One to BragBeing the predecessor to poker, brag has earned its name.
Brag is a card game especially popular in England. Its parallels to poker are sometimes deserved but, but brag is much older, dating from the late 18th century or earlier, and the method of betting is different. Basically, it’s almost identical to the popular Indian game Teen Pathi (three cards). Although online brag doesn’t seem to exist under that name, Teen Pathi can be played for real money at 3Patti.com.
There are many derivatives to brag, from three- to 13-card versions, but here we’ll focus on the three-card variety.
A standard 52-card pack is used and the cards in each suit rank in the usual order from high to low. So far, so familiar. The number of players can vary, but it’s probably best for about four to eight people. Before starting, it’s essential that the players agree on the stake and have a common understanding of the rules. It’s necessary to agree:
• the initial stake or ante;
• the minimum and maximum initial bet;
• the limit, if any;
• any variations to the basic rules, such as use of wild cards.
Ranking of Hands
The order of the possible three-card brag hands, from highest to lowest, is first a “prial”—short for “pair royal”—or a set of three cards of equal rank. The best is threes, and the others follow in card rank. Then, a running flush is a set of three consecutive cards of the same suit. A run is a set of three consecutive cards of mixed suits. (Any running flush beats any run with mixed suits.) A flush consists of three cards of the same suit—not all consecutive—followed by the final two hand ranks, a pair and a high card. There is no order of suits, so it’s possible for two hands to be equal in rank. For example 7- 7- Q is equal to 7- 7- Q. In a contest between two equal hands the calling player (the player who paid to see the other hand) loses. Poker players should take care to note that the run and flush in brag rank in the opposite order to poker.
Ante and Deal
When each player places the ante in the pot, dealing and play are clockwise, and the turn to deal passes to the left after each hand. If it’s the first deal of the session, the dealer shuffles. For subsequent deals, the cards are only shuffled if the previous hand was “seen” and won by a prial. Apart from that, the cards are not normally shuffled between hands. The cards from the previous hand are just added to the bottom of the pack and the dealer deals the new hands from the top.
The dealer deals out the cards 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, unless the betting ends with a “see”. In that case the cards of the two players involved (but none of the others) are exposed.
Depending on who bets or folds, when there are only two players left, either player can see the other. Seeing costs twice as much as the previous player’s bet. When you pay to see another player, 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. If the hands are equal, the player who paid to see loses.
Running on Empty
Brag is seldom played with table stakes and players often keep their money in their pockets until needed. It’s usual that each player should place at least a certain minimum on the table, say £10. 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 put 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 doesn’t 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 favour of the player who runs out of money, thus getting to see the opponent’s hand cheaply, it does avoid some undesirable situations. However, it’s usual to play the harsher rule that a player who doesn’t 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. 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.
Experienced players usually allow the extra option of playing blind. If you’re playing blind you don’t look at your cards, and you take part in the betting in the normal way, except that all your bets are worth double. So 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’re 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’re 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. Plus, if you’re playing blind and all the other players fold, you do not win the pot. Instead, the pot is carried forward to the next deal and you’re allowed to retain your hand.
KNOW YOUR…THREE-CARD BRAG
• Study the odds carefully and remember them.
• Play by the odds.
• Don’t stick rigidly to playing by the odds!! You will lose very quickly, and never win a big pot if you never bluff.
• Playing ‘blind’ well is very difficult and takes years of practice. If you play it too often, and non-expertly you will lose.
• Don’t bet too big, especially if you are used to poker betting. As the brag betting can continue indefinitely, on the same amount (and indeed must, until there are only two players) the pot can get very large even when each single bet seems low.