3 Card Brag, The Complete Rules Guide

3 card bragOn this page we go through the 3 card brag traditional rules you will come across when playing in your local pub, club or with friends and family.

Although the game is a very simple one to play it is quite difficult to explain without physically having a pack of cards in front of me, but I shall do my best!

A game of 3 card brag consists of 3 or more players, most often you won’t get more than 6 playing around the tables in pubs and clubs due to their size, also because its difficult enough to follow the fast action without too many players being involved.

3 card brag can be played with 2 players although this is often done at the end of a bigger game when only 2 hardcore players remain and if often known as 3 card turnovers.

Top Tip: Get the 3 card brag rules in place with every player before you start a game. This helps stop any arguments and we don’t want temper to flare over rules at important points in the game.

Quick 3 Card Brag Rules Guide:

  • Play always moves clockwise
  • The deck is never shuffled unless a prial is dealt (it is online)
  • Ace-2-3 is the highest run
  • Three threes is the highest hand
  • A run (straight) beats a flush
  • An open bettor can’t raise a blind bettor
  • A blind bettor can raise an open bettor
  • When 2 are players left an open player can call a blind man after 3 more  bets
  • If two identical hands show down the caller loses
  • All cards play i.e Ace-9-8 would beat Ace-9-7

The 3 Card Brag Deal

The very first hand will be dealt by first determining who is going to be dealing it. This is done by dealing each player a card face up. The highest card showing will deal the first real money hand. If 2 or more players show the same high card, they are dealt another fro the top of the deck and as before the highest will be the dealer.

The dealer of the very first hand will shuffle the pack, this is never done on the following rounds unless a prial has been dealt.

The dealer then begins the deal in a clockwise action, 3 cards are dealt all face down to each player around the table, one at a time from the top of the pack.

Once the cards are dealt the pack is placed face down on the table !

Side note: Don’t pack face up which is an opportunity for others to cheat by counting cards, don’t ever have the cards face up.

Betting Rules & Structure

Unlike poker there are no blinds. Every player who want to be “dealt in” places an ante in to the pot. This ante is usually the amount of the minimum bet i.e £1.

Often the stakes for betting are predetermined, but more often things just get argued along the way. It is always best to get some kind of rules in place as to how much the minimum and maximum bets are. Commonly the minimum would be £1 and the maximum £10 although you will probably have seen, or will see £50 or more bet.

Betting starts with the players to the dealers left and moves clockwise at all times. Players have 2 options when betting in 3 card brag which are explained below.

Betting Blind in 3 Card Brag

To bet blind simply means that you have not looked at the cards you were dealt but want to continue in the hand. The advantages of this are that all players whom are betting openly must pay double your bet and can not raise you. You can however be raised by another player who is also betting blind.

Example of betting blind

  • You – £1 Blind
  • Player 2 – £2 open
  • Player 3 – £1 Blind
  • You – £2 – blind
  • Player 2 – £4 open
  • Player 3 – looks then folds.

In this situation player 3 folded after looking at his cards, he could if he had wished also bet £2 blind along with you had he not looked, he could also have raised blind which would have forced your bet higher and doubled that of player 2.

3 Card Brag Betting Open

If you are betting open that means you have looked at your cards and want to continue playing. Important things to remember are that you must pay double whatever a Blind man is betting and you CANNOT raise a player who is betting blind.

If the make the mistake of betting £10 against a blind mans bet of £1 it will be an expensive mistake. They will just bet £1 again and you must still bet £10 which is now the open bet.

That may sound a stupid mistake to make but it is actually very common, depending on who you are playing with will depend on how you mistake is treated! – Rules are rules so be wary.

It’s also important to know that if you are “open” you can not call a “blind man”. the rules on this vary a little and are explained below.

Covering the Pot.

At some stage in the game somebody will no doubt run out of money. An unfortunate thing indeed, but depending on how hardcore the game you playing in is, that player may beable to “cover the pot”.

To cover the pot a player must wait until it is their time to be. Place the last of their money into the pot, and place their cards face down on top of it.

This means that the pot in which they have covered is what they can win. This is decided once the other players have completed the “main game”. All bets from that point on are placed into a side pot kept separate and only contested by those still involved in the hand.

At the end of the main hand the player who has covered the pot turns over their cards, if it beats the player who won the the main game then the player who covered will win the pot they covered – If not, then they lose and are out of the game.

Please do not try to be smart and cover the pot only to lose and pull another £50 out of your pocket! Covering the pot is a last resort and should be used as that.

Betting Continues Until Showdown

Betting will carry on until just 2 players remain, this will mean player continue to bet, raise and fold in turn. This may be quick or slow depending on the players playing, and the money people are willing to risk.

Once just 2 players remain the hand will continue until one player calls the other. At this point both turn over their cards, and the highest hand wins the pot.

If there are 2 or more pots due to those being covered by another player, the hand winner also sees if they beat that hand and/or hands to determine the winner of that money.

Important Things to Know at Showdown!

Double the bet to call? – Some card schools say that to call the other player you must pay double the best. Personally we don’t play this and have only ever came across it ion the South of England. It’s in your best interest to ask about this and all other rules you may be unsure of before joining.

When Can You Call a Blind Bettor? – Once again this varies so get it straight from the outset. Most card schools will have a rule in place that when only 2 players remain an open player can call a blind man after 3 more bets if they wish to do so. This is only in place when 2 players remain betting in the hand.

Showing 2 Identical Hands – If 2 hands the same are displayed when shown down, the player who called loses the pot. The suit of the cards has no bearing on the hands rank. You call, you lose . . . Simple!

All cards are placed on the bottom of the pack and passed to the next person to deal (to left of that hands dealer). The cards are NEVER SHUFFLED unless a prial aka 3 of a kind was shown in the previous hand.

3 Card Brag Hands

Here is an explanation into 3 card brag hands, how they rank and what beats what! Three card brag has a unique hand ranking system based around the number 3. Whereas in three card poker, the best hand you could hope to achieve would be three aces, in 3 card brag, the best hand is a “prial” of 3s (three 3s), with three aces coming next in the rankings.

Similarly the best “running flush” (a three card straight flush) is A23, rather than AKQ, along with the best “run” (three card straight). However, a pair of 3s has no enhanced ranking and only beats a pair of 2s or a hand containing no better than a high card.

3 Card Brag Hand Rankings:

  • A Prial – 333 is highest hand, then A-A-A, K-K-K, and so on.
  • A Running Flush – A Run all same suit, A-2-3 highest followed by A-K-Q, K-Q-J etc
  • A Run – 123 is highest, followed A-K-Q, K-Q-J Etc
  • A Flush – A-K-J is highest flush, followed by A-K-10 and so on, all 3 cards play.
  • A Pair – A-A-K is the hiest as again all 3 cards count.
  • High Card – Ace, then King, Then queen and so on. All 3 cards play in a tie so A-k-J would beat A-K-10

Another notable difference is that a run or straight beats a flush and similarly to poker, no one suit is better than another and AK2 does not make up a run.

Knowing Your Odds in Three Card Brag

There are 22.100 different combinations of cards that can be dealt in three card brag, so the chances of hitting a prial of threes on the deal are extremely remote (There are 4 combinations, and therefore odds of 5524/1).

However, it is worth knowing that approximately only one in three hands will be dealt any better than a high card.

Quick Reference 3 Card Brag Guide:

  • 3 Card Brag is a popular 16th Century British Card Game
  • Played with a full pack of 52 cards
  • Most commonly played with between 3 to 6 players
  • Bluffing is extremely common place
  • Betting blind is normal, making brag a gamblers game
  • Casino versions can be played online
  • There are no “multiplayer” 3 card brag games online
  • Cheating is very common in pubs and clubs
  • Skill isn’t really needed, it’s not like poker!

Other Useful Resources.

Further thing you may need to know when playing traditional 3 card brag are the hand rankings which differ from poker or other card games.

You may also find it useful to visit out questions and answers section for more useful information on the classic game of brag.