three card poking

February 13, 2008 ·



ah the three card poker. the current mainstay of my time in a casino. it's quite a simple game for those that don't know it (basic game play here and here) and pretty fun to play. it's not as serious as poker tables have become and not quite the work that blackjack has evolved to.

let me explain a bit of the gameplay so i can relate my experience at the table. there are three ways to play. the first is pairs plus where you only get paid when you hit a pair or higher hand (see table below). the second is ante & play where you ante-up before seeing the cards and pay an equivalent amount after seeing your cards to continue playing them. the third way is to play both obviously.

Pair Plus Payout

HandPayoutLikelihood
Straight Flush40-10.22%
3 of a kind25-10.24%
Straight6-13.26%
Flush4-14.96%
Pair1-116.94%












there's no doubt that the money is to be had by playing pairs plus. i can't debate that. there could be some big payouts in there. but it is also the place where you can lose the most money. if you're just playing the ante & play route, then your payout is 1-1 on both the ante and play bets if you beat the dealer and 1-1 on just the ante bet if the dealer doesn't play. there's no big money in there. not immediately anyway.

when i sat down at the table, my tactic was to just do the ante & play route. take the long road, or be the tortoise as it were. the minute i sat down and only put a bet on the ante and not pairs plus everyone at the table and the dealer questioned it out loud to me. this happened each of the 5 times i sat down to play. it's funny that they're all trained to do this because it's the biggest cash grab.

the dealer knows the casino makes tons of money on pairs plus losses so is more or less encouraging me to do it. and the other players are blinded by the potential for that one big payout that's bound to happen and would kick themselves if they weren't playing for it and it did. just look at the probabilities of you actually hitting a pairs plus hand. it's crazy to continue to throw money at the pairs plus for that faint chance of chasing a high hand. does it happen? of course it does, randomness always comes around to hit the most improbable. but what is the cost to get there? i think it would be interesting to track a players pairs plus losses compared to the wins to illustrate this, but i'm almost certain of which side it favors.

so each time i was asked, i responded with "i have a system" and quietly went about my business. while my stack shrunk and grew like the rest of the players (mostly the latter when it's all said and done because it is a casino after all), it went down in half the time. i happily forewent playing the pairs plus (except on a few hands where i felt lucky and sometimes it paid out) thus eliminating a whole bet while all the other players made twice as many bets each hand. the payouts they did get only served to make the time the chips were theirs a little less than half the time i had my chips.

i guess though there are a couple schools of thought on how to approach gambling:
1) as entertainment
2) as a dream (the big payout)
3) to make money
4) as a rite
5) as an addiction

my own personal approach is as entertainment. the way i see it, i want to be there for a while, soak up the experience, talk to people, ride the highs and lows and generally have a good time. if i lose, so what. i compare it to a night out on the town where i could easily spend just as much for little more in return. i'm also a bit of a #3 as i'm competitive and want to win. anyone walking tot he table with a 'system' wants to, or even expects to come away on top.

but you see all of the first 4 and hope not to see a fiver. i saw people who continued to throw money at the table hoping for that one hand which would (in their mind anyway) erase all the money they've thrown at it before. then there were those #4's who just put money down hand after hand, and big sums each bet. it wasn't a far cry to see $75 down on pairs plus and another $75 down on the ante every hand. these people were just betting for the sake of betting for when they won, there was no emotion or satisfaction. they kept getting wiped out and forked over more notes for chips.

so the question is, did i win? i did win, then came back to lose. my first trip i walked in with $100 and left with $300 in about 30 minutes of work. not a bad take. should have stopped there. but that's what gambling is good at, bringing you back. and so i did. the next visit i lost the $100 i took in. still up $100 overall. next visit i walked out $50 richer. up $150 overall. next visit i blew the $150 in winnings accumulated to that point. so now i was even. then in the final visit i lost $100, thus finishing me off in the red.

i expected to lose money going in. it's acceptable. i'm there for the experience. it was a good ratio of experience for money. why didn't i stop after my first visit? who would? you have free money at that point to gamble with. the allure of more riches from money you earned gambling that if you lose doesn't mean you actually lost anything you had coming in. yes, knowing when to stop is important, but it's your expectations and knowing when to stop to match those.

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