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Jan

23

2018

Three Card Poker: Pair Plus vs. Ante-Play

I’ve long used Three Card Poker as a change of pace game. I don’t play it as often as I play blackjack or video poker, but it’s easy and I enjoy relaxing over a session now and then.

When I play, I stick to the ante-play option, where you match up your hand against the dealer. Most of the other players bet both on ante-play and on the Pair Plus option, where any pair or better wins.

A reader recently asked about the optimum way to split your bet between the two options. “Should I bet equal amounts on them?” he asked. “Should I divide my bets so my Pair Plus is twice my ante? The latter is kind of my working theory, since whenever I bet after seeing my cards, that would bring my ante-play combination up to the same amount as the Pair Plus.”

I lean toward focusing on ante-play because of the differences in house edges. On ante-play, the edge is 3.37 percent of your ante or 2.01 percent of total action once the play bet is taken into account.

On Pair Plus, the most common pay table available today has a house edge of 7.28 percent.

That assumes Pair Plus pays 40-1 on a straight flush, 30-1 on three of a kind, 6-1 on a straight, 3-1 on a flush and 1-1 on a pair.

The original pay table differed in one important respect. Flushes paid 4-1 instead of 3-1. With that difference, the house edge drops to 2.32 percent.

When that pay table was common, if I found myself at a $5 minimum table, I’d bet $5 on Pair Plus and ante $5 on ante-play. That gave me a shot at the bigger payoffs in Pair Plus while putting the larger total wager, including the play bet, on the portion with the 2.01 percent edge on total action.

As with all systems, sometimes it worked, more often it didn’t, but the occasional big payoff was more than welcome.

But with the current pay table, I shy away from Pair Plus and put all my Three Card Poker action on ante-play.

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