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3 Card Brag
3 Card Brag


If Faro was the "King" of gambling games then Three-Card Brag was the "Queen".

This was a very fashionable and much admired game requiring a great deal of study and practice to play successfully. It was recognized as one of the "scientific" games and a great favorite among the "Sporting" gentlemen. Brag required an intimate knowledge and a firmness of nerve in the person playing it otherwise he could ruin himself on hands that another would win largely on.

The necessary qualifications were generally possessed by the professional gambler, while those whom they seduced into the game may become excited and confused after a few losses. Then the less experienced player would become anxious to recover his funds and bet unwisely and end up ruined. A man lacking nerve and good judgment would become easy pray for the professional gambler, who would know quite well what kind of hands to hold by his manner of bragging. The inexperienced player would constantly be deceived in this game.

Using a 52 card deck, four to 8 players would set the initial ante, the minimum and maximum bet and the amount by which the bet could be increased by each subsequent player.




Hand ranks were as follows:


Prial or Pryle - The very best hand would be threes (3) followed by three Aces, Kings, Queens, ect.

Running Flush - Ace/King/Queen then King/Queen/Jack and so on.

A Run - Ace/Two/Three of any suit being best followed by Ace/King/Queen then King/Queen/Jack and so on.

Flush - Ace/King/Jack being highest then Ace/King/Ten and so on.

Pair - Ace/Ace would be the highest pair then King's and so on.

High Card - Ace being the High Card with the Ace of Diamonds being the best single card.

Wild Card - Some play with the Jack of Clubs as a wild card.

Old West Gambling,Frontier Gambling,Old West

The dealer deals out the cards one at a time, face down to the players, until everyone has three cards. Players may look at their own cards, or may choose not to, if they wish to play "blind". Cards must never be shown to any player other than the person to whom they were dealt, unless the betting ends with a "see". In that case the cards of the two players involved (but none of the others) are exposed for everyone to see.

The Betting:

When the cards have been dealt, the betting begins with the player to the left of the dealer. This person can 'fold' (throw in their cards and take no further part in the hand) or can bet any amount from the agreed minimum to the agreed maximum. If all the players except one fold, the last remaining player takes all the money in the pot, and the next hand is dealt.

If any player bets, every player after that must either fold or bet at least as much as the previous player who bet. A player may bet more than the previous player, but there may be an agreed limit to the amount by which the bet can be increased. The betting continues around the table as many times as necessary.

When there are only two players left in the game, all the others having folded, a third option becomes available. Either player can see the others cards. Seeing, costs twice as much as the previous player's bet. When you pay to see another players cards, they expose their three cards first. If your cards are better than your opponent's, you expose your hand to prove this and win the pot. If your cards are equal to your opponent's or worse, your opponent wins the pot - you do not have to show your cards in this case. Note that if the hands are equal, the player who paid to see loses.

Poker players should notice that there is no concept of equalizing the bets. At each turn, to stay in you have to put into the pot at least as much new money as the previous player put in. Here are some examples from a four player game:

1. Player "A" bets 2 chips, "B" folds, "C" bets 2 chips and "D" bets 2 chips. In order to stay in, "A" would have to bet another 2 chips.

2. Player "A" bets 2 chips, "B" folds, "C" bets 4 chips and "D" folds. Player "A" can now see player "C" by paying 8 chips (twice C's bet) or pay at least 4 chips to stay in, or fold, allowing "C" to win the pot. If "A" pays 4 to stay in, "C" now has the same options: put 8 in the pot to see "A", or bet at least 4 and allow "A" another turn to bet, or to fold and allow "A" to win.

Betting continues until either:

* all players but one have dropped out (folded) (in which case the remaining player obviously wins, but does not show their cards), or

* two players are left and one player pays double to see the other.

As each player folds, that player's cards are added to the bottom of the pack ready for the next deal. At the end of the betting the cards of the last player left in, or the cards of the two players involved in the see, are added to the pack in the same way.

Running out of money:

Brag is seldom played with what Poker players know as table stakes (where players keep the money they are playing with on the table for everyone to see and cannot introduce extra money into the game except between hands and with the agreement of all the players). Brag players often keep their money in their pockets until needed. It is usual to insist that each player wishing to take part in a game should placed at least a certain minimum amount of money on the table - say $10.00. After that, players are free to introduce more money to the game at any time.

Some play that if you do not have enough money left to bet, but want to stay in, you place all your remaining money in the pot, and put your cards face down on top of it. This is called covering the pot. If there are two or more other players, they continue betting as before, but putting the money into a new pot. After this new pot is settled, the winner's hand is exposed, and the hand of the player who ran out of money is compared with it. The old pot is won by the higher hand, or by the winner of the new pot in case of a tie.

The method of covering the pot can also be used when there are only two players left in the game. If one of the players runs out of money, the betting ends when one player puts the last of his money in the pot - the other player does not have to put in any more money but exposes his cards, and wins the pot unless the player who ran out of money can show a better hand.

Although covering the pot might seem to work unfairly in favor of the player who runs out of money, thus getting to see the opponent's hand cheaply, it does avoid some undesirable situations.

However, according to the information I have received from Brag players, it is quite usual to play the harsher rule that a player who does not have enough money to bet the full amount required must either fold or borrow money from another player or a bystander to make up the bet. For this purpose, the player is allowed to show his cards to a player who has already dropped out, who might be prepared to back him financially. Sometimes there is an agreement that whoever in the game has the most money will lend some to the player who is short to allow that player to continue to bet.

Some people play that when only two players are in the game, and one of them runs out of money, the player who still has money has the choice of either

* lending some money to the other player to allow betting to continue, or

* showing his cards, in which case he wins the pot unless the other player can show a better hand.

It is clear that betting with borrowing could potentially lead to some difficult situations, in which a player must either fold a good hand or borrow money he may not be in a position to repay. When blind betting is allowed, there is even more scope for this kind of problem, since a blind player can carry on betting indefinitely against an open player, and the open player cannot see the blind player.

Sometimes, in a situation where three (or more) players are betting against each other and none of them is prepared to fold, if they all feel that the pot is getting too big, they may agree to a showdown in which all cards are exposed and the highest hand wins.

Playing blind:

Experienced players usually allow the extra option of playing blind. Any player may choose to play any hand blind. If you are playing blind you do not look at your cards, but leave them face down on the table. You take part in the betting in the normal way, except that all your bets are worth double. In other words, at each stage you only have to put in half the amount of money you would need to bet if you had looked at your cards.

If you have been playing blind, then at your turn to bet, you can choose to look at your cards before deciding whether to bet or fold. From that moment on you are no longer a blind player, and if you then want to stay in, you must revert to the same betting amount as the 'non-blind' players.

If you are playing blind and all the other players fold - which would be surprising but I am assured that it does happen - you do not win the pot. Instead, the pot is carried forward to the next deal and you are allowed to retain your hand - see below.

When just two players remain, one or both of whom are playing blind, the possibilities for one player to "see" the other - i.e. pay for the hands to be exposed and compared - are as follows.

1. You are playing open and your opponent is blind. The rule is that "you cannot see a blind man". Therefore your only options are to continue betting or to fold.

2. Both players are blind. By putting in twice the blind stake (i.e. the amount that would be paid by an open player) you can cause the hands to be compared. Usually the players turn their cards face up one at a time, alternately, beginning with the opponent of the player who paid for the show. In case of equality, as usual, the player who paid for the show loses.

3. You are playing blind but your opponent is playing open. Your opponent cannot see you (by the above rule), but you can see your opponent if you wish by putting in twice the blind stake (i.e. the same amount that your open opponent just bet). As usual in a showdown, the opponent's cards are exposed first and then you show your cards if they are better.

Points to note:

1. "B" must pay double the blind stake to 'see' "C's" hand. "C" is not allowed to see "B" in round 6 or 7, even though only two players are left.

2. Note how after 4 rounds "B" has only spent 4 chips compared to "C" who has spent 10. This type of inequality often happens when playing with blind hands, and is part of the whole essence of the procedure.

3. Looking at a 'blind' hand out of turn is another Brag 'faux-pas' which will get other Brag players (very) annoyed. The reason is that (for example) during round 4, when "C" raises to 4, if "B" now looks at his cards it has immediately changed the basis of "A's" decision as to whether to stay in or fold on his turn. He would then have only one 'blind' opponent (as "D" stays 'blind'), instead of potentially two 'blind' opponents ("D" and possibly "B").

Retaining a blind hand:

If you end up with a blind hand when all other players have dropped out, you may retain the blind hand on the table. The next hand is then dealt, so that you now have two sets of cards in front of you. You may either:

1. look at the new hand

2. look at the old hand

3. look at neither

If you look at one of the hands, you must immediately decide whether to keep it or fold it. If you keep it, you must fold the other (without looking at it). You are then non-blind and play the looked-at hand normally. If you decide to fold the hand you looked at, then you have just one blind hand to play by the usual rules; you can look at it now or later if you wish.

If you look at neither hand, you can play both hands 'blind' until (at some point) you choose to look at one of them, in which case you follow the same procedure above.

In the unlikely event that you win the pot again, without having looked at either 'blind' hand, you may choose to retain either (but only one), sight unseen, before the next deal. You cannot have three 'blind' hands at once.

Note that at no stage when playing two hands 'blind' can you look at both and choose the better one - you must look at just one and choose to keep it or fold it, before looking at the other.


Some groups treat retained blind hands differently. The player who won blind is dealt a second hand face up, while everyone else is dealt a hand face down as usual. The other players must look at their hands and anyone who cannot beat the face up hand must fold. If all have folded, the player with the retained blind hand collects the antes, keeps the blind hand, and the next player deals. If a player or players stay in, then the face up hand is discarded and the the retained blind hand plays against the

others in the usual way, with the normal betting rules and procedure for looking at the blind hand. If the player with the blind hand wins again by everyone folding, he will again be dealt a face up hand alongside the retained blind hand. This continues until the blind player has looked at his blind hand, after which the play reverts to normal.