How to Play Red Dog

By Alex Smith, Last updated Mar 23, 2024

Red Dog, also known as Red Dog Poker, is quite a popular game. Today, you will find it offered at most online casinos. Some land-based casinos also offer it, although it’s not found as commonly.

Red Dog uses standard poker rankings, so it can be quite an easy game for players to pick up. However, the game remains relatively unknown. On this page, we will look at how to play Red Dog. We will also examine the rules and the payouts and whether it’s possible to use a betting strategy.

How to Play

The foundation behind Red Dog is straightforward. The objective is to guess if a subsequent card will be ranked in the middle of two cards dealt face-up on the table.

Because the game is social, everyone playing Red Dog (in a land-based casino, at least) is betting on the same result.

One way of looking at Red Dog is that it’s similar to higher or lower. However, a winning result isn’t the only possibility.

You can also lose or tie the hand, as we’ll demonstrate later. However, that is everything there is to Red Dog Poker. Isn’t it simple?

There are a few Red Dog variants, including a five-card version known as a high-card pool, but all game variations still use the same core principle.

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However, if you’re playing Red Dog Poker for real money, there are a few extra nuances to the game. We will look at some of these extra nuances later in this guide.

It can sound a little confusing at first, but the player wins when the five cards dealt are better than those held by the dealer. By the way, the dealer shuffles in-between each round. Unlike blackjack, for example, Red Dog requires a freshly-dealt deck of cards each round.

Rules and Payouts

If you’re still curious about how to play Red Dog Poker, this section will help you more. We will now be looking at the different rules and payouts. Firstly, you should know that raises are optional. You do not have to increase your bet to stay in the game. Player bets never need to increase. The one chip you place at the beginning of the hand is enough.

When the cards are dealt, aces are classified as high cards. If consecutive cards are dealt, it means the round is a push. For example, if the dealer turns over two fives, that round of Red Dog Poker is an automatic push.

If you place your poker chips on the table and the dealer deals two identical cards, and a third card is then dealt that also matches, the player’s bet is automatically paid out at 11/1. This is paid out regardless of what the other five cards show. In Red Dog Poker, suits do not matter. The game is solely about the rankings and nothing else.

Red Dog Playing Strategy

As you can see, Red Dog Poker is all about those little differences. It’s a game where the house edge does make an appearance — but with even-money payouts relatively uncommon, there is decent money to be won. While Red Dog Poker can seem a little complex initially, it’s well worth taking some time to get to grips with the game. It can offer some surprisingly good payout potential.

When it comes to the optimal strategy for Red Dog Poker, most people recommend taking the time to study and learn the game. Learn about the different hand rankings, as this will give you a much better idea about how it all works. Another thing that many people think about is basic strategy.

When you play other casino table games like blackjack, you can refer to a blackjack basic strategy chart to tell you what to do. However, with Red Dog Poker, that’s simply not necessary. Once you put the one chip down — your ante bet — all you need to do is sit back. Even if you decide not to raise, you’ll still be in the game, and your bet will continue to the showdown.

In fact, generally speaking, there is only one rule you need to worry about when playing Red Dog Poker; when you have a seven-card spread, you raise. If you hold anything less, you should stand. You only need to remember this rule when playing Red Dog Poker. Follow this rule, and the house edge will be as low as possible.

Game Variations

If you want to play Red Dog Poker online, chances are you’ll come across several different variations of the game. However, this won’t be the case in land-based casinos. Due to limited floor space in land-based casinos, you will usually only find these variations available online.

Below, we will take a look at some of the different game variations you might find at online casinos.

High Card Pool (Same Suit Equivalent)

The Red Dog Poker we have already talked about is, by far, the most common variation of the game. However, some games — especially those offered at social-based online casinos and gambling communities — might choose to offer a High Card Pool. This game is a similar variation but misses the “in-between” element.

With High Card Pool, each player gets three or four cards, with one being turned over by the dealer to serve as a community card. In High Card Pool, each player may be dealt the number of chips less than or equal to the chips in the pot when the betting is made.

If the starting player does not hold the highest card, then the player must show their whole hand and add the number of chips they have deposited into the pot. If the first player has a card of the same or higher value as the higher card, they show that card; then they draw out the amount bet, adding the equal amount from the pool or pot. If you have no higher cards or nothing to defeat the one shown, you then show your hand, and the amount that you bet is then added to the pot.

Each player, in turn, makes their wager, and the first dealer draws the highest card from the stack for that player until all of them get their chance to bet. When the players have all placed their wagers, the dealer burns a card (faces it down and puts it at the bottom of the stack) and turns up the next card, with three cards exposed to the players.

Montana Red Dog (Same as Third Card)

The next variant is like High Card Pool, except that players are betting without seeing their cards or the dealer’s cards. In this game version, each player is dealt five cards, and bets are made on whether their cards are the same suit or higher suit than the next card turned from the deck.

The object in this game is to be the player who wins bets, having in hand a card with a higher suit level than that of the top card turned from the deck on their turn. After each player has decided how much they want to bet, a player’s entire hand is then revealed, and if it contains the highest-ranking card of the same suit as one card, then that player wins the bet amount from the pot; otherwise, that player’s stake is added to the pot.

Your cards and the dealt cards are now placed face down, and the next player is turned to bet the pot, whichever pot is currently contained. If the pot contains any chips left over from a betting round, those are folded into the next round. Each player also makes an ante into the pot before a new round of cards is dealt.

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Card Sharks

Card Sharks is yet another popular variation of Red Dog Poker. The game is super simple to play. The player to the dealer’s left is simply tasked with guessing whether the next card will be higher or lower. There isn’t much more to it — and same suit hands don’t award bigger payouts than normal.

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