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Last Updated: February 8, 2017

Break Poker

Introduction

Break Poker is a rummy-inspired card game with some similarities to Pai Gow Poker. In the game, players and the dealer each receive seven cards. Of those seven cards, five cards must be selected and separated into a two-card low hand and a three-card high hand. As in Pai Gow Poker, the low hand may not outrank the high hand. The object of the game is to win by having a better combination of hands than the dealer.

Currently, the game can be found at The Orleans in Las Vegas.

Rules

  1. The game is played using one standard 52-card deck plus one joker. The joker is a semi-wild card that can be used as an ace or to complete a three of a kind or a straight.

  2. Three-card hands are ranked as follows is descending order:

    • Three of a Kind. A-A-A is the highest three of a kind and 2-2-2 is the lowest.
    • Straight. Q-K-A is the highest straight and A-2-3 is the lowest.
    • Pair. A-A-K is the highest pair and 2-2-3 is the lowest.
    • High Card Hand. A-K-J is the highest such hand, 5-3-2 is the lowest.
  3. Two-card hands are ranked as follows is descending order:

    • Pair. A-A is the highest pair and 2-2 is the lowest.
    • High Card Hand. A-K is the highest such hand, 3-2 is the lowest.
  4. The game uses standard poker rules when comparing individual hands. For example, A-A-2 beats K-K-Q and 3-A beats K-Q.

  5. A Lucky Break is a hand consisting of a pair and a three of a kind or a pair and a straight. A Lucky Break beats a non-Lucky Break hand, regardless of the value of the individual two-card and three-card hands.

  6. To begin, the player makes a Main Bet. There are also two optional side bets.

  7. Each player receives seven cards face down. The dealer receives seven cards face down.

  8. Each player examines his cards and selects two cards to play as his low hand, three cards to play as his high hand, and discards the remaining two cards.

  9. The dealer reveals his hole cards.

  10. The dealer must qualify with at least a K-3-2 in the high hand. If the dealer does not qualify, all Main Bets push1. If the dealer has a qualifying hand, he will set it according to the house way (see below), and compare his hand to each player's hand.

    • If the dealer has a Lucky Break and the player does not, the player loses his Main Bet.
    • If the player has a Lucky Break and the dealer does not, the player wins and is paid even money on his Main Bet.
    • Otherwise, if the player's two-card hand beats the dealer's two-card hand and his three-card hand beats the dealer's three-card hand, the player wins and is paid even money on his Main Bet.
    • Otherwise, if the dealer's two-card hand beats or copies the player's two-card hand and the dealer's three-card hand beats or copies the player's three-card hand, the dealer wins and the player loses his Main Bet.
    • Otherwise, the player's Main Bet is a push.

Notes

  1. The concept of eliminating the usual 5% commission with a dealer qualifying rule is claimed by the inventors of both Break Poker and EZ Pai Gow Poker. Without taking a stand on which claim has more legal merit, let it be known it is a patent-protected idea, lest other game inventors illegally steal it.

House Way

The dealer must set his hand according to the following House Way:

  1. If the dealer can make a hand of Pair & Trips, he does so, putting the highest possible pair for the two-card hand.
  2. Otherwise, if the dealer can make a hand of Pair & Straight, he does so, putting the highest possible pair for the two-card hand.
  3. Otherwise, if the dealer can make a hand of No Pair & Trips, he does so, putting the highest possible two cards for the two-card hand.
  4. Otherwise, if the dealer can make a hand of No Pair & Straight, he does so, putting the highest possible two cards for the two-card hand.
  5. Otherwise, if the dealer can make a hand of Pair & Pair, he does so, putting the second highest pair for the two-card hand.
  6. Otherwise, if the dealer can make a hand of No Pair & Pair, he does so, putting the highest possible two cards for the two-card hand.
  7. Otherwise, the dealer puts the second and third highest cards for the two-card hand.

Main Bet Analysis

Optimal Strategy

The following table shows the probability and return from the various possible outcomes, assuming optimal strategy. The lower right cell shows the house edge of 2.09%.

Main Bet Analysis — Optimal Strategy — Detailed

Event Pays Probability Return
Player has a Lucky Break, dealer qualifies w/o Lucky Break 1 0.216450 0.216450
Player wins both hands 1 0.111850 0.111850
Dealer doesn't qualify 0 0.013385 0.000000
Player wins two-card hand, copies three-card hand 0 0.004644 0.000000
Player wins two-card hand, loses three-card hand 0 0.154003 0.000000
Player copies two-card hand, wins three-card hand 0 0.006911 0.000000
Player loses two-card hand, wins three-card hand 0 0.143590 0.000000
Dealer has a Lucky Break, player does not -1 0.220735 -0.220735
Player copies both hands -1 0.000380 -0.000380
Player copies two-card hand, loses three-card hand -1 0.007393 -0.007393
Player loses two-card hand, copies three-card hand -1 0.004688 -0.004688
Player loses both hands -1 0.115971 -0.115971
Total 1.000000 -0.020900

Next, here is a summarized version of the table above.

Main Bet Analysis — Optimal Strategy — — Summarized

Event Pays Probability Return
Win 1 0.328300 0.328300
Push 0 0.322533 0.000000
Loss -1 0.349167 -0.349167
Total 1.000000 -0.020868

House Way Strategy

The following table shows the probability and return from the various possible outcomes, assuming the player follows the house way. The lower right cell shows the house edge of 2.48%.

Main Bet Analysis — House Way Strategy — Detailed

Event Pays Probability Return
Player has a Lucky Break, dealer qualifies w/o Lucky Break 1 0.216354 0.216354
Player wins top, wins bottom 1 0.110671 0.110671
Dealer not qualified 0 0.013408 0.000000
Player wins top, copies bottom 0 0.004763 0.000000
Player wins top, loses bottom 0 0.148323 0.000000
Player copies top, wins bottom 0 0.007390 0.000000
Player loses top, wins bottom 0 0.147264 0.000000
Player not Lucky Break, Dealer Lucky Break -1 0.220729 -0.220729
Player copies top, copies bottom -1 0.000399 -0.000399
Player copies top, loses bottom -1 0.007559 -0.007559
Player loses top, copies bottom -1 0.004752 -0.004752
Player loses top, loses bottom -1 0.118389 -0.118389
Totals 1.000000 -0.024802

Next, here is a summarized version of the table above.

Main Bet Analysis — House Way Strategy — Summarized

Event Pays Probability Return
Win 1 0.327025 0.327025
Push 0 0.321148 0.000000
Loss -1 0.351827 -0.351827
Total 1.000000 -0.024802

Dealer Break Bonus

The Dealer Break Bonus is an optional side bet that pays 1 to 1 if the dealer has a Lucky Break and 4 to 1 if the player also has a Lucky Break.

The following table shows the analysis results. The lower right cell shows a house edge of 5.735%.

Dealer Break Bonus Analysis

Event Pays Probability Return
Dealer BREAK vs. Player BREAK 4 0.100212 0.400848
Dealer BREAK vs. Player non-BREAK 1 0.220795 0.220795
Dealer no BREAK -1 0.678993 -0.678993
Total 1.000000 -0.057350

Break Bonus

The Break Bonus is an optional side bet that pays based on the player's hand. The following table shows the pay table, the probability of each outcome, and the analysis results. The lower right cell shows a house edge of 7.238%.

Break Bonus Analysis

Event Pays Probability Return
Five Aces 200 0.000007 0.001464
Five of a Kind, 2's to K's 100 0.000088 0.008781
Pair with Trips 6 0.041408 0.248448
Pair with AKQ 3 0.034206 0.102618
Pair with Straight, 32A to KQJ 1 0.245300 0.245300
No Lucky Break -1 0.678991 -0.678991
Total 1.000000 -0.072379

Acknowledgements

  • eTable Games for supplying the math report, by Charles Mousseau, and photo of the game.
  • My assistant, Cindy Liu, for help with the write-up.

Written by: Michael Shackleford

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