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Three Card Mulligan is a Three-Card Poker variant which provides the player the opportunity to trade-in his or her hand for a second hand. This is a brand new game, having made its debut at the Cowboys Casino in Calgary, Alberta in January 2013. Three-card Mulligan was patented by Shuffle Entertainment (“Shufflemaster”) and is marketed by them.
52-Card Deck and Hand Ranks
A single deck of 52 playing cards is used. Many of the poker hands are winning hands, though a handful (Royal Flush, Four of a Kind) cannot be created in this game. For that reason, the ranking of hands is a little different than in other games: straight flush, 3 of a kind, straight, flush, pair, and high card (aces high or less).
The rules of the game should look familiar to those who’ve played Three-Card Poker. To start a new hand, a player makes an ante bet. Players also have the option of making a side bet, called the Pair Plus Bet. Keep in mind that casino side bets tend to pay out bigger odds than the main bet, but also have a higher house edge (they’re a worse betting option).
Once the bets are made, the dealers deals out three cards to the house and three cards to each of the players. The player and dealer cards are dealt face-down, so no information can be gleaned from the deal. Each player takes a look at his or her hole cards, without showing them to anyone else at the table.
Once the player takes a look at their cards, they have the ability to either keep those cards or trade them in for a different set of three cards. The term “Mulligan” is borrowed from golf, where a player can re-tee the ball and play a second shot without penalty, if their first shot was mishit. Such practices are illegal in tournaments and among strict players, but is common among a group of casual players. When Shuffle Inc. decided to try a redraw for this 3-Card Poker variation, Mulligan was the perfect name for the game.
To take the Mulligan bet, the player must make an additional wager equal to the original ante bet, essentially doubling down on the original wager. The casino likes to see a player take the Mulligan, because it doubles the size of a bet against the house edge.
Pair Plus Mulligan Bet
If the player decides to take the Mulligan bet, then he or she has the option of betting on the Pair Plus wager after taking the Mulligan bet. In this case, the Pair Plus bet is doubled. If you do not take the Mulligan, then the Pair Plus Mulligan bet cannot be played.
Dealer Reveals Cards
Once the Mulligan bets are made, the dealer turns over the house’s cards. House rules or the “house way” assures what the dealer does in every situation. If the dealer holds a single king or higher hand, then they dealer stands. If the dealer does not hold a king or higher, then the dealer takes a Mulligan. Again, the dealer discards all three cards and draws a second set of three cards.
In either case, once the dealer’s cards are revealed, the hands are compared and a winner is determined. The higher hand wins. If the dealer holds the higher hand, then the player loses the ante wager and the Mulligan bet (if made). If the player holds the better hand, then he or she receives a payout based on the ante and raise payout table.
Obviously, if the player did not make a Mulligan bet, then they only win on the ante bet. If the player made both an ante bet and a Mulligan bet, then the player wins both bets.
If the hands are tied, then a push is called. No one wins and no money changes hands.
Ante/Mulligan Pay Table
The payout schedule for the ante and Mulligan bets are the same. The house edge on these bets is set in place, so doubling the bet for the Mulligan simply provides more exposure to the house edge, from a casino’s perspective. Payouts for the ante and Mulligan bets are 6:1 for a straight flush, 4:1 for a three of a kind, 3:2 for a straight, and 1:1 for all other winning hands.
The house edge on a 3-Card Mulligan ante bet is 3.57%. This is not comparable to the payouts on blackjack, baccarat, or craps. Three-Card Mulligan offers better odds than American roulette, but not European roulette. This game does have better odds than most slot machines, and certainly lotto-style gaming like keno and standard lottery betting. While Three-Card Mulligan does not have the best odds among the casino table games, it does offer decent odds combined with easy-to-remember strategy advice.
Pair Plus Payout Table
The payouts for the Pair Plus bet are much higher. Keep in mind that you have to hold a pair among your three cards to win this bet, so you are going to lose this wager most of the time. If you’re having a hard time visualizing why, think of how often you receive a pair when being dealt 5 cards (with no redraws). Then think about how rarer it would be to receive matching cards, when you’re only given 3 cards (with no redraws). Though you have two chances to get a good hand, the chance of getting a good hand on the redraw is no better than on the original one, and your bet is doubled.
The house edge on a Pair Plus wager is 7.28%. Those who study the mathematical probabilities of casino gambling know that is not a good house edge. A game like blackjack offers a house edge around 0.50%. For a comparison, if you wagered $100 on classic blackjack, you would expect to win back $99.50. If you bet $100 on the Pair Plus wager, you would expect to win back only $92.72. Over time, the difference you pay to play would become significant.
Three Card Mulligan Strategy
Three-Card Mulligan strategy is simple. If you receive a king-ten or higher, you should stand. If you get a hand lower than a K-10, you should ask for the Mulligan. This is why I say the strategy is easy. Remember one piece of advice and you have mastered the game. I’ll reiterate that you can find better odds in the casino without learning a whole lot of strategy (craps, baccarat, European roulette), but 3-Card Mulligan is fun and easy to play, and it offers nice payouts on the side bet.