Why Do You Sometimes Win on the Ante and Not the Bet in Poker?

 Why Do You Sometimes Win on the Ante and Not the Bet in Poker?

Many modern table games include two stage betting, with an ante and a bet. Players with strong hands then must wait to see if the dealer has a qualifying hand. If the dealer’s hand isn’t good enough, you win only on the ante and the bet is returned to you.

In Caribbean Stud Poker, the qualifying hand is Ace-King or better. In Three Card Poker, currently the most popular poker-based game in table pits, it takes a Queen or better for the dealer to qualify.

It can be frustrating for players with good hands to find they’re winning less than they’d hoped. That frustration led one player to email me to ask, “Why is it that in games like Three Card Poker, the dealer has to have a qualifying hand for all your bets to win? I mean, can’t they just fix the game to pay all winners?”

The “qualifying hand” provision, which began with Caribbean Stud in the 1990s, is there to give the house an edge.

Let’s look at Three Card Poker in detail. You start with an ante and then may make an equal bet if you like your cards.

 If the dealer has a qualifying hand of Queen or better and you have the higher-ranking hand, you win even money on both the ante and bet. If the dealer does not qualify, then you win even money only on the ante and you just keep your bet.

There also are ante bonus payoffs if you have a straight or better.

What if there was no qualifying hand and both the ante and bet were paid at even money any time you bet the dealer?

There is nothing in the way the cards are dealt that would make the dealer’s hands better than yours. So the house takes an edge by paying some of your winners at less than the full total of your wagers.

No table game stays on the floor without a house edge. Each game has to earn its keep. The qualifying hand provision is how the house get its edge on Caribbean Stud and Three Card Poker.

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