Another seminar + let’s play Three-card Brag

This article first appeared in Card Player magazine.

The first sections below remain for historical purposes. To jump to the portion about “Three-card brag,” click → HERE.

In a minute I’m going to tell you about an astonishing new all-day poker seminar that Linda Johnson, owner of Card Player Cruises, has asked me to host. It will happen the day before her annual World Poker Industry Conference begins.

First, I want to explain why poker events like this are important and profitable. It’s been a year or so since I conducted my last poker seminar of any kind. It was at Canterbury Park in Minnesota. It’s been many years since I delivered my last major poker seminar. That one was at Hollywood Park Casino in California. And it’s been almost 20 years since I hosted the historic poker seminar in Gardena with Doyle Brunson and David Sklansky that lasted two days.

A New Poker Era

Many believe that the early ‘80s Gardena event marked the end of the dark ages of poker, during which time homespun wisdom and wild guesses ruled. It began the push toward careful analysis and scientific research, and put poker in the same arena with bridge and chess as a game to be admired and discussed rationally. That ancient seminar drew 93 players from all over the United States, each paying $195, and it demonstrated that not everyone considered poker a game of luck. There were some people out there, even 20 years ago, who realized they could beat poker through skill and strategy if they only knew the right things to do.

There was a time, in those dark ages, when players didn’t share secrets. Maybe that was a good thing, because the secrets they kept in the old days of poker weren’t particularly worth sharing. They were based on subjective impressions rather than objective research. Poker had little respect and wasn’t growing. You didn’t tell anyone you were a poker player, because poker wasn’t widely considered a reputable endeavor. People had images of seedy men at a single table in a smoky room.

Huge Poker Arenas

But we’ve changed that. Poker’s popularity is increasing worldwide, and now there are huge, brightly lit arenas with hundreds of tables where you can enjoy poker in mixed company without tarnishing your reputation. You can feel proud to be a poker player. And, you know what? Poker is now easier to beat for those who take it seriously, simply because the majority of players don’t take it seriously.

So, this brings us to 2001 and the new millennium. On July 6 at The Orleans Hotel and Casino, I’ll be hosting the inaugural World Poker Players Conference. It’s the brainchild of Linda Johnson and Bonnie Damiano, and is presented in conjunction with Card Player Cruises and Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy (MCU).

I’ll be joined by the reigning world champion, Chris “Jesus” Ferguson, and legendary players/champions Phil Hellmuth, Mike Sexton, and Scotty Nguyen. And you’ll hear from the top experts, including Johnson, herself a world champion, Lou Krieger, Roy Cooke, and Daniel Negreanu. Other special guests will include Jan Fisher, Mark Gregorich, Andy Glazer, and Vince Burgio. I’ll even do a full-hour seminar on my own. (You can find more information in the ad on page 47 – Vol. 14/No 8 April 14, 2001).

Marsha Is Doing Just Fine

My neighbor, world-renowned player Marsha Waggoner — a virtual institution in poker circles — is doing just fine. She was operated on in early March for a cerebral aneurysm. The operation was flawless and Marsha is almost back to normal already. I thought I’d pass this along because I’m being asked privately for updates from hundreds of well-wishers every week.

This medical scare made me reconsider the competitiveness with which I have played poker against her in the past. I’ve decided to attempt to bluff her only one out of three times in the future — at random. Previously I had been attempting to bluff her a full one-third of the time. That’s an indication of how deeply real-world feelings should matter when you play poker. Think about it.

It’s Time for Three-Card Brag

I was approached by Total Movie magazine and asked to do a review of six movies that included poker. Unfortunately, the magazine — which included a DVD with every issue — suddenly ceased publication last month. But something good came of it. One of the movies they sent me, I had never seen before. It’s called Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels.

The central game in one of the opening scenes is Three-Card Brag, a not uncommon British game that not too many Americans know. I am recommending that a modified version of this game be played in public casinos. With the right refinements, it will be fast, easily understood, and popular. I believe it would bring new enthusiasm to our poker rooms and attract new clientele. It’s also in the public domain, free for anyone to enjoy.

Here’s how the game is played, with recommended modifications:

1. There are usually no more than eight players in a game, although more can be accommodated.

2. There is an ante.

3. Everyone is dealt three cards from a standard 52-card deck. The deal is clockwise, as in traditional poker.

The rankings are simple:

* Three of a kind, called “Prial,” of which three threes is oddly the highest ranking, and then everything ranks in same order, beginning with aces and ending with deuces. I recommend we scrap the three-threes provision and rank all the trips in their regular order.

* A three-card straight flush, called a “running flush,” of which A-2-3 is oddly the highest ranking, and then everything ranks in same order, with A-K-Q of the same suit next and 4-3-2 last. Again, I recommend scrapping the A-2-3 provision and making that the lowest straight flush. Why complicate unnecessarily?

* A three-card straight, called a “run,” of which, again, A-2-3 is the highest ranking. But, again, I recommend making 3-2-A the lowest straight.

* A three-card flush. Ranks decide which flush is higher, as in traditional poker. (Yes, it ranks lower than a three-card straight, and it should.)

* A pair. The highest kicker wins if the same pairs collide.

* No pair. If no higher category is shown, the highest ranks decide in traditional poker manner.

4. The deck is reshuffled between hands. This recommended modification varies from one popular method in which cards are never reshuffled unless three of a kind is shown, and discards are placed at the bottom of the deck. I also suggest the possibility of dealing from a shoe of eight or more decks, modifying the hand rankings, and adding new categories to accommodate duplicate cards. (This is something I’ve long advocated, and it was part of 1-2-3 Poker, a game I first mentioned in Card Player more than five years ago.)

5. The betting units are pre-established at five times the ante. So, if the ante is $2, the betting units are $10; if the ante is $10, the betting units are $50. This differs from the usual Brag game, in which there is a minimum-to-maximum range in which you can bet. In games with fewer than eight players, you might want to consider larger proportional antes to stimulate action.

6. The betting begins with the player to the left of the dealer; he must bet or fold. There is no checking. If everyone folds except the last player to act, the last player wins all the antes.

7. If a bet is made, a player may either call it or double it. Calling does not end the betting! If I bet $10 and you call $10, I must call your $10, raise $10, or fold. So, you can win without a showdown just by calling! The notion that equal wagers will not end the betting seems peculiar to my traditional sense of poker, but it’s fun. This “call or double” stipulation differs from normal Brag rules that provide a scarier range of betting options, but I’m trying to make it comfortable for new players.

8. The betting may continue around the table until the original bettor or the first remaining player to his left acts for a third time. After that, all remaining players may call (“see”) by paying double the current bet or fold. There is no more raising. This differs from normal Brag rules that allow the betting to continue indefinitely until only two players remain, and only then can you call or “see” an opponent and stop the action. The call costs twice the bet and must be announced so as not to confuse it with a raise. In the standard Brag game, only the last two players remaining can be involved in a showdown. In my recommended modification, once the action has gone twice around the table, everyone remaining can either call by doubling the last wager made during the second round or fold.

9. You can talk about your hand by lying or telling the truth in an effort to deceive, just as you can in traditional American poker. This differs from the “no talk” rule that’s common in some Brag games.

There is also a feature in traditional Brag that allows an opponent to bet without looking at his cards and compete for reduced wagers until he does look. I’m recommending that we leave this out in the interest of simplicity. There are other rules that we’ll need to work out, such as how to handle all-in situations, and we’ll need to keep an eye out for collusion (the possibility of which is reduced by my recommended modifications).

I’d like to see casinos experiment with this game. If you’re interested, contact me at

Published by

Mike Caro

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Known as the “Mad Genius of Poker,” Mike Caro is generally regarded as today's foremost authority on poker strategy, psychology, and statistics. He is the founder of Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy (MCU). See full bio → HERE.


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  1. We used to play that but called it Texas Western…..had a wild card sometimes too!

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