How To Play Russian Poker – Rules & Best Strategies
Russian Poker has originated in Russia back in the 1990s (hence the name) and has found its way inside casino across Europe.
Although it’s not nearly as popular as some other variations like 3 Card Poker, Caribbean Stud, or Ultimate Texas Holdem, you’ll still find a decent number of venues spreading it both online and live.
The game can seem a bit complicated at first, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll realize that Russian Poker is quite simple, even with quite a few choices you have after receiving the initial five cards.
Every option you have comes with a certain price, so you need to make sure you have enough chips in front of you to cover every scenario, depending on what cards you’re dealt and what the dealer is showing.
In this article, you won’t just learn all the rules of Russian Poker, but you’ll also find out about some basic strategies that will help you play the game well and not give the house any more edge than it already has.
Basic Russian Poker Rules
Like all poker variations played against the house, your only goal in Russian Poker is to beat the dealer.
Even though there may be several other players playing with you at the table, you’re only concerned about how your hand will stack up against the dealer’s holding.
Russian Poker uses the standard poker hands rankings, where the high card is the lowest possible hand, followed by one pair, two pair, three of a kind, etc., all the way up to a royal flush. Thus, there’ll be no surprises there.
The hand begins by you placing the ante bet in the designated box. After that, the dealer will deal out five face-down cards to each participating player, and take five cards for themselves, leaving one of their cards exposed.
Up to this point, the game is quite similar to Caribbean Stud Poker, a much more popular version of banked poker. However, once you’ve received your initial set of cards, you’ll have several options available to you, which is where these two games differ.
- Fold – giving up your hand and the ante
- Bet – if you’re happy with your hand, you can place the bet, which is twice the size the ante, and wait for the showdown
- Buy a card – if you want, you can pay an amount equal to the value of the ante to buy an extra card. Once you receive the additional card, you’ll once again have the option to either bet or fold
- Draw new cards – if you want, you can discard up to five cards from your hand, and the dealer will give you five new cards. You’ll pay the amount of the ante for this exchange, and once you get new cards, you’ll once again have to decide whether to fold or bet
As you can see, Russian Poker rules are a bit more complex than those of other similar variations.
These rules also make the game a bit more expensive as sometimes you’ll need to pay these extra wagers because of the way the payout works.
Russian Poker Showdown & Payouts
Once all bets are in, the dealer will turn over their hand. The first thing to consider is whether they have a qualifying hand, which is Ace-King or better.
If the dealer doesn’t qualify, you’ll get paid 1 to 1 on your ante bet, but your play bets will be returned to you with no profit.
The only way to make sure you’ll get paid regardless is when you have a strong bet and pay the insurance, which we’ll discuss in a moment.
If the dealer qualifies and they have a stronger hand than yours, you’ll lose all of your wagers. If they qualify and you’re the one with the stronger hand, payouts on your play bets are made according to the following paytable:
- Ace King & one pair pay 1 to 1
- Two pair pay 2 to 1
- Three of a kind pay at 3 to 1
- Straights will pay 4 to 1
- Flushes pay 5 to 1
- Full houses pay 7 to 1
- Quads pay 20 to 1
- Straight flushes pay 50 to 1
- A royal flush will pay at 100 to 1
So, when you do have a strong hand, it is really in your interest to make sure the dealer qualifies. Otherwise, no matter how big of a hand you have, you’ll only receive a payout on your ante bets.
Unlike Caribbean Stud, Russian Poker offers you some additional options to help ensure you’re getting paid.
Special Bets in Russian Poker: Insurance & Replace a Dealer’s Card
When you are dealt a hand that’s three of a kind or better, you are looking at a payout of 3 to 1 or more.
However, if the dealer doesn’t qualify, you won’t be seeing any of that money. If you want to avoid sweating and getting annoyed, Russian Poker rules offer you a chance to buy the insurance every time you have trips or better.
The minimum price of the insurance is the amount of the ante, and the maximum is half of the play amount.
If you decide to buy it, you’ll get paid 1 to 1 on the insurance amount if the dealer doesn’t qualify or according to the payout table if they do. However, if they make a qualifying hand, the insurance amount is lost.
If you choose not to buy the insurance and the dealer turns over their hand, you’ll have another option available to you if they don’t qualify.
For the price of the ante, you’ll be able to replace their highest card with a new card from the deck. If that new card gives them a qualifying hand, you’ll get paid according to the paytable, just as if they had qualified on the original draw.
Getting Paid on Two Hands
Since Russian Poker gives you a chance to buy a sixth card, every now and again, you’ll end up with two made hands.
For example, you could have two different full houses in your hand, or two pair plus Ace-King, etc.
Although rare, this does happen every now and again, and when it does, you’ll be paid for both of your combinations separately. For example, two full boats will pay 14 to 1. Two pairs and Ace-King will pay 3 to 1, etc.
Russian Poker Bonus Bets
In addition to the regular play, some Russian Poker games also give you a chance to place the bonus bet. Basically, you’re betting to make three-of-a-kind or better on the original deal.
Trips are paid at 5 to 1, straights pay 50 to 1, etc., up to a royal flush that pays 1,500 to 1.
If you make a qualifying bonus hand, you’ll be paid immediately, regardless of whether or not the dealer qualifies or your hand beats them.
Russian Poker Strategy
Due to many different options, players have during the hand of Russian Poker, optimal strategies for this game can be somewhat complex. However, no matter which place you choose to play from a valid casino list, you will be better off knowing at least the basic strategy.
Without boring you with too much math and numbers, this article will provide you with some simple, no-nonsense, and easy to follow tips and advice.
Buying the sixth card:
- When you have a strong made hand, buy a sixth card to try and improve your payout
- Don’t buy the sixth card with a weak hand (no pair, no reasonable draw) – you’re better off folding
- Buy the sixth card when you have a flush draw or an open-ended straight draw
- Exchange two cards if the remaining three cards make a draw to a straight flush or a royal flush
- If you have Ace-King, exchange the remaining three cards
- Exchange two cards if you have trips, provided the dealer isn’t showing the card of the same rank as your trips
- Exchange four cards and keep a Queen if the dealer is showing a 5 or lower. Otherwise, fold.
There are more basic strategies you could introduce to your play, but for the time being, these should help you play the game reasonably well and not lose too much money in situations where you don’t need to.
If you have a hand that’s a non-starter, there is no point in exchanging five cards. Simply fold and move on to the next one.
Strategy after the deal:
Once you’re done with all exchanges and buying cards, you should generally continue if your hand contains at least Ace, King, and Queen.
If you don’t have a hand that’s at least strong as this, you should generally fold.
When it comes to your other options, it seems not much has been done in the way of figuring out when it is the right time to place the insurance or force the dealer to exchange their highest card.
In general, additional bets always increase the house edge, so they are to be used sparingly at best.
If you do happen to have a big hand, you’ll be hurting yourself by putting up the insurance money. Forcing the dealer to exchange their card when you have a really big hand like quads or better might not be such a bad idea, though.
Conclusion: Russian Poker Is Fun Casino Game With Plenty Of Options
Russian Poker is definitely an interesting casino game that offers a lot of excitement all over the place. You have several decisions available to you during every hand, so you’ll quickly become quite involved with the play. If this sounds appealing to you, you should give it a go.
The house edge of Russian Poker, when played optimally, is 4.90%, so it’s not the most player-friendly game out there.
However, because of all the options at your disposal and potential for big payouts, it can be a lot of fun.
It’s an expensive entertainment, but if you don’t go crazy with initial bets and stick to your limits, you can enjoy this game without breaking the bank or busting your poker bankroll.