Brag (card game)

Last updated
Origin English
Alternative namesBrag
Type Gambling
Players2 upwards
Skills requiredCounting
Cards52 cards
Playing time5-10 min.
Random chanceMedium
Related games
Teen patti, Poker, Stop the Bus

Brag is an 18th century British card game, and the British national representative of the vying or "bluffing" family of gambling games. [1] It is a descendant of the Elizabethan game of Primero [2] and one of the several ancestors to poker, the modern version just varying in betting style and hand rankings. It has been described as the "longest-standing British representative of the Poker family." [3]



The rules of Brag first appear in 1721 in The Compleat Gamester where it is referred to as "The Ingenious and Pleasant Game of Bragg", [4] but in fact, it originates in an almost identical game called Post and Pair which is recorded as far back as 1528 (as Post) and which, in turn, was descended from Primero. [3] However, Brag introduced a key innovation over Post and Pair: the concept of wild cards known as 'braggers'. Initially there was just one, the Knave of Clubs; later the Nine of Diamonds was added. [4] In parallel with this early three-stake game, in 1751 Hoyle describes a version of Brag with a shortened pack that only had a single phase – the vying or 'bragging' round – with special powers for certain Jacks and Nines, thus anticipating the modern single-stake game. [5] In 1825, an early American account of Brag describes a much more elaborate single-stake game with a complex vying procedure. [6] Not until 1860 are rules for both variants published in one compendium, whereby "Three Stake Brag" is virtually unchanged from the earliest rules and the version of "Single Brag" described is less complicated than its American cousin. [7]

In a 1981 survey by Waddingtons, Brag was the fourth most popular card game in Britain. [8] In 1992, Parlett stated that the classic three-stake variant (see Classic Brag below) was defunct; nevertheless, its rules were still being published in 2001. [9] [10]

Classic Brag

The earliest published rules for any form of Brag appear in Richard Seymour's 1721 revision of Charles Cotton's The Compleat Gamester. They are less than complete, but with the aid of later descriptions, can be reconstructed. [lower-alpha 1] The following is based on Seymour, supplemented by The New Pocket Hoyle (1810). [4] [11]

Classic Brag is a three-stake game and players ante 3 stakes, one for each phase of the game. Eldest hand deals 3 cards to each player in turn, turning the last card dealt to each player face up. The game phases are:

American Brag

In 1825, the first American account of Brag appeared in a New York edition of Hoyle's Games Improved. This was a far more elaborate variant based solely on the bragging phase of classic Brag. [12]

Modern Brag

Modern Brag, often called Three-Card Brag to distinguish it from its variants, is a single-stake game. Everyone antes, and players are each dealt three cards face down. There is a single round of betting, with action starting to the left of the dealer. Each player has the option of betting or folding. If there was a previous bet, the player must contribute at least that much more to the pot. (Unlike usual poker betting, a player's previous money contributed to the pot is ignored.) This betting continues until there are only two players left, at which point either player may double the previous bet to "see" his opponent. At this point, the two hands are revealed, and the player with the better hand takes the entire pot. If there is a tie, the player who is seeing loses.

For example, with four players A, B, C and D, this situation could occur: Player A bets 2 chips, B folds, C bets 2 chips and D bets 2 chips. In order to stay in, A would have to bet another 2 chips (at least).

Hand ranks

Straight flush
Playing card club J.svg Playing card club 10.svg Playing card club 9.svg

Three of a kind
Playing card club 6.svg Playing card diamond 6.svg Playing card heart 6.svg

Playing card spade 9.svg Playing card diamond 8.svg Playing card club 7.svg

Playing card spade Q.svg Playing card spade 10.svg Playing card spade 6.svg

Playing card diamond 2.svg Playing card heart 2.svg Playing card heart Q.svg

High card
Playing card heart A.svg Playing card club J.svg Playing card heart 10.svg

Three-card brag hand ranks

Hands generally follow the same sequence as the five-card hands of poker with some variation created by the differing odds of a three-card hand. As there are only three cards, four of a kind and a full house are not possible. Three of a kind is a very high-ranked hand, while a straight beats a flush, as three-card flushes are more likely than three-card straights while the reverse is true of five-card poker hands. The full probabilities are as follows:

Hand ranks
Straight flushThree suited cards in sequence480.22%
Prial or Three of a kindThree cards of same rank520.24%
StraightThree cards in sequence7203.26%
FlushThree suited cards1,0964.96%
PairTwo cards of same rank3,74416.94%
High cardNone of the above16,44074.39%
Total hands-22,100-


In Brag, three-of-a-kind is known as a prial , a word derived from "pair royal". As such, three sevens would be described as "a prial (of) sevens".


Some of these rules can also lead to games, especially heads-up, becoming tactical, with players avoiding making their best hand until their hand is forced into that last exchange by another player sticking, risking that the card that completes their hand isn't taken by another player in the meantime.

Betting blind

Players also have the option of playing blind (betting without looking at their cards). A blind player's costs are all half as much as an open (non-blind) player's. However, an open player may not see a blind player. If all other players fold to a blind player, the pot remains, everyone re-antes, and the blind player gets to keep his hand for the next round (in addition to the new one he is dealt). At any time, a player with two blind hands may look at one of them and decide whether to keep it or throw it away. If he keeps it, he throws away the other hand and is considered open. If he throws it away, he keeps the other hand and is still blind. If everyone folds to a blind player with two hands, he must throw away one without looking. As with many rules in card games, regional differences apply to this rule.


Another unusual custom of Brag is that the deck is rarely shuffled. Unless a hand is seen and won by a prial, the cards from the hand are just placed on the bottom of the deck, and the next hand is dealt without shuffling.

See also


  1. The rules are silent, for example, on the number of players, number of cards, direction of play and details of the vying procedure
  2. Jacks were then referred to as Knaves.
  3. Presumably if two or more drew 30 or 31, it was either a draw or positional priority applied.

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  1. Oxford Dictionary of Card games, p. 31, David Parlett ISBN   0-19-869173-4
  2. Dawson 1923, p. 207.
  3. 1 2 Parlett 1991, p. 102.
  4. 1 2 3 Seymour 1721, p. 58.
  5. Hoyle 1751.
  6. _ 1825, pp. 161-164.
  7. Hardie 1860, pp. 75-77.
  8. Parlett 1991, p. 3.
  9. Parlett 1992.
  10. 2001 & _, pp. 164-165.
  11. Hoyle 1810, pp. 70-72.
  12. 1825 & _, pp. 161-164.
  13. 1 2 3 Parlett 2008, p. 579.