John Grochowski

John Grochowski John Grochowski John Grochowski John Grochowski

My email recently brought word from Tropicana Atlantic City that it was adding Three Card Draw Poker to its roster of table games.

It’s a game of some interest. I liked when I sat in for a few hands in a no-cash demonstration a year ago. It’s easy to play and its listed house edge of 1.03 percent of total action on the main game and 2.21 percent on the “First Three” bonus bet make it one of the better deals for players among newer games.

Whether it catches on with players and becomes an often-used casino standard remains to be seen, but any new game needs a chance to gain a foothold.

In the main game, in which you must beat the dealer, there is no dealer qualifying hand. You never have the frustration of a good hand that pays only the ante when the dealer’s cards aren’t good enough.

Instead, the house gets its edge by giving the dealer four cards on the initial deal while players get only three. That dealer fourth card is in lieu of having the opportunity to draw, as players do. In that way, the dealer has the advantage of seeing all four cards and choosing the best three, while players must discard a card before getting a fourth.

Here’s the way it works:

Players must ante to start play. They may make an optional bonus bet at the same time.

Cards are dealt face down, three to each player and four to the dealer.

Players have three options: Fold, and lose both the ante and the optional bonus bet; stand on their first three cards by making an “in it to win it” bet equal to the ante; or stay in the game and draw one card by placing a draw bet equal to the ante.

Any players who make the draw bet discard a card at the same time. The dealer replaces it with a draw card.

The dealer turns his four cards face up and arranges to show his best three card hands.

Hand rankings are the same as in Three Card Poker. Going from low to high, rankings are high card, pair, flush, straight, three of a kind, straight flush, mini-royal. Note that straights beat flushes because flushes occur more often than straights in three-card games.

Player hands that outrank the dealer’s are paid even money on both the ante and bet. If the dealer hand ranks higher, the player loses, and if the hands are equal the bets push.

If the player hand includes a straight or better, it brings a bonus payoff regardless of whether the dealer has a higher-ranking hand. Bonus payoffs are equal to the ante on straights and rise to 5-1 on three of a kind, 10-1 on straight flushes and 20-1 on mini-royals.

The first three bonus

If you make the optional First Three bonus bet, you are paid any time your first three cards include a pair or better. I don’t know precise procedures at the Tropicana, but the draw card does not count in settling this bet, so the dealer must be alerted before you draw.

The published pay table for the First Three starts at even money for a pair, then 3-1 for a flush, 6-1 for a straight, 30-1 on three of a kind, 60-1 on a straight flush and 100-1 on a mini-royal.

When new games hit casino floors, such pay tables often are adjusted — usually downward. If you see First Three with a different pay table, please alert me.

Look for John Grochowski on Facebook ( and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).