Russian Poker is a casino table game. It was developed in Russian casinos during the 1990s, as the Soviet Union began to collapse. Although the Soviet Union would occasionally offer “Progressives”, bond-based lottery systems, gambling was officially illegal.
With the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, previously illegal gambling became sanctioned and casinos opened in Russia. Russian Poker is a game developed domestically, for these new Russian casinos.
How to Play Russian Poker?
Russian Poker is played, like many Poker-Table games, with a single standard Anglo-American 52-card deck. Players are competing against the Dealer rather than each other. Playable by 2-8 Players, a Russian Poker table will have distinct seats for each Player at a different position of the table.
Setup and Play-Zones
In front of each seat are a particular set of Play-Zones, or “boxes”, which the Player will be using during the course of a game. These zones are:
- The Ante
- Sixth Card
Players begin the game by paying in their Ante, determined by the Table’s set minimum and maximum values. Players must place an Ante between or meeting the minimum and maximum, but cannot go below the minimum or above the maximum.
Each Player’s Ante could be different, depending on what they chose to wager.
After each Player has paid their Ante, cards will be dealt. Each Player will be dealt a packet of 5 cards, all face-down and hidden from other Players and the Dealer. Only the Player may look at their own cards. The Dealer will also give themselves five cards.
Taking Turns and Betting
Once each Player has been dealt their cards, Players will take turns paying money into the other boxes. In order to pay into the next box, all actions for the previous box must be resolved. When it is a Player’s turn, they decide on all of their boxes during that turn.
The Betting box does not need to follow a specific order, as do the other boxes. This is because Players are given the choice to Bet after each subsequent box has been completed. Players that wish to immediately play, without participating in any of the other optional boxes, can simply wager 2x their Ante. The Bet MUST equal exactly 2x the Ante.
If a Player is unhappy with their cards, they may choose to forgo their pet and instead purchase a sixth card.
This sixth card is valid for play, and although Players are attempting to form the best 5-card Poker hand in order to beat the Dealer, if a Player is able to form two melds in the same hand with this sixth card, they are able to receive a payout for both.
In order to buy a sixth card, Players place a wager equal to the Ante in their Sixth-Card box. This will be explained in the “Payouts” Section below.
Choosing Bet and Exchange
After a Player has decided to accept or deny the Sixth-Card box, they are given the choice to place their Bet. If they still deny their Bet, they may move on to the next box.
The Exchange box is available for Players after they have made a decision on their Sixth-Card Box. If desired, a Player may pay a wager equal to the Ante into the Exchange box. Afterwards, they may discard up to 4 cards, passing them to the Dealer. The Dealer will then replace these cards with fresh ones from the deck.
After a Player has decided to accept or deny the Exchange, they are allowed to decide whether they will place a wager in the Bet box or buy insurance.
If a Player has a Three-of-a-kind or a better meld, then they are able to buy Insurance against disqualification. The Dealer must have a minimum hand in order for Players to receive their regular payouts, with the qualifying hand being at least an Ace-King or higher.
Dealer Qualification and Pushes
If the Dealer is unable to qualify, Players will receive a Push regardless of their hand.
A Push essentially returns all of the Player’s wages made.
If a Player has not bought insurance and the showdown has begun, and the Dealer does not qualify, they are able to place a wager equal to the Ante in their insurance box at that time. This forces the Dealer to exchange one card in their hand, attempting to make a qualifying hand.
Players that HAVE bought insurance during a non-qualification will receive even odds, or a 1-to-1 payout on their insurance.
When properly buying insurance before the Showdown, a Player can wager half of the potential payout they will receive from the hand.
- If a Player could win $50 from their hand, they can place a $25 wager in the insurance box before the Showdown.
- If the Dealer does not qualify, the Player’s insurance pays out and they are given their original $25 back, plus an additional $25.
- If a Player buys insurance properly, and the Dealer qualifies, the Player’s insurance is lost to the House.
If a Player wins the hand against a qualifying Dealer, they will receive a specific payout, according to a table listed below, for the money wagered in their Bet box.
Players also receive even odds on their Ante, being paid 1:1 for the value of their Ante. Against a qualifying dealer, a Player’s Sixth-Card and Exchange box, as well as their insurance, is lost to the House.
Losing Hand and New Game
A Player that loses the hand to the qualifying Dealer loses all of the wagers in all of their boxes. After each Player has taken their turns, both pre-showdown and post-showdown, a new game begins with Players placing their desired Ante wagers once more.
Tie and Folding
In the case of a tie, the Player’s Ante and Bet are pushed, while their insurance, Sixth Card, and Exchanges are lost. Players may fold at any stage of the game, except after they have already placed their Bet wager.
The Russian Poker rules are as follows:
- The Players must follow a particular procedure during their turn, putting money into their boxes in a sequential order.
- The Dealer must qualify with an Ace-King high card, if they cannot do this, then the Dealer does not qualify and all resulting rules from a disqualified Dealer apply.
- Players are able to buy insurance for half of the value of their potential payout. If the Dealer does not qualify, they are able to win a 1:1 wager on the value of their insurance.
- Once a Bet Wager is placed, players cannot alter their boxes.
Russian Poker Payouts
The following is a simple poker-style payout table for a game of Russian Poker:
The house edge is 4.90%.
As explained above, when a Player buys a Sixth Card, they are sometimes able to form two separate 5-card Poker hands. For example, 7♦ 8♦ 9♦ 10♦ J♦ Q♦
With a hand like this, a Player is able to form two separate Straight Flushes:
- 7♦ 8♦ 9♦ 10♦ J♦
- 8♦ 9♦ 10♦ J♦ Q♦
As Players are forced to form the highest possible hand, a Straight Flush cannot be a Straight Flush, a Straight, and a Flush.
The melds cannot be formed from the exact same set of cards. One card must be different, as in the example above.
When two melds are in the same hand, such as this, then the Player will receive payouts for both melds. The payout of two melds is a simple addition, with the payouts of both melds added together.
So, for the above example, a Player would expect to receive a payout of 100x the wager in the Bet box. 50x for one Straight Flush, and 50x for the other.
Imagine the following is your hand in Russian Poker:
8♣ 4♥ 2♣ 10♥ 10♠
This is a good start, with a pair of 10s. However, the Dealer is still somewhat substantially likely to have a better hand than your pair of 10s.
Keep in mind too that the Dealer will disqualify if they have anything less than an Ace-King, which means many of the hands traditionally beaten by the 10-pair are invalid for the Dealer.
Also keep in mind that pairs do not pay out well, as they are only a 1x payout.
In a situation such as this, it is highly recommended to both buy the Sixth Card, as well as the Exchange.
Insurance would be pointless, as you only have a pair. You’re paying insurance on the off-chance the Dealer has complete junk, and even if the Dealer doesn’t qualify you are only receiving half of a 1x payout.
- Players should always buy the Sixth Card, every single game unless they plan on folding. The Sixth Card opens up the possibility for a double meld, which pays out a combination payout of its two composite payouts.
- Players should take advantage of the insurance box when they have a very strong hand. Although the Dealer may qualify, making the insurance worthless, it would be a terrible shame to have a Royal Flush, and then receive a push because the Dealer did not qualify. Insurance pays 1:1, meaning you can win up to half of your potential winnings if the Dealer does not qualify.