Brag is a family of British Meld-Making Comparing-Games that are very popular in the United Kingdom. The Brag card game predates the most popular American staples, such as modern Blackjack and Poker, yet still maintains a sizeable player base.
Brag is quite similar to poker’s gameplay, and may even be the game’s immediate predecessor, although it strays from the traditional poker hierarchy one might be familiar with.
How to Play 3 Card Brag?
Brag is played using the Standard Anglo-American 52-card deck. Cards are ranked with Aces-High, descending from the highest Ace to the lowest 2. The game can be played with 2-8 players, though four or more is advised.
There are multiple versions of Brag, with the three-card variation being the most common. However, Four-Card and Five-Card Brag are also played frequently. Explanations for these game variations will be below.
The bulk of this section of the guide will be explaining Three-Card Brag, and those rules can largely be transplanted into the four and five-card variations.
Brag is played in a series of rounds, where Players play an individual hand in each round. At the end of a round, Players move on to the next round, and a new hand of cards.
Minimum and Maximum Wagers
Before cards are dealt and Antes are paid-in, players must establish the minimum and maximum wagers for the duration of the round.
Players must meet or exceed the minimum bet, without going over the maximum, during the betting portions of a round.
As in Poker, as Players are eliminated from the table, the minimum and maximum may increase to up the stakes of the game.
A Dealer should also be chosen, by the Players’ preferred methods. The Dealer position moves across the table, so it does not confer any particular advantage to be the first Dealer.
The game of Brag begins, like many gambling-type card games, with an Ante.
- Each Player must pay an agreed-upon equal wager into the Pot.
- Each Players Ante will be the same, and is always the first payment made in a round.
- The Ante does not necessarily need to correlate with the Minimum, and as such can even be less than the Minimum if desired so long as all Players at the table agree.
- Players are required to pay their Ante, even if they do not wish to participate in the hand.
After the Antes of each Player have been paid in, The Dealer begins The Deal.
- Cards are dealt clockwise from the Dealer, one at a time, until each Player has received three cards.
- All cards are dealt face-down.
- Players may peek at their cards if they wish, or they may play “Blind” without looking at their cards which confers certain bonuses.
Blind Players have double wagers. In essence, this means that if the going bet is $10, a Blind Player only needs to bet $5, in order to remain in the game.
Players can cease being Blind at any time, simply by looking at their cards. Once a Player ceases to be Blind though, they cannot Reblind.
Once each Player has their cards, the betting portion of Brag begins. It is quite different from Poker in the fact that a perfect Brag game is pure bluff.
In Poker, there is a designated Showdown, which occurs so long as two or more Players remain in the game after the Post-River Betting portion.
Brag, on the other hand, does not have any such “Showdown.” There is a similar mechanic, but as the name of the game suggests, players are trying to “Brag” (Bluff) about their hand more than they are trying to form a winning hand in the first place.
It is for this reason Players are never permitted to show their cards to other Players, unless during the “See” portion of the game. Players should be very secretive about the true contents of their hand.
- Players take turns, starting from the Player immediately clockwise to the Dealer.
- Players have two options during their turn: Fold, or Bet.
Players that Fold do so in a manner familiar to Poker Players. Players turn in their face-down cards to the Dealer, and those cards are placed on the bottom of the deck in order.
Brag does not shuffle the deck, unless in certain circumstances.
Players must Bet or fold, there is no Check option in Brag.
- To stay in the game, players can Bet according to the minimum, without exceeding the maximum.
- Players must also bet at least the same amount as the previous highest bet.
- Player 1 bets $2
- Player 2 bets $2
- Player 3 bets $4
- Player 4 bets $4
Now, in Poker, Player 1 would be required to bet $2, to make up for the difference between their previous bet and Player 3’s bet.
However, Brag does not work this way. Instead, Player 1 must match Player 3’s outstanding Bet, and as such Player 1 must wager $4 in order to remain in the game.
This is the majority of Brag’s gameplay and strategy. Betting does not end until there are only two players remaining.
For example, suppose the maximum bet is $10.
- Player 1 bets $10
- Player 2 Bets $10
- Player 3 bets $10
- Player 1 bets another $10
- Player 2 bets another $10, and so on.
Betting does not end until one of those Players finally folds.
Once all but two players have folded, Brag’s equivalent to the Showdown begins.
Both of the remaining Players are given an additional option on top of Bet and Fold. The “See.”
In order to See, Players must pay double their opponent’s previous bet.
- Player 1 bet $10
- Player 2 folded.
It is now Player 3’s turn and there are only two players remaining.
If Player 3 wishes, they may pay $20, and force Player 1 to show their hand.
Player 3 would then, without showing their cards, compare their hand to Player 1’s.
- If Player 3 has a better hand, they may declare so, and show their hand to the rest of the table as evidence.
- If Player 3’s hand is equal, or worse than Player 1’s hand, Player 3 must immediately fold without showing their cards.
Players can only pay for a See on their own turn.
- If a See occurs, and both Players show their cards, the deck is shuffled.
- If only one hand is shown during the See, both hands are placed on the bottom of the deck as normal.
After one Player takes the pot, either by betting until the other Player folds, or winning the See, the Dealing position moves to the Player immediately clockwise to the Dealer.
A new round begins, with cards dealt from the top of the deck without shuffling it unless a See was won.
Four and Five-Card Variations
The above version of the game is far and away the most popular, however, four and five-card versions of the game do exist.
Four-Card and Five-Card Brag follow all the same rules and procedures as 3-Card Brag. The key difference between the Base Game and these variants is the discarding mechanic.
- In Four-Card Brag, Players discard one of their cards to form a Three-Card hand.
- Five-Card Brag is the same, except Players discard two cards. These cards are returned to the Dealer, face-down, and placed on the bottom of the deck.
Blind Players do not discard until they look at their cards.
Brag uses its own hand rankings. These melds are somewhat similar to Poker melds. The Hand/Meld hierarchy below is ranked from Highest-To-Lowest:
|Pair Royal (Three-Kind)
|7♣ 7♠ 7♦ / A♥ A♦ A♠
|Running Flush (Straight-Flush)
|8♦ 9♦ 10♦ / 2♠ 3♠ 4♠
|5♦ 6♣ 7♣ / 2♦ 3♣ 4♠
|7♣ 10♣ 9♣ / 2♦ 5♦ 9♦
|2♥ 2♦ 6♣ / 10♦ 10♣ 8♣
Keep in mind that a lower meld, even with higher-ranking components, is always beaten by a meld higher up on this list.
The most important game rules are listed below.
- Players should never show other Players the cards in their hand unless they are contesting in a See. Otherwise, cards should always be hidden.
- Players may play Blind, by not looking at their cards. This doubles their wagers, effectively making them only need to pay half of the outstanding wager.
- Gameplay continues until only one Player remains unfolded, or one Player pays for a See. Otherwise, betting could continue theoretically infinitely if neither Player is willing to back down.
- A Brag deck is only shuffled when two Players have shown their hands during a See.
Suppose that you are playing a game of Brag with three other people. Assume that you Play Blind for the first two betting rounds, and the going rate was $10.
You have only placed two bets of $5, as compensation for your blindness. All other Players have wagered $20. This yields significant profit for you, if you can manage to win this pot.
On your third turn, you look at your cards:
9♣ 10♣ J♣
A Running Flush with very high-ranking components. This is a very good hand and has great potential to win this large pot.
Now that you have seen your cards, you must wager the full $10.
Two more betting rounds occur, and all but one other Player has folded. This means you have paid $40, to the other Player’s $50.
You can continue to bet aggressively, because of this difference in wager. The best move for you would be to simply keep betting, and not attempt a See.
Force the onus onto the other to pay for the See, because you will very likely win with your strong hand.
This will yield more bets from the other Player until they eventually Fold or See.
- If they See and lose, you win a free double wager.
- If they See and somehow win, you do lose but you would have lost on a See anyway.
Focus on Bluffing
Brag is more about bluffing than it is necessarily meld-making. As the cards are so secretive between players, it is entirely possible to win a hand without having a single meld at all.
Simply by playing the game of Wager, you can intimidate opponents into folding and attempting to save some of their money.
Use Bets to Prevent To Prevent the See
The worst-case scenario you can wind up in is a See itself. If you have reached the point of a See, cards will actually be displayed, and there is a chance of losing.
If you bet appropriately and convince other players to fold through your betting, then a See will never occur and you will be guaranteed the pot.
It is possible to completely insulate yourself against risk in Brag if you know how to push the stakes.
Do you shuffle in Brag?
No, generally the deck is never shuffled, unless both Players during a See were forced to show their hands. Otherwise, cards are placed on the bottom of the deck.
How many cards are dealt in Brag?
This depends on the version of the game you are playing. There is Three, Four, and Five-Card Brag. Most often, you will be dealt three cards, as Three-Card Brag is the most popular.
What is the Best Hand in Brag?
The best hand in Brag is the Prial, an abbreviation for Pair Royal, of Aces. This is essentially a Three-Of-A-Kind in Poker.
What is the Difference Between Brag and Poker?
Brag as a game is much more focused on the bluffing aspect of Comparing Games. The word “Brag” In English means to lie in a self-aggrandizing manner.
Hence, players are “Bragging” about the hand that they have, even if in reality it is not very good. This bluffing mechanic exists in Poker as well, Poker will always end in a Showdown unless Players fold.
A game of Brag can continue betting infinitely, with no Showdown ever occurring, as opposed to poker.