September 6, 2003

Sorry it has been so long since my last newsletter.  It has just been crazy here as I work on various consulting jobs and, for the first time, a couple of my own games I hope to introduce to the casinos. I hope to get a patent pending on my two games by the Global Gaming Expo on September 16. I'll provide the details in a future newsletter.

For now, to make up for my lack of newsletters lately I am going to give you some of the best advice you'll ever get from me. This has been a topic I have been thinking of addressing for some time. It has been covered before in 'Mastering Three Card Poker' by Stanley Ko and 'Beyond Counting' by James Grosjean. I have personally verified everything I am about to say.

The game is Three Card Poker. If you are not familiar with the rules please visit my website. This newsletter shall assume you are already familiar with the rules. 

The vulnerability in this game is that sometimes the dealer flashes his bottom card as he takes the cards from the shuffler. Knowing just one of the dealer's cards, the player has an advantage of 3.48% based on the "full pay" bonuses of 1, 4, and 5. 

This is the proper strategy given the dealer's flash card:

Strategy for Three Card Poker when you can see the dealer's bottom card

Dealer's Bottom Card Strategy
Raise on ace/9/2 or better
Raise on king/9/2 or better
Raise on queen/9/2 or better
Jack or less:
Always raise

Often it will happen you can just tell the dealer has a face (paint) card, but you're not sure which one. In this case you should raise on queen/jack/5 or better. The player advantage if you can only tell ace/paint/non-paint is 2.41%. 

Personally I have played flashing dealers at least a dozen times. Some dealers flash sporadically, in which case I usually walk away. I like to be able to see something at least 80% of the time or so. In general the more run-down the casino the more likely you are to find flashing dealers. Of course there are exceptions. The best flasher I ever saw was at the Bellagio, and unfortunately I had very little money on me at the time. 

Obviously seeing a dealer card will not help the Pairplus bet so you should not make it. Be warned that you will be the only player not making this bet. Other players will encourage you to make it, make sarcastic remarks about your stupidity for not making it, or leave the table in disgust. When you do get a three of a kind or a straight flush you will get laughed at and lectured about what a fool you are. This has happened to me four times now. It will be hard to bite your tongue but do not profess any knowledge about what you are doing. Using information you are not supposed to have in the casino is arguably illegal so just act like regular player who doesn't like the Pairplus bet.

It also should be emphasized that the player edge figures quoted are relative to the initial ante bet only. Much of the time you will be raising so the ratio of expected gain to total amount bet is only about 55% of the player edge. Measured against the ante bet only this is also a very volatile game. Consider the largest bet you are comfortable with, then cut it in half and bet that on the ante. Most of the time you will be doubling your ante bet.  In most games where you are likely to find a flashing dealer the maximum bet on the ante is $50. 

Personally this is a favorite of mine in my bag of advantage plays. Most casinos and dealers are wise to this tactic but I would estimate if you picked a random Three Card Poker table the probability the dealer will flash is about 3%. If you do this a lot you will learn which casinos have more flashing dealers. Please don't ask me of the good Vegas casinos for this, I have to keep something for myself.

Thanks for reading. Until next time, set your expectations high.