For many non-brag players, possibly the only experience of seeing 3 Card Brag played “live” would be in the film “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”.
Understandably, once you have witnessed an event hosted in a boxing ring, with fat cigars and bottles of duty-free Oban malt whiskey – where cheated losers have to be escorted from the building – you may be forgiven for believing that “Brag” and “Etiquette” have no place together in the same sentence!
However, there are certain rules of conduct which should be adhered to when playing 3 card brag in your pub or club.
It has to be remembered that 3 Card Brag is a gambling game, much older and with a completely different betting system than the sanitised games of poker which are available online.
Indeed, one of the reasons that 3 Card Brag has not enjoyed the same level of popularity as its more up-to-date cousins is that there are a considerable number of ways in which 3 Card Brag can be played. Therefore, the first rule of 3 Card Brag Etiquette is to ensure that there is a common understanding of the game you are playing.
Throughout the game, further guidelines exist. For example, when you have folded your cards, discussing what you had in your hand before the end of the game is a breach of etiquette – as it could influence the betting actions of one of the players still involved in the pot.
Never fold your cards out of turn – not only does this affect the pot odds for players earlier in the betting (if they even understand this principle), but is actually regarded as a sign of disrespect. In other words – wait your turn.
Betting decisions can also be influenced when players who have been playing blind look at their cards out of turn. In the following example, Player A’s decision on whether to call Player C’s raise could be affected by Player B looking at his cards out of turn – meaning that Player A would know in advance that he would only be playing one blind player (Player D) in subsequent betting rounds and not two (Players B and D).
This is just one of the reasons that 3 Card Brag players don’t look at blind cards until the appropriate moment.
Whether you are playing 3 Card Brag for fun or money, respect your opponents. If they have an obvious tell, there is no need to advertise the fact – simply exploit it to your own advantage.
Most gamblers aren’t poker players and are just looking for a game of cards rather than trying to pick up tells or apply strategy.
Try to refrain from comments which criticize the way in which others play their hand, and at all costs don’t say “I know you aren’t in, which means no one cares what you know” (from “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”) – 3 Card Brag players have heard it a hundred times!
Finally, poker players may like to have a big stack of chips sitting in front of them. 3 Card Brag players keep their cash in their pockets until it is needed. If you are playing with chips, don’t throw a random handful into the pot (“splashing the pot”) and shout “raise”. The delay while someone works out how much you actually bet is going to annoy the other players.
Keep your eye on the game, stay sober and your 3 Card Brag experience will be more enjoyable and potentially more lucrative!