Many of the most popular table games are card games. This is because cards are accessible, easy to understand, and are a flexible tool for creating games based on chance. It also allows casinos to leverage the wide understanding of poker hands, as many newer table games use hand values based on those of poker.
Nevertheless, the most popular card games are those that simply rely on the number values of the cards, with the most popular being Blackjack and its variants.
Blackjack and its Variants
Blackjack is one of the most famous casino card games. The goal is to draw a higher total point value of cards than the dealer, without getting a value of over 21. The highest hand, an Ace and a 10-point card, worth 21 on two cards, is known as a blackjack or a natural. Blackjack is a fast paced game, quickly resolved, but it has enough of an element of strategy to it to keep people coming back for more. Its popularity has led to a great number of variations over the years, none of which have seen the same popularity as standard Blackjack.
Some of the variants of Blackjack include:
Pontoon – In this variant, a 5-card hand that does not bust is second in value only to a natural. Ties with the dealer lose rather than getting pushed. It has generous rules for hitting after doubling down and most casinos will count a natural that occurs after splitting as an actual natural rather than a 21-point hand.
Spanish 21 – This variant uses 48-card Spanish decks, which have no 10-pip cards. This is disadvantageous to players, so other rules exist to even out this disadvantage, such as generous surrender rules and player 21s always winning, regardless of the dealer hand.
Australian Pontoon – Essentially an unlicensed version of Spanish 21, there are a few rules that distinguish the game. For instance, the dealer has no hole card, so all player hands are completed before it becomes known whether the dealer has a natural or not. This means that many casinos will have special rules as to which bets they collect when a player has split hands and then lost against a dealer natural.
Double Exposure Blackjack – A simple variant, but an interesting one, Double Exposure Blackjack shows both of the dealer’s starting cards. This allows players to easily know what they must initially draw up to in order to stand a chance at winning, and thus can lead to a lot more busted hands for players. To make up for the advantage of knowing the dealer’s cards, ties lose except for ties on naturals, which are pushed.
Double Attack Blackjack – This is yet another variant on Spanish 21, but it gives players a chance to double their wager when they see the dealer up-card and also offers a side bet on whether the dealer will bust on drawing a third card.
Chinese Blackjack – This is a game with some similarities to Blackjack rather than being a true Blackjack variant. There are a number of special hands in Chinese Blackjack, but the general goal is still to score higher than the dealer without going over 21.
Blackjack Switch – Seemingly impossible to lose on at first, as players are dealt two hands and may switch the second cards dealt to each hand in order to try to make better hands. This advantage is mitigated in two ways: naturals are paid out at even money rather than the usual 3 to 2 in standard Blackjack rules, and dealer pushes on 22 rather than busting.
Poker Related Card Games
Caribbean Stud Poker
Caribbean Stud Poker is very much based on 5-card stud poker, but it is played against the dealer alone. Players place an ante bet to receive cards. They must then put down twice the ante amount again to continue or else fold, forfeiting the ante bet.
If the hand beats that of the dealer, the player is paid even money on the ante bet, plus a special amount based on the winning hand, calculated on the play bet. If the dealer hand does not at least have Ace/King or higher, the hand does not qualify and the player is simply paid out on the ante bet, having the play bet pushed back to them.
Caribbean Stud Poker is normally tied to a progressive jackpot that players may place a side bet on, usually for $1. Money is paid out to the player from the jackpot if they have a particularly good hand. Royal Flush will normally pay out the entirety of the jackpot, which can be worth up to hundreds of thousands of dollars at some online casinos.
Casino Hold ‘Em
Casino Hold ‘Em draws on the popularity of Texas Hold ‘Em by using very similar rules. In Casino Hold ‘Em, players are dealt two cards each after putting down an ante bet. The dealer is also dealt two cards. Three community cards are then dealt to the table.
At this point, the players may fold, losing their ante bet and forfeiting any stake in prize money, or they may call by putting down an amount equal to twice their ante bet.
If any players call, two more cards are dealt to the table. Player hands are then compared to that of the dealer. If the dealer does not have a pair of 4s or better, his hand does not qualify, and players get paid on their ante bet, but their call bets are pushed. When the dealer hand qualifies, players are paid on their ante bet according to the strength of their hand and paid even money on their call bet, if they win. Players that lose simply forfeit both ante and call bets.
A side bet is also available in Casino Hold ‘Em, known as the AA+ bonus bet. This simply bets on the strength of the initial hand the player will have on the flop. Pair of Aces or higher pays out money, but as with most side bets the AA+ bonus bet isn’t particularly good value.
Pai Gow Poker
Pai Gow Poker is based on gameplay elements from Pai Gow and from Western Poker. It is a game that requires extreme patience, and many people enjoy playing Pai Gow due to how much time even a small bankroll can last while playing it. Players are dealt 7 cards to play against the dealer. From this they must make a 5-card hand and a 2-card hand, with the 5-card hand ranked higher than the 2-card hand. Ranks are the same as in Western Poker, except that the two-card hand can only be a high card or pair at best – Straights and Flushes do not count.
Once the two hands have been decided upon, the cards of players are then compared against those of the dealer. Hands that are tied in value go to the dealer. A player who beats both dealer hands wins even money, normally reduced by 5% due to how long it takes to play Pai Gow Poker. A player who wins on only one hand is pushed. A player who loses to the dealer on both hands loses his or her bet. Pai Gow Poker is exceptionally defensive, with pushes a frequent occurrence.
Closely related to Pai Gow Poker is Pyramid Poker, which uses a 2-card hand and a single card hand instead of the 5-card and 2-card hands of Pai Gow Poker. Other than this, the rules are essentially the same as for Pai Gow Poker, with the larger hand needing to be higher ranked than the smaller hand. This can obviously be played much faster and it takes longer to get through a single deck in Pyramid Poker than it does in Pai Gow Poker.
Let It Ride
Let It Ride, or Let ‘Em Ride, is essentially a bet on drawing a good hand. Each player places an ante bet and is dealt three cards. Two community cards are drawn face down. Players are paid out on hands that are a pair of 10s or better. Before the first community card is turned over, players can place a further bet, equal to the ante. This choice is also given to each player before the last card is turned over, available to every player regardless of if they placed a second bet on the previous card or not. At many live casinos, all three possible bets must be placed down before the cards are dealt. They may then be withdrawn before cards are turned over rather than the bet being raised. Online casinos will often simply allow players to place down further bets.
Players are paid out in Let It Ride based on the strength of their hand in Let It Ride. Payout tables vary between casinos, but generally a pair of 10s or higher pair pays even money with Royal Flush paying as much as 1,000 to 1. Due to decisions over whether to raise or call, Let It Ride can be quite a slow game. The staged play appeals to players who like the tension of a card game to be drawn out.
Three Card Poker
Three Card Poker, or Tricard Poker, is actually two games in one: Pairplus and Ante-and-Play. In Three Card Poker, the players and dealer are all dealt three cards. Before being dealt cards, a player must place down an ante, and may make a separate pairplus bet. When dealt cards, if the player has a pair or better, he or she will win according to the strength of the hand, with pairs paid at even money at all casinos, and the payouts of other hands depending on the specific casino.
The rest of Three Card Poker is Ante-and-Play. In this, players may fold after seeing their hand, or choose to play by placing a bet equal to the ante on the table. If the dealer’s hand is less than Queen high, it does not qualify and the player is paid even money on the ante bet and the play bet is pushed. If the dealer has more than Queen high, it qualifies and is played against the hands of players. Players with stronger hands than the dealer are paid even money on both ante and play bets. Players with weaker hands lose their bets and players who tie with the dealer are usually pushed.
Three Card Poker also pays out on exceptionally good hands for players who choose to place a play bet. A Straight or better will pay out a separate bonus, regardless of whether the player loses so long as she or he makes a play bet. This bonus is paid on the ante bet, not the play bet, though. The sheer variety of ways to win in Three Card Poker brings many players back for more, as a player’s winnings can be massive on particularly good hands when a pairplus bet is made and the player makes a play bet.
Other Kinds of Card Games
Red Dog is quite popular in online casinos due to its varying odds and quick play. Three cards are dealt in total, with players betting on whether the third card will fall in the number range between the first two cards. Players place an ante before the first two cards are dealt, and may choose to place a further bet equal to the ante before the third card is dealt.
When the first two cards are consecutive in rank, player antes are pushed. When they are equal in rank, a third card is dealt, and players get paid 11 to 1 if the third card is also equal, otherwise bets are pushed. Any other time, the spread and payout of a win is declared before the third card is dealt and players may choose to increase their bet or simply continue. On a win, bets are paid according to the announced payout.
Baccarat is a famous card game thanks to James Bond, and a draw for high rollers in land based casinos, but it is quite simple to play. Two cards are dealt to a banker and a player, with everyone placing bets on who will win. The cards are then turned over and their combined value, with any tens digit removed, is the point value of the hand. Hence, a 5 and 6 card hand would be worth 1 point.
A third card may also be dealt to each hand, but this depends on the score of the hand. If either 2-card hand is worth 8 or 9 points, both players must stand. Most of the decisions in Baccarat are essentially pre-determined, as the players betting on the action do not want to lose due to another player’s stupid error. With minimal actual decision making, Baccarat plays very quickly.