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Last Updated: March 25, 2016

4 Card Split

Introduction





The first time I saw 4 Card Split was at the 2014 Raving Table Games show. The second time was a year later at the 2015 Cutting Edge Table Games show, though there were some rule changes. Finally, I had the pleasure to see it in a real casino at the Suncoast in Las Vegas in March 2016.

The game is hard to summarize briefly. If forced to try, it is like a cross between pai gow poker and Three Card Poker. Add to that an option to raise on both player hands and a mandatory side bet and you've got quite a creative new game idea. The game is a bit hard to comprehend at first, but once you get the hang of it I think you will find it interesting, challenging, and entertaining.

Rules



Here are the rules to 4 Card Split. They are a bit hard to explain, so pay attention.

  1. A single 52-card deck is used. Hands are ranked as in Three Card Poker.
  2. The player starts by making two equal Ante bets and a 4 Card Blind bet. The 4 Card Blind bet must be equal or greater to a single Ante bet.
  3. The player and dealer shall each receive four cards. One dealer card shall be exposed and the other three face down.
  4. The dealer shall immediately adjudicate the 4-Card Blind bet according to the player's four cards and the pay table below.
  5. The player shall then split his cards onto two hands — either two cards to each hand or three to one and one to the other.
  6. If the player sets a three-card hand of rank flush or higher, then the player should turn it face up to declare it as an "Instant Winner." Only hands of a flush or higher count as Instant Winners and they pay according to the Ante pay table below. After paying them, the dealer shall collect Instant Winner hands.
  7. Otherwise, for all hands that are not Instant Winners, the player must either make a Play bet, equal to the Ante bet, or fold. Please note the player may take different actions on each hand.
  8. The dealer shall then add any card necessary to each hand to bring the number of cards to three.
  9. The dealer shall then turn over his three face down cards. He shall then form his best three-card hand using the one exposed card and two of the three face down cards.
  10. The dealer must have a king high or better to qualify. If the dealer does not qualify then all Play bets shall push and Ante bets pay according to the Ante pay table below.
  11. Otherwise, the player hand and dealer hand are compared. If the dealer wins, Ante and Play bets lose. In the unlikely event of a tie, they shall both push. If the player has the higher hand, then the Ante bet shall pay according to the pay table below and the Play bet shall pay 1 to 1.

The following pay table is for winning Ante bets. All hands are based on three cards. All wins are on a "to one" basis.

Ante Pay Table

Hand Pays
Royal flush 30
Straight flush 12
Three of a kind 8
Straight 3
Flush 2
All other* 1

*: Hands less than a flush do not count as Instant Winners.

The following pay table is for the 4 Card Blind bet. All hands are based on four cards. All wins are on a "to one" basis.

4 Card Blind Pay Table

Hand Pays
Royal flush 500
Four of a kind 150
Straight flush 50
Three of a kind 8
Flush 7
Straight 5
Two pair 4
Tens or better 2

Strategy



First, you want to bet as little as possible on the 4 Card Split bet. So, bet the same on that as any one Ante bet. Don't let the dealer tempt you into putting more on it.

Next, I'm afraid that you're on your own when it comes to strategy on how to split your four cards. Nobody, that I know of, has analyzed a strategy for doing so yet.

Finally, here is a strategy for the raise/fold decision on each individual hand. It is based on a combination of the rack card strategy and a clarification on how to play three-card hands from the game owner.

With Three Cards



A flush or higher is an automatic winner and requires no decision. With any other three-card hand, follow the one-card strategy below.

With Two Cards



Raise with any of the following, otherwise fold.

  • Any pair
  • Flush draw
  • Open-ended straight draw
  • Inside straight draw where high card beats dealer's up card.
  • Against dealer ace, play A-10 or higher.
  • Against dealer king, play K-10 or higher.
  • Against dealer queen, play J-10 or higher.
  • Against dealer jack, play A-10 or higher.


With One Card



Raise with a jack or higher that beats the dealer's up card, otherwise fold.

Analysis

The following analysis is by Steven How of Discount Gambling fame. The first table shows the possible outcomes of the Ante and Play bets. The lower right cell shows that each Ante bet can expect to win 0.168371 units.

Ante and Play bet Analysis

Event Pays Combinations Probability Return
Win w/ royal flush vs qualified dealer 31 185,226,598,764 0.000232 0.007202
Win w/ royal flush vs unqualified dealer 30 64,301,459,364 0.000081 0.002419
Natural royal flush 30 288,625,962,240 0.000362 0.010860
Win w/ straight flush vs qualified dealer 13 1,631,510,093,608 0.002046 0.026601
Win w/ straight flush vs unqualified dealer 12 471,060,646,608 0.000591 0.007090
Natural straight flush 12 3,110,092,001,280 0.003901 0.046808
Win w/ three of a kind vs qualified dealer 9 2,378,086,173,324 0.002983 0.026843
Win w/ three of a kind vs unqualified dealer 8 621,084,552,312 0.000779 0.006232
Natural three of a kind 8 3,694,706,832,960 0.004634 0.037071
Win w/ straight vs qualified dealer 4 19,618,474,549,444 0.024605 0.098421
Win w/ straight vs unqualified dealer 3 6,286,890,215,364 0.007885 0.023655
Win w/flush vs qualified dealer 3 29,302,201,985,752 0.036750 0.110251
Natural straight 3 42,761,188,000,080 0.053631 0.160892
Win w/flush vs unqualified dealer 2 10,867,801,837,236 0.013630 0.027261
Win w/ pair vs qualified dealer 2 69,640,120,550,592 0.087342 0.174683
Win w/ high card vs qualified dealer 2 21,420,328,683,556 0.026865 0.053730
Natural flush 2 60,949,777,656,240 0.076442 0.152885
Win w/ pair vs unqualified dealer 1 37,604,231,135,004 0.047163 0.047163
Win w/ high card vs unqualified dealer 1 57,277,717,224,604 0.071837 0.071837
Tie vs qualified dealer 0 426,853,399,488 0.000535 0.000000
Tie vs unqualified dealer 0 155,366,786,316 0.000195 0.000000
Lose w/ high card vs unqualified dealer -1 22,935,720,620,456 0.028766 -0.028766
Fold -1 97,853,404,833,360 0.122726 -0.122726
Lose w/ straight flush vs qualified dealer -2 7,628,961,536 0.000010 -0.000019
Lose w/ three of a kind vs qualified dealer -2 31,544,231,964 0.000040 -0.000079
Lose w/ straight vs qualified dealer -2 1,381,227,192,608 0.001732 -0.003465
Lose w/flush vs qualified dealer -2 7,518,023,881,736 0.009429 -0.018858
Lose w/ pair vs qualified dealer -2 58,619,138,576,508 0.073519 -0.147039
Lose w/ high card vs qualified dealer -2 240,226,886,045,696 0.301289 -0.602579
Total 797,329,220,688,000 1.000000 0.168371

The next table shows the analysis of the 4 Card Blind bet. The lower right cell shows an expected loss of 0.347268 units.

4 Card Blind bet Analysis

Hand Pays Combinations Probability Return
Royal Flush 500 4 0.000015 0.007388
Four-of-a-Kind 150 13 0.000048 0.007203
Straight Flush 50 40 0.000148 0.007388
Three-of-a-Kind 8 2,496 0.009220 0.073758
Flush 7 2,816 0.010402 0.072812
Straight 5 2,772 0.010239 0.051196
Two Pairs 4 2,808 0.010372 0.041489
Tens or better 2 31,680 0.117019 0.234038
All other -1 228,096 0.842538 -0.842538
Total 270,725 1.000000 -0.347268

Between the two required Ante bets and an equal 4 Card Split bet, the expected win is 2×0.168371 -0.347268 = -0.010525. The house edge is defined as the ratio of the expected player loss to the initial required wager, which would be 0.010525/3 = 0.003508, or 0.35%.

The player will make a Play bet 73.8304% of the time for each Ante bet. Thus, the average final bet to round will be 3 + 2×0.738304 = 4.476608. This would make the Element of Risk, defined as the ratio of the expected loss to average final wager 0.010525/4.476608 = 0.002351, or 0.24%.

Overall, this is one of the best bets you're likely to find in the casino — as long as you follow optimal player strategy.

Acknowledgment



I would like to thank:

  • Wayne Hong of eTable Games for sharing his math report with me.

Videos



Here is my interview of my favorite dealer in Vegas, Angela Wyman, from the 2014 Raving Table Game show on how to play 4 Card Split. Please note the rules were a little different at the time.



Here is my update from the 2015 Cutting Edge Table Game show on some rule changes since the 2014 show.








Written by: Michael Shackleford

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