3 Card Brag Strategy & Tips

3 card brag is one of the oldest card games in existence, with numerous variations played across the globe. Its name derives from the fact that it is a game of chance that involves a high degree of bluffing to increase the possibility of success. Although it is easy to get started with, it is hard to master, which has contributed to its popularity. Below, we take you through some 3 card brag strategies and tips.

Basic Rules

When the game begins, you must place the ante bet. Maximum and minimum ante bets are decided by the players before the game begins. If you are using an online casino, this will be in the information at the start of the game. There are also options for side bets, discussed later in the guide. 

Everyone then gets three cards which they must keep hidden from the rest of the table. Players can even play blind should they wish. Betting begins with the player to the left of the dealer, moving around the table. At this point, players need to decide if they will stay in the game or fold and sacrifice their ante, which goes to the pot. When you decide to keep on playing, you must make a subsequent bet. You cannot bet less than the previous player.

If you have decided to bet, then you get to see the dealer’s cards. The dealer will only qualify to play if they have a queen or higher. If they don’t qualify, then you get your money back and the ante is laid 1-1. This also happens should you both have the same hand: betting continues until only two players are left in the game. 

Running Out Of Money

In 3 card brag, most of a player’s bankroll is kept in their pocket. Should you not have enough money to bet but want to stay in the hand, you can cover the pot by betting on everything you have. Put everything you have in it, then place your cards face down on top. The game will continue with the other players with a new pot. When the game ends, the hand covering the pot gets compared to the winning hand and the old pot is won by the highest ranking hand. 

Know Your Hand Values

The first essential strategy in 3 card brag is to know your hands. These are different from poker, so make sure you don’t confuse them as they do have close similarities. For example, 3 card brag contains a flush but no royal flush. 

  • High Card – An ace is considered the highest of the cards. This is the lowest hand you can have. It has odds of 3:1
  • Pair – Two cards that have the same value or face. If two players have a pair, the highest value would win. Odds of 6:1.
  • Flush – Three cards all made of the same suit. In a tie break, the highest card takes the win. Odds of 20:1.
  • Run – Three cards from any suit that runs in consecutive order. For example, 2,3,4 or J, Q, K. Odds of 31:1.
  • Running Flush – The same as a run but all cards are from the same suit. Odds of 459:1.
  • Prial (Three of a kind) – Three cards all of the same value. Odds of 459:1.

Pair Bonus Side Bet

Some games may let you make a side bet. This is known as the pair bonus. It is optional, so you are not bound to play it. The bonus bet pays out if you have a pair or better in your three-card hand.

Keep in mind this bet does not give you any percentage advantage, so it is not going to increase your odds of winning.  You would only consider this if the ante is low. 

Using the See Option

When two players are left in the game, they have the option to call a see move. In this, cards are shown, though the player requesting to see them must pay twice the previous bet amount. 

The opposing player will then show their three cards. If the person who has asked to see has a better hand, they can show them and win the pot. However, if their cards are equal to their opponents or worse, then they lose. In this case, the person asking to see does not have to show their hand at all. 

3 Card Brag Basic Strategy

A basic 3-card brag strategy is easy to remember and if you have played 3-card poker, remains the same. This involves following the mantra of Q +, 6 +, and 4 +.

If you have higher than a queen, higher than a 6 and higher than a 4 or equal to it, then play. Anything less and you should fold. This gives you more favourable odds, so you then just need luck on your side. 

The dealer also needs to qualify by having a queen or higher in their hand if they are going to play. You would not be able to win with anything less. The added 6 and 4 give you the optimal chance of beating the dealer. 

Playing Blind

In brag, you have the option to play the game blind and bet without looking at your cards. The advantage of this is that all your bets are worth double. If you decide to look at your cards later, then you revert to normal betting amounts. Thus, you can bet using smaller amounts, though with an increased risk. 

Should all other players on the table fold when you are playing blind, you do not win the pot. Instead, it carries forward and you can retain your hand. There are a few other rules also attached to blind playing.

  • When the table reduces to two players, one playing blind and one open, the open player cannot request to see the cards. The brag adage states that you “cannot see a blind person”. 
  • The blind player does retain this option and can still ask to see. To do so they must put in twice the blind stake. The other player’s cards are shown first with the blind person showing theirs second should they wish. 
  • If both players are playing blind one can put in twice the blind stake to have hands compared. Cards will be turned over one at a time. If hands are equal hands, the player who requested to compare will lose the pot. 

Managing Bankroll

Managing your bankroll is a key element of your 3 card brag strategy. Good money management lets you play longer and enjoy your game. Never buy in with more than 3% – 5% of your bankroll. When you have managed to make up 10% of your overall bankroll, it is always a good time to leave the game and quit while you are ahead.  

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Wayne “D22-soso” Chiang is a StarCraft World Champion, the “Live at the Bike” Poker Stream Producer and one of the top Global Poker Tournament winners.

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