face down, to each player, including the dealer. These are the players’ hole cards.
Cards rank in their usual order in UTH, with aces high (although they can be used in an A–5 straight). Hands rank in the typical order; see rank of poker hands if you need a refresher.
Making the initial bets
The basic bets in UTH are the Ante and Blind bets, which most players will usually make. A player must make both bets, or neither of them; the amount placed in each betting circle must be equal.
A player may also choose to make an optional Trips bet. The Trips bet pays based on the best hand a player can make between their two cards and the five community cards. Whether or not the player’s hand is better than the dealer’s is immaterial to the outcome of the Trips bet. A player may choose to bet only the Trips bet, and not the Ante and Blind bets.
The Play betting circle remains empty until later on in the hand.
Play of the hand
After receiving their hand and being allowed to do so by the dealer, the player looks at their two cards. The dealer proceeds around the table, from left to right, giving each player their turn. On their turn, they may, if they wish, make their Play bet, which must be either three or four times the amount of the Ante bet. Otherwise, they check by tapping the table.
After all players have had a chance to bet or check, the dealer reveals the flop (the first three board cards). Each player who has not already made a Play bet gets a turn now. If they wish, they may now place a Play bet equal to twice the Ante bet. They may also check again, if they still do not wish to bet.
The dealer then reveals the last two board cards. Players have one last chance to make a Play bet, which is now limited to be exactly equal to the Ante bet. If a player still doesn’t want to bet, then they fold, surrendering all of the bets they’ve made to the dealer.
When all players have made a Play bet or folded, the dealer turns their hole cards face up. They declare the best five-card poker hand they can make using their two hole cards and the five board cards. If the dealer has at least a pair or higher, they are said to qualify. If the dealer does not qualify, the Ante bet will push, but the other two bets will still be paid out normally.
The dealer now proceeds around the table to each active player in turn, starting with the player to their right and working around to the left. The dealer reveals the player’s hole cards and announces the best poker hand the player can make. This hand is then compared to the dealer’s. If the dealer has a better hand, the dealer collects the Blind and Play bets, the Ante bet if the dealer qualified, and the player’s cards. Should the player have a better hand, they are paid out at even money on the Play bet and the Blind bet, as well as the Ante bet if the dealer qualified. If the player wins and has a straight or higher, they are paid at a higher rate on the Blind bet, as shown in the table below.
If the player made the Trips bet, it is settled regardless of if the player won or not. The Trips bet pays only if the player has three of a kind or better. If they do not, the bet loses and is collected by the dealer. If they do, it is paid according to the table below.
The payouts for the Trips and winning Blind bets are as follows:
|Royal flush||50 to 1||500 to 1|
|Straight flush||40 to 1||50 to 1|
|Four of a kind||30 to 1||10 to 1|
|Full house||8 to 1||3 to 1|
|Flush||6 to 1||3 to 2|
|Straight||5 to 1||even money|
|Three of a kind||3 to 1||even money|
After every player’s bets have been resolved, the cards are shuffled. Players then make their bets for the next hand.
Three Card Poker
Three Card Poker is a betting game played in casinos throughout the world. Unlike most forms of poker, the player wins when they can manage to beat the house, as in Blackjack and Mini Baccarat. Accordingly, Three Card Poker tables are usually located in the blackjack pit, not in the poker room.
Unlike most games played with traditional cards, Three Card Poker is a proprietary game. It was originally marketed by ShuffleMaster, a company which made and supplied automatic card shufflers to casinos. Due to a chain of acquisitions, the game is now owned by Scientific Games. Scientific Games still licenses the rights to the Three Card Poker name, as well as selling layouts and specialized shufflers that can also be programmed to deal three-card hands for each player.
Object of Three Card Poker
The object of Three Card Poker is to hold a hand higher than that of the dealer, or walk away when they feel they are unlikely to do so.
Unlike many casino table games, Three Card Poker is played with only one standard, 52-card deck of playing cards. Happily, that means if you’re wanting to play a home game, you can use your favorite deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You’ll also need chips to bet with.
Casinos spread the game on a felt table with a printed layout that facilitates the placing and payout of bets. Each player position has three betting boxes, typically laid out as shown at right. Because Three Card Poker is a proprietary game, pre-printed felt layouts are not as readily available as those found in games such as Blackjack. If you’re playing at home, you will most likely have to get creative, making a betting layout for yourself.
All players place a bet (which must be between the posted table minimums and maximums) in the Ante box on the layout. If they wish, they may also place an additional bet in the Pair Plus circle. Shuffle and deal three cards face down to each player, including the dealer.
Rank of Three Card Poker hands
Because there are only three cards involved, the hands available in Three Card Poker and their ranking differ from traditional poker. The hands are, from highest to lowest:
- Straight flush: Three cards of the same suit, in sequence.
- Three of a kind: Three cards of the same rank.
- Straight: Three cards in sequence.
- Flush: Three cards of the same suit.
- Pair: Two cards of the same rank, plus one unmatched card.
- High card: Three unmatched cards.
Competing pairs are evaluated by the rank of the pair, with the kicker (unmatched card) breaking ties. All other hands are evaluated by comparing the top-ranked card, then the second-highest, then the lowest. Cards rank in their usual order, with aces high (although A-2-3 is a valid straight).
Play of the hand
Each player picks up their cards (touching the cards is allowed in Three Card Poker) and examines their hand. They now make the only decision in the game—whether to raise (play) or fold. If the player folds, they surrender their cards to the dealer, who collects their money from the Ante and Pair Plus circles. If they raise, they place another bet, exactly the same amount as their Ante wager, on top of their cards (which are placed in the box overlapping the Play box, such that a bet placed on top of the cards ends up being in the Play box).
When all players have acted, the dealer reveals their hand. If the dealer’s hand is queen high or better, they are said to qualify. Should the dealer fail to qualify, the hand ends immediately, with each player being paid even money on their Ante bet and the Play bet pushing. (It should be noted that, so long as the player hasn’t folded, the Ante bet always pays when the dealer fails to qualify, even if the player’s hand is lower than the dealer’s.)
If the dealer qualifies, each player’s hand is compared with the dealer’s. Starting with the player to their right, and proceeding counter-clockwise around the table, the dealer reveals each player’s hand. If the player’s hand is higher than the dealer’s, they are paid even money on both the Ante and Play bets. When the dealer’s hand is higher, both bets are lost. If the dealer and player tie exactly, both bets push.
Pair Plus and Ante bonus payouts
If the player holds a high enough hand, they may get paid no matter what the dealer holds. Usually, this will happen because they made the Pair Plus bet, which operates entirely independently of the other two bets. If the player has a pair or higher, they are paid according to the hand they hold; otherwise, the bet is lost. A player holding a straight or better also receives a bonus on their Ante bet (regardless of if they played the Pair Plus bet).
Pair Plus bet and Ante bonuses are paid according to the following paytable. Note that these are typical values; some casinos may pay different rates.
|Hand||Pair Plus||Ante bonus|
|Straight flush||40 to 1||5 to 1|
|Three of a kind||30 to 1||4 to 1|
|Straight||6 to 1||even money|
|Flush:||3 to 1||–|
Three Card Poker strategy
According to Michael Shackelford of the popular Wizard of Odds gambling probabilities site, the mathematically ideal strategy for Three Card Poker is to play hands of Q-6-4 and higher and to fold hands of Q-6-3 and lower.
It should be noted that the house edge on the Pairs Plus bet is 7.28%. This is not much better than betting on a slot machine. However, to many players, the chance to catch a straight flush and win $200 on a $5 bet is too great a temptation to resist…
Mus is a betting game for four players in partnerships. Players draw and discard until they reach a hand they’re happy with, and then the betting begins. But there’s not just one “best” hand—there’s four rounds of betting, each with wildly different criteria for how the best hand is determined, and one hand can’t be the best in all four categories!
Mus most likely originated in the Basque country, a region spanning the border between France and Spain. From there, the game spread throughout both of those countries. From Spain, Mus was carried to other Spanish-speaking countries throughout the world.
Object of Mus
The object of Mus is to be the first partnership to reach a score of 40 points. This is done by, through drawing, forming hands that compete well in a number of different categories.
Mus is traditionally played with a Spanish deck of 40 cards. To recreate such a deck from an English-style 52-card deck like Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, remove all the 8s, 9s, and 10s. This will leave you with a 40-card deck consisting of face cards, 7s–2s, and aces in each of the four suits.
To keep score, you will need 22 counters of some kind, such as stones, beads, beans, marbles, or poker chips. These counters are kept in a pool in the center of the table. Uniquely, the value of each counter differs depending on who holds it! When a point is scored, one of the partners designated to do so draws a counter from the central pool. Upon reaching a score of five, this player returns four counters to the pool and passes the fifth to their partner. Thus, each counter this second player holds represents five points. When the second player has seven counters (representing a score of 35), they declare this and return them to the pool, putting their opponents on notice that they only need to score five more points to win.
Mus is traditionally played with a series of signals that players can use to indicate their holdings to their partner. These signals are the same for both teams. Part of the skill of the game is to figure out how to pass the signals to your partner without the opponents intercepting them. Which signals mean what, and what signals are allowed, should be discussed prior to game play.
As is usual with partnership games, partners should be seated across from one another, with an opponent on either side. The turn should alternate between partnerships as it passes around the table.
Shuffle and deal four cards to each player. The remainder of the deck becomes the stock.
Mus is most widely played “with eight aces and eight kings”. To achieve this, the 3s are considered equivalent to kings, and the 2s are considered equal to aces. They are treated exactly the same as if they were the same rank (to the point that K-3 is considered a pair). Cards otherwise rank in their usual order, with aces low.
Unlike in most games, game play is always conducted to the right.
Mus or no mus
The player to the dealer’s right goes first. They examine their hand and determine if they would like to exchange some of their cards for new ones for the stock. If they do, they say “mus”. The next player to the right must then make the same determination, and so on.
If all four players agree to a mus, then they discard one to four cards, face down, and the dealer gives them replacements from the stock. Then, another round of declaring “mus” or “no mus” takes place. (If the stock is depleted, shuffle the discards to form a new stock.) This continues until a player calls “no mus”. The game then proceeds to the betting rounds.
There are four rounds of betting, each of which has different criteria for winning. The betting rounds are always conducted in the same order, and follow the same procedure. Betting in each round begins with the player to the dealer’s right. They may make an opening bid of at least two counters, or pass. If they pass, the next player to the right has the same option, and so on. Once a player makes an opening bid, the opponent to their right may:
- See: agree to the bid, the amount of which will be won by whoever has the best cards for the category bid on.
- Raise: accept the opening bid and propose an increased bet.
- Fold. decline the proposed opening bid. The side that didn’t fold immediately collects the previously-accepted bid amount, regardless of who actually has the better cards.
If all players fold to an opening bid, the “previously accepted” bid is only one counter. If all four players pass with no opening bid being made, the round is contested with a stake of one counter going to the partnership with better cards.
There is one additional, special bid called órdago. If your opponent accepts a bid of órdago, the entire game is decided by the outcome of the current round of betting. The hands are immediately revealed, and whoever has the best cards for that round wins the entire game.
It is important to note that all bids are for the partnership, not the players. You may well have an awful hand, but find yourself betting a high number of counters because you know, either through previous bidding or signals, that your partner is a lock to win the round.
After each round of betting, the players proceed to the next one. The hands are kept concealed until all four rounds are concluded (except when a bid of órdago is accepted).
The four rounds of betting are, in order:
- Grande: Betting on who has the highest hand. Hands are compared by their highest card. If there is a tie, the second-highest is used to break it, then the third-highest, and finally the lowest.
- Chica: Betting on who has the lowest hand. Hands are compared the same as in Grande, but comparing by the lowest card, then second-lowest, etc.
- Pares: Betting on who has the best pairs. Before betting, players declare, in turn, yes or no as to whether they even have any pairs. If at least one person answers yes, the betting round takes place. Unlike the previous two rounds, the player with the best combination is entitled to a bonus, in addition to the agreed-upon stake. Possible combinations, from highest to lowest, are:
- Duples: Two pair, like K-3-4-4 or 7-7-2-2. Duples are compared by their higher pair, then their lower one. Three-counter bonus.
- Medias: Three of a kind, with one unmatched card, like 5-5-5-Q or A-A-2-6. The rank of the three-of-a-kind is compared first, then the kicker. Two-counter bonus.
- Par simple: One pair, like K-3-7-A or J-J-6-4. The rank of the pair is compared first, then the higher kicker, then the lower kicker. One-counter bonus.
- Juego: Each player totals the value of their hand, with aces (including 2s) worth one, face cards (including 3s) worth ten, and all other cards worth their face value. Before betting, players declare, in turn, yes or no as to whether they have a hand worth 31 or more points. If at least one does, the hands will be compared for best juego. A hand value of 31 is the best, and entitles its holder to a 3-counter bonus if it wins. Second is a value of 32, then 40, and then in descending order down to 33 (all of which are worth a 2-counter bonus if it wins).
- Punto: Only if nobody holds a juego is the Punto round played. This is simply betting on the highest hand value (30 being best, since 31 and above would be a juego, and 4 being worst). The holder of the best hand scores a one-counter bonus on top of the agreed-upon bet.
In any case, if two hands are exactly identical, whoever comes first in turn order wins.
After all four rounds of betting take place, the hands are revealed and compared. Payouts on rounds where betting actually occurred (or all four players passed) are done in exactly the same order as the betting rounds (Grande, Chica, Pares, Juego/punto).
If a partnership reaches a score of 40, stop immediately—they win the game, even if one of the other rounds would have allowed their opponents to surpass them. If nobody has a score of 40 after all four rounds have been scored, the deal passes to the right and another hand is played.