Three Card Mulligan Poker
In 2006, Michael Shackleford created an interesting new take on poker table games known as Three Card Mulligan Poker. The game is simple to understand and play. Players start with a three card poker hand and have one opportunity to take a “mulligan.” The mulligan will replace the hand at the cost of an additional wager. The goal is to make a better three card hand than the dealer.
This page will show players what the Mulligan Poker rules are, and a simple guide to playing. Learn the different possible poker hands and the payouts players will receive when they have the winning hand. Despite being a great game, Mulligan Poker has not been placed in any online casinos; as well as brick and mortar. Learn the basic strategy straight from the game’s creator and see how you can improve your chances of winning.
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Mulligan Poker Rules
Three Card Mulligan Poker is a game built for casino gambling beginners. The gameplay is easy to understand, the scoring system is streamlined, and players have only a single decision to make.
A standard 52 card deck of playing cards is used, and each card holds its traditional poker ranking value, with 2s as the lowest card and As the highest.
Before moving on to the rules, however, you should know that in three card poker table games the traditional poker hand ranking system is modified just a bit. After all, you can’t exactly make a full house using only three cards.
Three Card Mulligan Hand Rankings
Hands in Three Card Mulligan Poker are ranked as follows:
Poker Hands & Description
- Straight Flush: Any three consecutive cards, all in the same suit: Qh Jh 10h.
- Three of a Kind: Any three cards of the same rank: Qh Qd Qs.
- Straight: Any three consecutive unsuited cards: 9d 8s 7h.
- Flush: Any three cards of the same suit: 9d 6d 2d.
- One Pair: Any two cards of the same rank: Jh Jd X.
- High Card: No pair and a single high card: Ad 4h 2s.
In this game, the best possible hand is the straight flush or any string of three consecutive suited cards. Three of a kind is the next strongest hand, followed by a straight, a flush, one pair, and high card.
You may have noticed that straights and flushes have been reversed. In five card poker games, flushes are harder to form than straights, and thus they are ranked higher. But in three card variants, straights are actually more difficult to string together, so they hold a higher value than flushes.
Guide to Playing Mulligan Poker
1. Starting the Game
To begin the game, players must put up a mandatory ante bet, and this wager must equal or exceed the posted table minimum. At this time, players can also make an optional wager known as the Pair Plus side bet (this will be explained after the base game rules have been ran through in their entirety).
2. Three Cards are Dealt
Once all players have anted up, the dealer will pass out three cards face up to each player, along with three cards face down for themselves.
3. Stand or Mulligan
After receiving your three card starting hand, the game’s first player decision point arrives: Stand or take the Mulligan.
STAND: you simply stick with the first three cards you’ve been dealt and hope to beat the dealer’s three card hand.
MULLIGAN: you elect to discard all three cards and receive three replacements to form your new hand. In order to take the Mulligan option, you’ll have to put up an additional Mulligan bet equal to the amount of your original Ante bet.
When taking the Mulligan option, you can also choose to put up a second wager on the Pair Plus side bet, which will then be based on the second hand alone.
4. Dealer Shows His Cards
After all, players have either stood or taken the Mulligan, the dealer will then reveal their own three cards starting hand.
The dealer must show down a hand of king high or better in order to “qualify.”
- When the dealer does hold a qualifying hand of king high or better, they must stand pat.
- When the dealer holds a non-qualifying hand of queen high or worse, they must take the Mulligan and discard the hand, before drawing three more cards from the deck.
5. Comparing Hands and Determining the Winner
After the dealer runs through their own discard decision, their final three card poker hand will be compared to each live player hand.
- When the dealer tables the superior hand, you’ll lose your Ante bet, and if made, your Mulligan bet as well.
- When the dealer tables a hand which ties yours, all bets will be returned in a push.
- When you table the superior hand, both the Ante bet and the Mulligan bet will be paid out according to the paytable.
6. Start Over
With all base game wagers and side bets settled, the dealer will reshuffle the deck and begin a new hand.
Three Card Mulligan Poker Payouts
|Straight Flush||6 to 1|
|Three of a Kind||4 to 1|
|Straight||3 to 2|
|All Other||1 to 1|
As you can see, simply beating the dealer with any hand will entitle you to an even money payout on all bets.
But when you manage to dispatch the dealer’s hand with a premium holding, the payouts increase based on the strength of your hand. Landing a straight is like making blackjack, offering a 3 to 2 payout, while three of a kind pays out at 4 to 1, and straight flushes pay out at 6 to 1.
Pair Plus Side Bet
As for that Pair Plus side bet, this optional wager pays out based on your original three card poker hand. Of course, if that hand is weak and you decide to take the Mulligan, you’ll lose your first Pair Plus side bet – but you still have the option to place a secondary Pair Plus side bet on the second hand you receive.
In either case, the bet pays out based on those three cards alone, so it doesn’t matter whether or not you beat the dealer. The pay table used for Pair Plus side bets in Three Card Mulligan Poker can be found below:
|Straight Flush||40 to 1|
|Three of a Kind||30 to 1|
|Straight||6 to 1|
|Flush||3 to 1|
|Pair||1 to 1|
This side bet offers players the allure of relatively large payouts on standard small bets. When you score the game’s best hand of a straight flush, any chip you put down on the Pair Plus side bet will be paid out at 40 to 1 on your money.
Mulligan Poker Example Hand
Paying the Ante
This example hand will show you how certain gameplay concepts work from the player’s point of view. So let’s assume we’ve put up the standard $5 chip for the Ante bet, along with $5 more on the Pair Plus side bet just for kicks.
First Hand & Mulligan
We have been dealt a 10c 6h 2d. Our 10c 6h 2d holding is extremely weak, and we won’t win very many hands holding these cards. So the correct play is to take the Mulligan and pay an additional $5 for three new cards.
We’ll go that route, putting up $5 for the Mulligan bet; along with $5 more on the secondary Pair Plus side bet. The dealer delivers Ah Jd Js as our new three card poker hand. We now hold one pair of jacks as our final hand.
Now its the dealers turn, as the dealer shows a Qc 9s 3h, a queen high hand. In this case, the dealer has failed to qualify, so they must discard the hand and take another. The second dealer hand is a 5c 5s 4d, which improves to one pair of fives.
Our pair of jacks has beaten the dealer’s pair of fives, but we don’t hold a premium hand, so the payout stands at even money. That means we collect $5 on the Ante bet and $5 more on the Mulligan bet for a $10 profit on our $10 total wager. However, since we bet an additional $10 to get the mulligan, we end up back at zero. This means there is less risk of losing when a player takes a mulligan.
Side Bet Payout
We did lose the first Pair Plus side bet of $5 when we took the Mulligan. On the secondary Pair Plus side bet, we were dealt one pair of jacks, which is good enough for an even money payout, or a $5 profit. All told, we lost $5 on the first crack at the Pair Plus side bet, before winning $5 on the second attempt, to break even on the hand.
Best Places to Play Three Card Mulligan Poker
Following the game’s debut placement at the Cowboys Casino, Three Card Mulligan Poker is no longer listed on the Table Games section of that venue’s website.
And according to Shackleford himself, via the Wizard of Odds forum, a second installation at the Sac and Fox Casino in 2013 lasted only a few weeks before the game was pulled from the floor.
Shackleford licensed the game for marketing and distribution through SHFL Entertainment, but due to the fact that the company was acquired by rival Bally Technologies, which was, in turn, sold off to Scientific Games, its status remains unclear at this time.
Not in Casinos Yet
As of today, thorough searches online produce no viable results, leading one to believe that Three Card Mulligan simply never developed the steady base of customers all table games need to break out from a crowded marketplace.
When it comes to online casinos, the WagerWorks software company acquired distribution rights to Three Card Mulligan Poker. According to an interview with Shackleford, they opted to change the game’s name to Three Card Second Chance.
Once again WagerWorks network of client online casinos doesn’t currently offer Three Card Second Chance. Other online casinos may offer similar games for those players that want to play. For all intents and purposes, Three Card Mulligan has gone extinct.
Mulligan Poker Strategy
Befitting such a simple and straightforward game, Three Card Mulligan Poker offers players one of the easiest strategies in all of casino gambling, a binary decision:
Mulligan Poker Player Strategy
- When you hold a three card starting hand ranked at K-10 high or better, you should always stand.
- When you hold a three card starting hand ranked at K-9 high or worse, you should always take the Mulligan.
Other than this basic twofold system, you don’t need to know anything else in order to play Three Card Mulligan Poker properly. One would assume that this level of simplicity would appeal to recreational players, but based on player generated reviews of the game posted online, most people grew bored with Three Card Mulligan Poker rather quickly.
Bad House Edge
This explains the game’s rapid demise within the world of casino table games, as players tend to enjoy a bit more complexity in their decision-making process.
Overall, the house edge working against players stands at 3.57 percent, which is right on par with similarly structured table games.
When making the Pair Plus side bet, your house edge on that particular wager jumps to between 7.28 percent and 7.66 percent, depending on whether or not you’ve taken a Mulligan. In either case, this house edge rate is far too high for strategically minded players to mess around with, falling squarely under the header of “sucker bet.”
The Creation of Mulligan Poker
Mulligan poker came about when Michael Shackleford, a popular casino game analyst, decided to create his own version of three card poker. He managed to create the game in 2006, when he decided to work with WagerWorks, a casino game developer.
At the time, Shackleford was working with online casino software company WagerWorks, but they preferred a different name: Three Card Second Chance. A few WagerWorks powered online casinos adopted that game for a while, but it eventually fell by the wayside.
Perfecting the Game
Over the next few years, Shackleford worked on perfecting the game in his spare time, and eventually, the live casino version of Three Card Mulligan Poker was debuted at the 2012 Global Gaming Expo. Shackleford had decided to license his product to SHFL Entertainment, and initially, this partnership appeared to be quite productive.
SHFL Entertainment landed an initial installation for the game in 2013, at the Cowboys Casino in Alberta, Canada. From there, a second placement was secured at the Sac and Fox Casino in Powhattan, Kansas.
Unfortunately, the momentum appears to have ended there, as no further installations have been documented online. Shackleford took to his Wizard of Odds forum to lament the quick hook his game was given in Kansas, as it lasted less than two months before being replaced.
At some point, an alternate version of the game known as Five Card Mulligan Poker also appeared, but for the sake of clarity, this page will reference the Three Card variety only.
Company Bought Out
Years after SHFL Entertainment was acquired by competitor Bally Technologies, the status of Three Card Mulligan Poker is far from settled. The game never developed a consistent player base during its debut run, but considering the tumultuous circumstances behind the sale and resale of its marketing and distribution channels, it never really had a chance to succeed in the first place.
Three Card Mulligan Poker is dead at the moment, but Scientific Games is pouring its considerable resources into an effort to retain both the SHFL Entertainment and Bally Technology brands. This means properties like Shackleford’s game, which are currently in limbo, may very well be resurrected sometime down the road.
With that in mind, this page is devoted to compiling all available information on Three Card Mulligan Poker, in the hopes that players may find active tables running at some point in the future. We’ll start off with a detailed breakdown of the game’s rules and procedures, followed by an admittedly brief guide to finding the game, and even a strategy section which will help you play your cards correctly.