CasinoCityTimes.com

Gurus
News
Newsletter
Author Home Author Archives Author Books Send to a Friend Search Articles Subscribe
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Newsletter Signup
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Articles in this Series
Best of Elliot Frome

Gaming Guru

author's picture
 

Four Card Poker – Part One

7 April 2004

I first found out about Four Card Poker by Shuffle Master a few months ago. I was actually reading their quarterly report and it made mention of their latest game. Being the 'new kid on the block', I was eager to find out about this new game and be the first or at least amongst the first analysts to take a close look at it.

As I was reading that quarterly report, I envisioned a game a lot like Three Card Poker but with an 'extra' card. While there are similarities between the two, it's probably more accurate to say they are more like cousins than siblings. Four Card Poker (FCP) is structured a lot like Three Card Poker (TCP). There are two distinct bets that the player can choose from. The first is based solely on the Player's cards, while the second is a head to head competition between the Player and the Dealer.

The first game is called Aces Up, and it's a lot like Pair Plus. The Player is dealt four cards. If you have a Pair of Aces or better, you win. The paytable that I've been told is in use in Las Vegas, where it is currently 'on trial' at the Sahara is:

Aces Up Paytable
Four of a Kind
50
Straight Flush
40
Three of a Kind
8
Flush
6
Straight
4
Two Pairs
2
Pair of Aces
1

Playing Aces Up, you can expect to have a winner about 18.56% of the time. Ironically, the most common winning hand will be Two Pair, followed by Flushes, Straights, Pair of Aces, Three of a Kinds, Straight Flushes and Four of a Kinds. This paytable will provide a payback of about 95.76%, which can leave a little to be desired. The trend in the casinos seems to be to leave the 'vig' pretty high on games that require absolutely NO strategy, as the casino cannot count on beginner players or mistakes to enhance their profits.

The second portion of Four Card Poker is called Ante/Play just like in Three Card Poker. In this portion of the game, the Player initially places an 'Ante' bet. He is then dealt his four cards and can look at them before deciding if he wants to 'Play' or 'Fold'. Folding means surrendering his Ante bet and the game is over. Playing means putting up an additional bet and going head to head against the dealer's hand.

It is here that the differences between Three Card Poker and Four Card Poker become apparent. First of all, when Playing, the player can place an additional bet of ONE to THREE times the initial Ante Bet. Secondly, the Dealer does not need to 'Qualify' in order for the player to be paid on his 'Play' bet. These two features allow you sock it to the house when dealt a solid hand. Of course, something's got to be given back. So, the advantage the casino gets is that the Dealer is dealt FIVE cards to make his FOUR card hand. The player gets one additional advantage. One of the Dealer's cards is dealt 'Up' so that the Player sees one of the Dealer's cards before deciding to Play or Fold. As we will discover later on, this is only a small advantage when combined with the rest of the rules.

Additionally, like Three Card Poker, there are bonus payouts for the top three hands for the Player. These are 25, 20 and 2 for Four of a Kinds, Straight Flushes and Three of a Kinds, respectively. These Bonus payouts account for just over 3% of the payback in Ante/Play.

Given the complexity of the game, Shuffle Master has done the players (and maybe the analysts) a favor. They provide a suggested strategy on the information card at the table. I was a little suspect when I first saw this. How many gaming companies give you the strategy when they release new games? Just how accurate would this strategy really be?

Well, after spending quite a few weeks analyzing Four Card Poker, I can tell you that I must offer a big 'KUDOS' to Shuffle Master. While their strategy is not 'optimal' or 'perfect' (they don't claim that it is), it is pretty darn close. For this week, I'm going to review their strategy. Given its ease, I'm calling this the 'Basic' or 'Easy' Strategy. In future weeks, I'll review a more complex strategy that can eek out a bit more payback for the player.

According to their information sheet, there are essentially 3 pieces of strategy:

  1. Bet 3X when you have a Pair of Tens or Better
  2. Bet 1X when you have a Pair of 3's thru a Pair of 9's
  3. Fold if a Pair of 2's or less

Using this strategy will return you about 98.41% (including bonus payout), which is very respectable for a table game. The number of hands per hour will vary depending on the dealer and the number of players at the table, but on the whole, I would guess that you can expect to play 35 hands per hour.

The 'Basic' Strategy will call for the Player to Fold about 47.4% of the time, Play at 1X about 21.7% of the time and Play at 3X the remaining 30.95% of the time. You'll win your 1X plays about 3 out of 8 times, while winning your 3X plays 7 out of 10 times.

I'd like to mention one last point about the strategy. It NEVER calls for betting 2x your original bet. You're either Folding, defending your position (betting 1x) or going All-In (betting 3x). This will be true for ANY strategy developed for Four Card Poker.

In the next few weeks, I'll go over a more complex strategy, which I'm currently working on that can raise the payback by about another .1%. This strategy will take into account the Dealer's Up-Card and will require a bit more than 3 pieces of strategy to remember. I'll also review more of the concepts behind developing a strategy for a game like Four Card Poker, as well as more 'what to expect' type information.

Four Card Poker started in California, is already playing in Las Vegas and Detroit, and from what I've heard should be in Atlantic City shortly. It looks like Three Card Poker's cousin is coming to town and planning on staying for a while.

Elliot Frome

Elliot Frome is a 2nd generation gaming author and analyst. His father, Lenny Frome was considered one of the premier authors of Video Poker books. Titles include, Expert Video Poker for Las Vegas and Winning Strategies for Video Poker, which includes the strategy tables for 61 of the country’s most popular versions of Video Poker. Check out Compu-Flyers website at www.vpheaven.com, or drop Elliot an e-mail at compuflyers@prodigy.net.

Elliot Frome Websites:

www.vpheaven.com

Books by Elliot Frome:

> More Books By Elliot Frome

Elliot Frome
Elliot Frome is a 2nd generation gaming author and analyst. His father, Lenny Frome was considered one of the premier authors of Video Poker books. Titles include, Expert Video Poker for Las Vegas and Winning Strategies for Video Poker, which includes the strategy tables for 61 of the country’s most popular versions of Video Poker. Check out Compu-Flyers website at www.vpheaven.com, or drop Elliot an e-mail at compuflyers@prodigy.net.

Elliot Frome Websites:

www.vpheaven.com

Books by Elliot Frome:

> More Books By Elliot Frome