Russian Poker is another one of the popular casino poker variations, which was only invented during the 1990s, just before the explosion of online casinos.
While Russian Poker can be found in many live casinos in Europe as well, it is most popular in online casino lobbies these days.
The game is similar to Caribbean Stud Poker in many rules but still has a set of unique Russian Poker rules that I am going to teach you.
If you want to learn how to play Russian Poker, keep reading and find out everything from basic rules and betting to payouts and strategies for how to play this entertaining casino game.
How to Play Russian Poker
If the name Russian Poker sounds much like Russian Roulette to you, let me put your mind at ease right away and assure you that this poker variant does not include any physical danger.
Russian Poker is an extremely entertaining and engaging variation that includes only a few possible plays and a fairly simple strategy.
Yet, the game can seem a bit daunting at first as the player does get several options in every hand, and it is not always 100% clear what the right play is.
To get you started, I would recommend playing Russian Poker for very small stakes, betting the table minimum on every hand, and getting acquainted with the game at your own pace.
Once you get the hang of all the Russian Poker rules, the payout table, and the intricacies of the game, you can start raising your bets and getting more involved.
Let’s start out by learning the basic Russian poker rules and betting order!
How to Bet in Russian Poker
Every hand of Russian Poker starts with an ante bet. You can choose the value of an ante bet yourself, often starting at just $1 and going as high as $100 per hand or more.
Aside from the ante bet, there is a bonus bet field as well, which you can choose to place chips on. The bonus bet is not required, and you can play it if you want to be in contention for additional payouts when you make big poker hands.
Once you have placed an ante bet, the dealer will deal you a poker hand made up of five cards. In online Russian Poker, you may need to press the deal button to get dealt the cards.
Once you have the cards, the dealer will also deal five cards to themselves, exposing just one card to you and keeping the other cards hidden.
At this point, you will have several options to pick from. These include:
- Fold: If you don’t like your hand, you can choose to simply discard it, forfeiting all your previously made wagers.
- Bet: Sometimes also referred to as “play,” this move places a bet worth 2x your ante into play and initiates a showdown. Your hand is compared to the dealer’s hand as he exposes his cards.
- Draw: If you don’t like some of the cards in your hand, you can choose to pay 1x your ante bet and switch as many as five cards from your hand for new cards from the deck.
- Buy: You can choose to add a sixth card to your hand for 1x your ante bet. The sixth card will play with your existing cards and can even trigger multiple payouts.
As you can see, your options in Russian Poker are not as limited as they are in some other variations of casino poker, such as Three Card Poker, which makes the game more fun to play, but also a bit more difficult to master.
To decide what the best play is with every hand you are dealt, you will need to understand the Russian Poker payouts first.
Payouts in Russian Poker
All your decisions in Russian Poker should be based on the game’s payouts and your potential to win big by making a certain play.
The payouts in the game are all based on your three bets, the ante, the play, and the bonus bet. Each of these bets can trigger different payouts.
Your ante bet is the most basic one in the game, and it will pay 1:1 anytime your hand can beat the dealer’s or if the dealer does not qualify.
Your play bet only pays if the dealer also qualifies, which means they will need to have Ace-King high or better in their hand.
If the dealer doesn’t qualify, your play bet will be returned to you without any winnings. If the dealer does qualify, your play bet will earn you some winnings, according to this payout chart:
- Ace-King High: 1:1
- One Pair: 1:1
- Two Pair: 2:1
- Three of a Kind: 3:1
- Straight: 4:1
- Flush: 5:1
- Full House: 7:1
- Four of a Kind: 20:1
- Straight Flush: 50:1
- Royal Flush: 100:1
Whenever you find yourself holding a strong poker hand in Russian Poker, you will want to make sure that the dealer qualifies in order to get paid these extra bets.
To help with that, you will have two additional options. Anytime you are holding three of a kind or better, you will be able to pay an insurance bet worth 1x your ante. The insurance allows you to get paid 1:1 on the bet if the dealer does not qualify.
Your other option is to buy an additional card for the dealer, and you can use this option regardless of what hand you have. This way, you can give the dealer a better chance to qualify, which means you get paid on your play bet.
Finally, if you pay for a bonus bet, you will have an option of getting paid big when you make a strong poker hand.
To get paid on a bonus bet, you will need to make at least three of a kind, but you won’t care about what the dealer is holding.
The payouts for your bonus bet are as follows:
- Three of a Kind: 5:1
- Straight: 50:1
- Flush: 100:1
- Full House: 150:1
- Four of a Kind: 250:1
- Straight Flush: 800:1
- Royal Flush: 1,500:1
Keep in mind that your bonus payouts will be based on the value of the bonus bet you made, regardless of your ante. If you risk big on the bonus, you may just get a big reward as well.
Russian Poker Strategy
Now that we have covered all the basic Russian Poker rules, we can discuss some strategies and what the best way to play the game is.
Quite clearly, you cannot leave things up to chance in Russian Poker, as you will have many situations where you need to make a decision.
Whether you are choosing between folding or playing your hand or deciding if it’s worth buying that extra card or drawing some new ones, there are always options to consider.
Let’s start out with some basics and talk about when you should play your hand or not.
To Play or Not to Play?
Once you are dealt your initial five cards, you will need to decide whether or not to play your hand. This decision should come down to the cards you are holding.
If you are already holding Ace-King in your hand, you should usually continue with but not buy any extra cards or discard the ones you have. In many cases, your hand will be good enough to win.
If the dealer’s hand is not enough to qualify, you will win the ante bet, and if you have a better Ace-King than the dealer, you will double the play bet as well.
On the other hand, if you are dealt a hand that does not even contain an Ace-King in it, you would probably be best off folding it.
While there is some chance the dealer does not qualify and you still win, the odds are not in your favor, and you don’t have a chance to win any additional money, making the fold the right play.
The Bonus Bet & Double Payouts
It is important to keep in mind that the bonus bet, which offers the biggest payouts in the game, only gets paid if you make a hand with your initial five cards.
Any cards you receive as a result of drawing or buying new cards will not play towards your bonus payouts. The bonus bet will be taken by the dealer immediately after the first five cards are dealt if your hand does not qualify.
The play bets, on the other hand, will take into consideration all the cards you receive through the draw and buy options.
In some cases, the game will even allow you to get paid on two multiple hands. For example, you may have an Ace-high hand and one pair at the same time. With the sixth card, you can even have two full houses at the same time.
Buying and Exchanging Cards
Once you are dealt your five initial cards, you will have two options to improve your hand. You can either buy a sixth card and add it to your hand or draw cards to replace your existing ones.
You should buy the sixth card when:
- You have an open-ended straight draw
- You have a flush draw
- You have a strong made hand (three of a kind)
You should not buy the sixth card if your hand is weak and can only improve to one pair or three of a kind.
Your other option is to discard some of the cards you have and switch them out for new cards. You should take the option to exchange your cards when:
- If you have three cards to a straight or royal flush, exchange the other two cards.
- If you have Ace-King, exchange the other three cards.
- If you have three of a kind, exchange the other two cards.
- If the dealer is showing a low card (5 or lower), keep your Q or higher and exchange the remaining cards.
When to Fold Your Cards
I have explained the basic Russian Poker strategy and when you should draw new cards or buy the extra card, but you may be wondering just when you should actually give your hand up.
There is a rule of thumb that you can follow on this as well. If your hand does not contain at least Ace, King, and a seven after the draw, you should let the hand go.
Apart from this, I can also recommend not paying for insurance or buying the extra card for the dealer in most cases, as such bets are designed to increase the house edge.
While you may miss out on some payouts when the dealer does not qualify, in the long run, these bets will not be profitable to make.
If you have a very strong poker hand with a big payout, you may want to give the dealer a shot at making one pair by exchanging one of their cards, and it is likely that the expected value of this play is positive.
In all other cases, simply play the game as if there was no option to give the dealer any help, and you should get the highest possible payouts over the long run.
Play Russian Poker Like a Pro
You should now be ready to play Russian Poker and give yourself the best possible winning chance. The Russian Poker strategy is fairly simple to follow, and I trust you will get the hang of it after playing a few hands of the game.
I recommend you start off by playing the game for play money, get a few hands in, and make sure you understand the optimal strategy before you start betting real cash.
Once you have a grip of the game, you can move on to the real money tables and apply the Russian Poker strategy you learned here to the real game and raise your edge to the absolute maximum.