Four Card Poker
Table and card game players searching for a new thrill, Four Card Poker is one casino game you should try. An original take on the regular game of poker, you make your winning hand with four cards. You will find a detailed rundown of the 4 Card Poker rules and setup, including the available wagers, the payouts, optional side bets, and player actions. Check out our guide to locating the game in your nearest brick and mortar casino, followed by an introduction to the proper strategies used by advanced players.
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4 Card Poker Rules
Four Card Poker is played using the traditional table game setup, so you’ll be sitting alongside up to four other players around a semicircular table, with the dealer running things from the opposite side. It is very similar to 3 Card Poker, with the addition of one extra card to make a winning hand.
Every player will see a betting area lined out on the felt in front of their seat, and fittingly, the 4 Card Poker table contains four betting circles per player. Two of these circles are used for the game’s base bets, while the other two are devoted to a pair of optional side bets.
The objective of Four Card Poker is to form the best four card poker hand out of the five cards you’re dealt. The game utilizes an adjusted form of the traditional poker hand hierarchy, as you’ll only be using four cards in your hand rather than five.
Four Card Poker Hand Rankings
For those who need a refresher course in poker hand rankings, check out how they stack up in 4 Card Poker:
Four Card Poker Hands & Descriptions
- Four of a Kind: Four of same card (Q Q Q Q).
- Straight Flush: Five consecutive cards (9 8 7 6) in the same suit.
- Three of a Kind: Three of same card (Q Q Q 2).
- Flush: Four cards in the same suit (2h 6h 9h Kh).
- Straight: Four consecutive cards (6 5 4 3).
- Two Pair: Two pairs of the same card (Q Q A A).
- One Pair: One pair of the same card (K K 2 3).
- High Card: Highest of four unmatched, non-straight & non-flush cards (A 7 3 2).
As you can see, the top hand in traditional poker – the royal flush – has been removed from the rankings. Thus, having only four cards to work with, the best possible hand in 4 Card Poker is four of a kind, followed by a four card straight flush, then three of a kind, and so on down the list.
Along with this base game, Four Card Poker has built in another way for players to win. On occasions when you happen to hold three of a kind or better, the dealer will award you a Bonus payout – even when your hand fails to beat the dealer’s hand.
This Bonus payout is awarded based on the value of Ante bet, according to one of the two pay tables found below:
|HAND||TABLE 1||TABLE 2|
|Four of a Kind||25 to 1||30 to 1|
|Straight Flush||20 to 1||15 to 1|
|Three of a Kind||2 to 1||2 to 1|
The 25 20 2 pay table (Table 1) is by far the most commonly encountered version, but you may run into a game using Table 2 from time to time.
Aces Up Side Bet
Finally, players who wagered on the optional Aces Up side bet are eligible for an additional payout based on the strength of their final 4 Card Poker hand. Again, even if your hand has lost versus the dealer, strong holdings are still eligible for the Aces Up payout.
The most commonly used pay table for the Aces Up side bet payouts can be reviewed below:
|Four of a Kind||50 to 1|
|Straight Flush||40 to 1|
|Three of a Kind||8 to 1|
|Flush||5 to 1|
|Straight||4 to 1|
|Two Pair||3 to 1|
|One Pair of Aces||1 to 1|
Playing Four Card Poker
Place the Ante Bet
The game will begin when all players seated have placed the mandatory Ante bet. At this time, you may also choose to place an optional wager known as the Aces Up side bet.
As an example, we’ll use a running hypothetical hand to illustrate how the game works, so let’s assume we’ve put up a $5 chip for the Ante bet, and another $5 chip on the Aces Up side bet.
Cards are Dealt
Once all players have placed their wagers, the dealer will then distribute five cards face down to each player, along with six cards to themselves. One of the dealer’s cards will be turned face up, while the other five will be dealt face down.
For the sake of our running example hand, we’ve been dealt the As Jd Js 9h 2c, giving us one pair of jacks to work with.
Fold or Raise
At this point, players are faced with the game’s first decision point: Fold or Raise.
- FOLD: you simply surrender the hand immediately and forfeit all of your pending bets to the house.
- RAISE: you have another choice to make: how much you’d like to raise. In Four Card Poker, you can choose between raising an amount equal to your Ante bet (Raise to 1X), or an amount equal to three times your Ante bet (Raise to 3X).
Returning to the running example hand, with a pair of jacks in the hole, we’ll go ahead and put in the maximum Raise to 3X. This means we’ll need to put up an additional $15, or three times our initial Ante bet of $5.
Pick the Best Four-Card Hand
After making the Raise bet, you’ll then turn over your five cards and select the four cards which represent your strongest 4 Card Poker hand.
In the case of our running example hand, that would be the As Jd Js 9h for one pair of jacks.
Dealer Shows His Hand
Once all players have gone through this decision process, either folding or raising, the dealer will then reveal their own six card holding. Again, only the four cards which form the strongest possible hand are used.
For the running example hand, our dealer has turned over the 10h 10s 7s 5c 3d 2h. Of these six cards, the best four card poker hand would be one pair of 10s, using the 10h 10s 7s 5c.
Now it’s time to compare the dealer’s hand with each player hand.
- When the dealer’s hand outranks a player hand, the player will lose both their Ante bet and their Raise bet to the house.
- When the player’s hand outranks the dealer’s hand or ties with the dealer’s hand, the player’s Ante bet and Raise bet will both be paid out at even money.
For our running example hand, our pair of jacks just pips the dealer’s pair of 10s, so we’d earn a $5 payout at even money on our Ante bet, and an additional $15 payout on our Raise bet.
When the player has won the round, they will get paid according to the payouts for each rank. On top of getting paid for the Ante bet and raises, players will also get the chance to get paid for the Bonus bet, as well as the Aces Up side bet, if they placed them at the beginning of the round.
Once the dealer has settled all winning wagers and claimed all losing wagers for the house, they will reshuffle the deck and begin a new hand.
Best Places to Play Four Card Poker
As a relatively popular hybrid table game, Four Card Poker can be found in casinos all over the country, and internationally as well.
Generally speaking, you’ll be able to find 4 Card Poker tables in the usual gambling meccas of Las Vegas and Atlantic City, along with a handful of tribal-operated local casinos.
Brick and Mortar US Casinos
With that said, we’ve compiled a list of casino properties located in the U.S. and Canada which are known to carry the game as a permanent installation:
- Harrah’s New Orleans Hotel and Casino
- Horseshoe Bossier City Hotel and Casino
- Horseshoe Baltimore Maryland Casino
- Harrah’s Reno Hotel and Casino
- Harvey’s Lake Tahoe Hotel and Casino
- Bally’s Atlantic City Hotel and Casino
- Caesars Atlantic City Hotel and Casino
- Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City
- Harrah’s Cherokee Hotel and Casino
- Caesars Windsor Hotel and Casino
- Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino and Racetrack
This list covers venues owned and operated by Caesars Entertainment, so by no means is it comprehensive. If you don’t see your favorite casino property above, feel free to place a phone call and ask for the table games manager there. He or she should be able to give you some information on the game’s status, and if it’s not carried there, you may receive some helpful hints on where to look next.
Online US Casinos
For online poker fans, a company known as Galaxy Gaming markets a game called Four Card Prime, which appears to follow the rules of 4 Card Poker almost exactly. Galaxy Gaming is an unknown quantity within the online casino industry, however, so information on which client casinos it currently serves cannot be located at this time. Check out other online casinos that may offer great alternative poker games that players could be interested in.
Strategic Considerations for Four Card Poker
When it comes to cracking casino games, the best in the business is Michael Shackleford, who serves as the man behind the curtain over at the Wizard of Odds site. Shackleford has great insight into Four Card Poker, so, by all means, take a look at his thorough, in-depth analysis of the game’s probabilities and odds.
Working with his assistant, known only as “JB,” and fellow game theorist Stanley Ko, Shackleford was able to devise a three-tiered set of strategies for how to play your hand in 4 Card Poker given every possible scenario.
Four Card Poker Strategies
You can review his strategic advice below, starting off with a simplified set of rules designed for beginners, followed by an intermediate strategy meant to cover trickier situations, and finally, an advanced strategy suitable for expert-level players:
- When holding one pair of 10s or better, you should always Raise to 3X.
- When holding one pair of 2s through 9s, you should always Raise to 1X.
- When holding any other hand, you should always Fold.
- When holding one pair of aces or better, you should always Raise to 3X.
- When holding one pair of jacks, queens, or kings, you should Raise to 3X only when the dealer’s up card is lower than your pair, or when the dealer’s up card matches any card in your hand. In all other situations holding one pair of jacks through kings, you should Raise to 1X.
- When holding one pair of 9s or 10s, you should Raise to 1X only when the dealer’s up card outranks your pair. In all other situations holding one pair of 9s or 10s, you should Raise to 3X.
- When holding one pair of 8s, you should Raise to 3X only when the dealer’s upcard is a 2. In all other situations holding one pair of 8s, you should Raise to 1X.
- When holding one pair of 3s, 4s, 5s, 6s, or 7s, you should always Raise to 1X.
- When holding one pair of 2s or A K Q high, you should Raise to 1X only when the dealer’s up card matches any card in your hand. In all other situations holding one pair of 2s or A K Q high, you should always Fold.
- When holding any other hand, you should always Fold.
- When holding one pair of aces or better, you should always Raise to 3X.
- When holding one pair of kings, you should Raise to 1X only when the dealer’s up card is an ace and you don’t have an ace or a 4. In all other situations holding one pair of kings, you should Raise to 3X.
- When holding one pair of jacks or queens, you should Raise to 1X only when the dealer’s up card outranks your pair and doesn’t match any single card in your hand. In all other situations holding one pair of jacks or queens, you should always Raise to 3X.
- When holding one pair of 9s or 10s, you should Raise to 1X only when the dealer’s up card outranks your pair. In all other situations holding one pair of 9s or 10s, you should always Raise to 3X.
- When holding one pair of 8s, you should always Raise to 1X, except when the dealer’s up-card is a 2, in which case you should Raise to 3X.
- When holding one pair of 4s thru 7s, you should always Raise to 1X.
- When holding one pair of 3s, you should always Raise to 1X, except when the dealer’s up-card is a jack, in which case you should Fold.
- When holding one pair of 2s or A K Q high, you should always Fold, except when the dealer’s up card matches a card in your hand, in which case you should Raise to 1X.
- When holding A K J T, you should always Fold, except when the dealer’s upcard is a jack, in which case you should Raise to 1X.
- When holding A K J 9 or lower, you should always Fold.
In order to assess the relative worth of these three strategies, let’s examine the house edge comparison between them.
Beginner Strategy Benefits
When adhering to the Beginner strategy, you’ll create game conditions which offer a total house edge of 3.396 percent. This rate is quite respectable within the world of table games, so even when you stick this simplified system, you’ll still be playing a favorable game.
Intermediate Strategy Benefits
By adopting the Intermediate strategy, the house edge against you drops to 2.853 percent. This reduction may not seem all that important, but in reality, this represents a significant increase in your overall expected return. If you have the memorization skills needed to employ the Intermediate strategy, by all means, attempt to do so, as this approach will increase your bottom line over the long run.
Advanced Strategy Benefits
Finally, the Advanced strategy lowers the house edge to 2.850 percent, a reduction of just 0.003 percent versus the Intermediate strategy. Considering the far greater level of difficulty which comes with this style of play, and the relatively minor difference it exerts on your house edge, it’s more than acceptable to forego the Advanced approach in favor of the Intermediate strategy.
Side Bet House Edge Not So Bad
As for the Aces Up side bet, this optional wager carries an overall house edge of 3.89 percent, which is actually not bad at all when compared to similar side bets attached to other table games. From a strategic standpoint, you won’t be sacrificing much of your expected return by tossing a few chips on the Aces Up side bet from time to time.
4 Card Poker History
Prolific table game inventor and casino equipment designer Roger M. Snow is officially credited as the inventor of the hybrid table game known as Four Card Poker.
Snow was working for Shuffle Master in 2004 when the official U.S. patent claim protecting the 4 Card Poker concept was filed.
You may know Shuffle Master, one of the major players within the casino equipment industry during its heyday, as the company responsible for several popular gambling products, including Let It Ride, Three Card Poker, Blackjack Switch, and Casino War.
In 2013 another casino equipment corporation, Bally Technologies acquired Shuffle Master and the rights to its many games and products. Today, the game of Four Card Poker has spread throughout the casinos of America and around the world.