In most cases, the game of poker is played among players, but this is not always the case. Three Card Poker is one of the poker games played against the house, which you can often find in live and online casinos around the world.
One of the most popular casino poker games, 3 Card Poker, is a fairly simple game that does not take too much learning or strategy.
Yet, there are some things you need to know before you jump into the action, starting with the basic rules and gameplay, as well as some slightly more advanced strategies.
To kick things off, I am going to teach you how to play Three Card Poker, how the poker hands are ranked, and what your main objectives are.
How to Play 3 Card Poker
Many poker games, even those played against the casino, allow players to make multiple choices, such as drawing new cards or sizing up their bets.
Three Card Poker, on the other hand, is a very simple game that does not require any such actions. Instead, your hand is simply compared to the dealer’s, and the winner is decided.
As the name suggests, each player at the 3 Card Poker table is dealt just three cards, which they use to make the best possible poker hand.
3 Card Poker rules are somewhat different with hand rankings since you are only playing with three cards. This means that some poker hands are not possible to get, while others are simply less common.
Of all the 3 Card Poker hands you could possibly have, a straight flush made of three consecutive cards of the same suit is the best, but I will explain the hand rankings a bit later.
For now, let us take a look at how betting is done in Three Card Poker and how you can beat the dealer and win money at this casino game.
3 Card Poker Rules: Betting
Like any casino game, a hand of Three Card Poker starts with some bets being placed. At the start of the hand, you will have to place at least an Ante bet if you want to be dealt into the hand.
The Ante bet can be of any size you choose, within the permitted table stakes, which are going to differ from casino to casino.
You can also place another bet called Pair Plus. This bet is not played against the dealer and gives you a payout if you make strong poker hands, regardless of the dealer’s holding.
Let’s talk about the Ante bet, and the Play bet you can place after it first.
Ante and Play Bets
The Ante bet is obligatory if you want to be dealt into the hand of Three Card Poker. Paying the Ante bet will get you your card, and everything else is optional.
Once you are dealt your three cards, you will have the option to take a look at them and either pay your Play bet, which will be exactly the same size as your Ante bet or discard your hand, ending your action.
If you pay the Play bet, you will go to a showdown with all the 3 Card Poker hands compared to the dealer’s hand.
Pair Plus Bet
Pair Plus is an optional bet in Three Card Poker, which you can choose to place if you want some extra action on the side.
You can place the Pair Plus bet before any cards are dealt. If the bet is active, you will be eligible for Pair Plus payouts. These will depend strictly on the cards you are dealt, regardless of the dealer’s holdings.
The Pair Plus payouts are as follows:
- Straight Flush: 40:1
- Three of a Kind: 30:1
- Straight: 6:1
- Flush: 3:1
- One Pair: Even Money
3 Card Poker Hands Explained
Unlike other poker games, 3 Card Poker is played with just three cards per player, which means 3 Card Poker hands will be different.
The lowest-ranked hands in Three Card Poker are high card hands, which don’t contain any pairs, straights, or flushes.
An example of a high card hand would be Kd 8s 5c, which is a King-high hand. This hand can beat any Queen-high hand, as well as King-high hands with the lower second card.
Above the high card, hands come one pair hands, which contain two cards of the same ranking. For example, As Ac 9d, for a pair of Aces.
In Three Card Poker, making a flush is easier than it is in other poker games, as you only need three cards of the same suit. A hand like Ad 9d 5d would be considered a flush in 3 Card Poker.
A straight is more valuable in Three Card Poker than a flush, made up of three consecutive cards of any suit.
An example of a 3 Card Poker straight would be 7s 8c 9d.
Three of a kind is exceptionally hard to come by in this game, as you need all three cards of the same ranking. For instance, Jc Jd Js makes up three of a kind, Jacks.
Finally, a straight flush hand is still the most powerful of all, with three consecutive cards of the same suit, such as 5s 6s 7s, making this monster.
Three Card Poker Gameplay
Now that I have explained all the 3 Card Poker hands and 3 Card Poker rules, we are going to go over a hand of the game and explain the gameplay in detail.
The hand starts with you paying an Ante bet of your choice, as well as the optional Pair Plus bet. Once this is done, you and the other players who Anted up will be dealt your three cards.
Now that the cards are dealt, you can choose if you want to keep your cards or discard them. If you muck your hand, you are no longer eligible to compare your hand against the dealer’s.
On the other hand, if you choose to pay the Play bet and continue with your hand, you will flip your cards over once all the players are done playing.
Your hand is compared to the dealer’s, and you are the winner if you hold a better 3 Card Poker hand than the dealer.
However, keep in mind that you will only win double money on the Ante bet for simply having a better hand than the dealer.
To win double money on the Play bet, you will also need the dealer’s hand to qualify, which means the dealer will have to have at least Queen-high in their hand.
If the dealer has a hand weaker than Queen-high, your Play bet will be a push. This means you will simply get your money back without any additional winnings from that bet.
The Pair Plus bet will be active if you Play your hand, and it will pay you if you make any of the hands on the paytable.
Additional payouts may be available in some casinos if you make a hand like flush, straight, or three of a kind even when you pay just the Ante bet. However, the payouts on these will be lower than the Pair Plus payouts.
Three Card Poker Strategy and Tips
You now know how to play Three Card Poker, but it’s time to think about some basic strategy and when you should keep going with your hand or discard it.
Most Three Card Poker players keep their hands if they have at least Q 6 4 to start with. In this case, you should place the Play bet.
In all other cases, it is best to fold your cards as you are not likely to beat the dealer, and the odds say you are better off losing the Ante bet than risking the Play bet as well.
The game of Three Card Poker gives the house about a 2% edge on the Ante and Play bets, which is fairly reasonable compared to other poker games you can play in a casino, like Pai Gow.
It is worth noting that the Pair Plus bet gives the house an edge of over 7%, which makes it a sucker’s bet you should avoid.
Here are a few other tips you should keep in mind when you go off to play 3 Card Poker:
- Card Counting: Unlike a game like Blackjack, Three Card Poker is almost always dealt out of a single cards deck. If you are playing alone at the table, you may be able to catch on to how many high or low cards are left in the deck, changing the value of the cards you are dealt initially and allowing you to continue with some weaker hands.
- Arrange Your Cards: If you are playing in a live casino, it is considered good etiquette to arrange your cards by value in order to allow the dealer to quickly compare your hand to their at the showdown. You don’t want to be the guy who everyone is waiting for.
- Forget About Pair Plus: The Pair Plus bet may sound fun, and there may be a lot of fuss about it among other players, but it is not a favorable bet. Giving more than a 7% edge to the casino, you should avoid making this bet altogether.
3 Card Poker FAQ
Three Card Poker is a fairly simple casino game. Simply place an Ante bet to get a poker hand. If you have better than Queen-high, place a Play bet next to your Ante bet. The dealer will compare your hand to their, and you will be paid in accordance with 3 Card Poker rules.
The Ante bet is the first bet you need to make in order to play a hand of 3 Card Poker. Ante bet can be of any size you choose within the table limits allowed by the casino.
The Pair Plus bet is an optional bet in the game of Three Card Poker. Placing this bet allows you to win special payouts based on a preset paytable. However, keep in mind that the house edge on this bet is over 7%, making it an unfavorable bet to make.
The house edge on the basic bets in Three Card Poker is around 2%, which is reasonable for a casino poker game. The house edge on the Pair Plus bet is over 7%, which is why you should avoid making this bet.
It is not possible to have an edge over the casino in Three Card Poker. However, you can easily win with some luck, and card counting techniques can also help you reduce the house edge slightly in some situations.