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Three card brag

Origin English
Alternative names Brag
Type Gambling
Players 4-7
Skills required Counting
Cards 52 cards
Deck Anglo-American
Play Anti-clockwise
Playing time 5-10 min.
Random chance Medium
Related games
Teen Patti, Poker

Three card brag is a 16th-century British card game, and the British national representative of the vying or "bluffing" family of gambling games. Brag is a direct descendant of the Elizabethan game of Primero and one of the several ancestors to poker, just varying in betting style and hand rankings.

The game is very popular in Trinidad, India, Bangladesh and Nepal, where it is known both as "Flush" and "Teen Patti" (literally "three cards" in Hindi), played with some minor variations. At large gatherings and especially during festival times, it is the game of choice since many people of different skills can play together and have fun. It is also a very popular game among British fairground showmen, who usually get together at the bigger fairs and play for quite high stakes.


Everyone antes, and players are each dealt three cards face down. There is a single round of betting, with action starting to the left of the dealer. Each player has the option of betting or folding. If there was a previous bet, the player must contribute at least that much more to the pot. (Unlike usual poker betting, your previous money contributed to the pot is ignored.) This betting continues until there are only two players left, at which point either player may double the previous bet to "see" his opponent. At this point, the two hands are revealed, and the player with the better hand takes the entire pot. If there is a tie, the player who is seeing loses.

For example, with four players A, B, C and D, this situation could occur: 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 (at least).


The name may originate from several of the rules making the player feel like cursing. Knocking on the first round is prohibited, forcing anyone dealt a good hand to break it up, knocking isn't allowed directly after an exchange, rather instead of an exchange, i.e. you have to make a good hand, and then wait for your next turn to stick. Players can't exchange two cards at once, perhaps preventing the immediate accumulation of a good hand, with the card needed to complete the hand maybe taken by another player before the next opportunity.

Some of these rules can also lead to games, especially heads-up, becoming tactical, with players avoiding making their best hand until their hand is forced into that last exchange by another player sticking, risking that the card that completes their hand isn't taken by another player in the meantime.

Hand ranks

Three of a kind

Straight flush

Straight or Run



High card

Examples of poker hand categories in descending order

The hand rankings, from best to worst, are: three of a kind ("prial"), straight flush ("running flush"), straight ("run"), flush, pair, high card. The best prial is 3-3-3, followed by the usual order of A-A-A, K-K-K, etc. In variations allowing four-of-a-kind, 4-4-4-4 is the best 'box', followed by A-A-A-A, K-K-K-K, etc. The best running flush or run is A-2-3, A-K-Q, followed by the usual order of K-Q-J,etc. The flushes, pairs, and high cards have rankings identical to poker (aces high).

A pair will beat three-quarters of hands, but must watch out for unexpected runs and flushes. Prials and running flushes are extremely rare but are more common in versions of the game in which a hand is chosen from more than three cards. Unlike in other forms of poker, a run beats a flush. Because of the mathematics involved, three card flushes are more likely than three card straights, while the reverse is true of five-card (poker) hands.

Betting blind

Players also have the option of playing blind (betting without looking at their cards). A blind player's costs are all half as much as an open (non-blind) player's. However, an open player may not see a blind player. If all other players fold to a blind player, the pot remains, everyone re-antes, and the blind player gets to keep his hand for the next round (in addition to the new one he is dealt). At any time, a player with two blind hands may look at one of them and decide whether to keep it or throw it away. If he keeps it, he throws away the other hand and is considered open. If he throws it away, he keeps the other hand and is still blind. If everyone folds to a blind player with two hands, he must throw away one without looking.


Another unusual custom of Brag is that the deck is rarely shuffled. Unless a hand is seen and won by a prial, the cards from the hand are just placed on the bottom of the deck, and the next hand is dealt without shuffling.

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