If you’re looking to learn how to play 3 Card Poker or to play it more optimally, you’re in the right place.
We’ll break down what 3 Card Poker is, how to play, and why it’s one of the best casino games to pick up.
What Is 3 Card Poker?
3 Card Poker is a simple poker variation where you only get dealt three cards in total and play against the house. It’s really easy to learn, so makes a great game for beginners.
How To Play 3 Card Poker
Once you have taken your seat at a 3 Card Poker table, whether at an online or land-based casino, you’ll be asked to make your first bet.
The Ante bet box will be sitting empty in front of you, and you will be asked to place some chips there. You’ll be able to place any bet within the table stakes, between a minimum and maximum bet.
Once you’ve placed your Ante and other players at the table have done the same, the dealer will deal everyone three cards, including themselves.
The three cards are the only ones you will be getting in 3 Card Poker, making it a very simple variation of poker.
Once you have your three cards, your only decision will be whether to keep them by placing the Play bet or to discard them right away.
In truth, you will want to keep going with most hands in 3 Card Poker, but more on this a bit later in the strategy section.
If you do decide to place a play bet, you will have to match your Ante bet in full, thus doubling your total bet. You should be ready to bet the whole amount when starting a hand, as this is the only way you will get to showdown.
Once all the bets are placed, and players who don’t wish to proceed have discarded their cards, the hand goes to showdown.
The dealer turns over their cards, and every player’s hand is compared to the dealer’s.
Winning hands are paid double money on their Ante bet, and double money on the Play bet if the dealer has at least a Queen high hand.
3 Card Poker Rules
The rules of 3 Card Poker couldn’t be simpler. You only have two options to choose from after being dealt cards: Play and Fold.
You will forfeit your cards and your Ante bet if you decide to fold. You won’t be able to win the hand, even if the dealer has a very weak hand.
If you decide to place the Play bet, you will stay in the hand until the very end, when your cards will be compared to the dealer’s holdings.
Keep in mind that there is no drawing or discarding in 3 Card Poker, and you will only have the three cards you get dealt at your disposal, so make your decisions based on these.
When it comes to comparing hands in 3 Card Poker, it’s clear that some hands, such as full houses and four of a kind, don’t exist in this variation of the game.
Hand rankings in 3 Card Poker are as follows:
- Royal Flush
- Straight Flush
- Three of a Kind
- One Pair
- High Card
Of course, you won’t be able to make real straights and flushes with just three cards, but three cards in a row will count as a straight, three cards of the same suit will count as a flush, etc.
This simple hand ranking should be easy enough to understand for anyone who has ever played poker, and at the end of the day, the dealer will tell you if you have won or lost anyway.
With that said, I have covered all the rules of the game you need to know about, so it’s time to talk about payouts and special bets in 3 Card Poker.
3 Card Poker Payouts
The most basic payouts in 3 Card Poker come from simply beating the dealer’s hand.
This is done by having a better poker hand than the dealer at showdown, in which case you will always win a 1:1 payout on the Ante bet.
The Play bet only comes into play if the dealer has at least a Queen high in their hand. If this happens, and you also have a winning hand, you’ll be paid at 1:1 on the Play bet as well.
Otherwise, the Play bet will be returned to you.
In addition to these payouts, the Ante Bonus will give you an additional payout if you win the hand with at least three of a kind. The Ante Bonus payouts are as follows:
- Straight: 1:1
- Three of a Kind: 4:1
- Straight Flush: 5:1
It’s interesting to note that hand rankings in 3 Card Poker are quite different from other forms of poker, simply because getting three cards of the same suit or three consecutive cards is easier than getting three of a kind.
For that reason, there is no payout for a flush on the Ante Bonus, and the straight payout is significantly lower than the one for three of a kind.
One last thing to keep an eye out on in 3 Card Poker is the Pair Plus bet, which is an optional bet you can make on every hand.
The Pair Plus bet is placed simultaneously with the Ante bet, and you can choose to bet any value you want.
If the Pair Plus bet is activated, you will receive the following payouts on your hand if you hold one pair or better:
- One Pair: 1:1
- Flush: 4:1
- Straight: 6:1
- Three of a Kind: 30:1
- Straight Flush: 40:1
Keep in mind that you will lose any money you place in the Pair Plus box every time you don’t make at least one pair, even if you end up winning the hand against the dealer with your high card.
What Are The Odds Of Winning?
Like most casino poker games, 3 Card Poker gives the house quite a substantial edge.
On Ante and Play bets, the casino retains an advantage of 3.37 percent, which is significantly higher than a game like blackjack.
The Pair Plus bet comes with a house advantage of 2.32 percent, which is lower than the basic bets, making it an interesting prospect for anyone playing this game.
While the dealer and the player have the same chance of making a winning hand, the fact that your Play bet is not paid out unless the dealer has at least Queen high is what gives the house the majority of their edge.
Here are some interesting odds related to making certain big hands in 3 Card Poker, which come in handy, especially if you enjoy playing the Pair Plus bet:
- Odds to make a straight flush: 0.217 percent
- Odds to make three of a kind: 0.235 percent
- Odds to make a straight: 3.257 percent
- Odds to make a flush: 4.95 percent
- Odds to make one pair: 16.94 percent
- Odds to make Ace High or worse: 76.38 percent
As you can see, you’ll have a hand that does not contain any pair, straight or a flush, the vast majority of the time.
3 Card Poker Strategy
3 Card Poker is a very simple game which means there’s not too much you can do in terms of strategy. In fact, your only concern should be which cards to keep and which to discard.
Traditionally, the optimal strategy for the game is to keep any hand that has at least a Q 6 4 in it while discarding everything weaker than this.
This may not seem like much of a strategy, but this approach will get you the best possible results in the game.
Apart from that, there are no special or fancy plays you should remember, other than the fact that the Pair Plus bet is not a negative EV one compared to the Ante bet, as jackpot bets often are in poker games.
Where To Play 3 Card Poker Online
The game of 3 Card Poker is quite a popular poker variation, mostly because of its simple rules and strategy, so you should be able to find it at most poker rooms.
Remember to always play at a regulated and secure operator, like the ones on our list of recommended poker sites.
Have fun playing this simple poker variation and see if you can beat the house!