3 Card Poker

3 Card Poker (also known as Three Card Poker) is one of the newer poker games to be developed. Popular in both the land-based casinos across the US and the online one, this poker game presents a different style of poker gameplay to players than they would ordinarily get with classics such as stud poker and hold’em poker. More straightforward to grasp than Pai Gow, Oasis, Tequila or Caribbean poker games, with our guide to 3 Card Poker, we can have you playing this entertaining poker game in no time at all. Let’s start with the history of the game and the basics.

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The basics of 3 Card Poker

Three Card Poker was developed in 1994 by a Brit called Derek Webb. Its initial run in the famed casinos of Las Vegas didn’t shed too much light on the game, and many there were considering it to be something of a flop. However, players in Mississippi thought otherwise, and the popularity of the game in the state persuaded others (including Las Vegas) to once again give the game another look.

It wasn’t until 1997 that the game was patented. The main selling point of 3 Card Poker is that it is easy to grasp, although other elements such as it being able to offer both high payouts to players and a decent house edge for casinos to be interested in offering it were also critical. After being snapped up by Prime Table Games in 1997, the game was eventually sold on Shuffle Master in 1999. The UK even went as far as have the British Casino Association change gambling regulations to fit the game in, though this occurred later in 2002.

When online casino gambling took center stage, many developers were looking for a way to entice players into their casinos. Software developers also looked for new ways to boost their portfolio and adding 3 Card Poker to their ranks seemed the next logical step. Although it may not have the tournament reputation of some other table poker games in either the land-based casino world or the online one, Three Card Poker continues to be a popular enough game for it to appear at most major casinos.

Know that you know a little bit about the game, it is time to help you understand how to play it.

Why We Love 3 Card Poker

  • It’s a fast game with easy rules
  • Good odds (a low house edge)
  • The strategy is easy to learn
  • Bonus payouts are available

How to play 3 Card Poker

Unlike other poker games, learning to get to grips with 3 Card Poker is a doddle. Remember, it was designed that way on purpose.


First, you need to place a bet in the Ante Bet. Most tables will feature table limits of $5 up to $100 a hand, although this may vary from game to game.

The Deal

The game itself is a form of stud poker, so to get the ball rolling, a bet needs to be placed in the Ante Bet spot, as mentioned. Once this occurs, the dealer will deliver 3 cards to each player, and 3 cards to themselves (face down). After looking at their cards, players must decide whether to fold or play. If you fold, you lose your Ante Bet, and the game ends.

The Play

Should you decide to play, you need to make a bet which is equal to the Ante bet. This goes in the Play Bet spot on the table. Your Play Bet must not be larger or smaller than your original Ante Bet. The dealer will then turn over his cards. Should the dealer have a Queen-High or better, the dealer will play. If the dealer does not have a Queen-High or better, they fold, and your Ante Bet is paid out at even money (1:1), and your Play Bet is returned to you since there is no Play Action.

Play Action

If the dealer qualifies with a Queen-High or better, the game is on, and there is said to be Play Action. To win, a player’s hand must outrank the dealer’s hand. In the event of a tie, the hands are considered a push, and players keep both their Ante and Play Bets. However, if the dealer wins the hand, players lose both their Ante and Play Bets. Should the player win, they will be paid even money (1:1) on both their Ante and Play Bets.

Ranking of Hands and Tri Card Poker Payouts

The classification of the hands in 3 Card Poker is slightly different from conventional poker games. For starters, because there are only three cards in each hand, straights are considered rarer than flushes, so they are more valuable. In most other poker games, this is the other way around. There are no full houses or four-of-a-kinds in Three Card Poker, either, obviously.

The ranking of the hands in the game is, therefore:

  • Straight Flush
  • Three of a Kind
  • Straight
  • Flush
  • Pair
  • High-Card

Ante Bonus Payouts

Players will pocket even money on both Ante and Play Bets if they win. However, there is another way to pocket winnings in this game. If you three-card hand appears on the paytable mentioned below, then you will pocket an Ante Bonus payout. Although it is possible that some casinos have differing paytables for Ante Bonus payouts; generally speaking, the hands pay as follows:

  • Straight Flush (5:1)
  • Three of a Kind (4:1)
  • Straight (1:1)

Remember, you must beat the dealer to win an Ante Bonus, so having the dealer fold with less than a Queen-High is not going to do it for you.

Pair Plus Bets

A bonus game can also be included in Three Card Poker. This is the same bonus game which you can find in many other table poker games and is known as the Pair Plus side-bet. To place a Pair Plus bet, you need to place a wager in the Pair Plus spot on the table. This can be done either at the same time as your Ante Bet or instead of an Ante Bet if you are only interested in the Pair Plus game.

Irrespective of what happens in the standard game (if you happen to be playing it), if you land a pair or better with your three-card hand, you will pocket a Pair Plus payout. You do not have to beat the dealer to win with Pair Plus. Again, there are different paytables for these side-bets, but most of the time, payouts are as follows:

  • Straight Flush (40:1)
  • Three of a Kind (30:1)
  • Straight (6:1)
  • Flush (3:1)
  • Pair (1:1)

3 Card Poker strategy

Like many poker games out there on the net, there are various strategy guides out there which claim to be able to help you win at Three Card Poker. The truth of the matter is that very few of the recommended strategies for 3 Card Poker are strategies at all, but rather tips and tricks.

You could use the same Martingale System and Basic Strategy systems that you use for other poker games, but since 3 Card Poker is a bit of an oddball like that, it may be difficult to get these systems to work, particularly if you don’t have a sizeable enough stack to see you through tough losing streaks.

Our advice would be to ditch poker strategies and to instead focus on tips and tricks, some of which we can provide you right here.

Tips and tricks for playing Three Card Poker

There are a few things you may wish to keep in the back of your mind when you decide to play 3 Card Poker online. We’ve detailed a few of those for you here…

  • House edges: When playing with just the Ante Bet, the house edge in most 3 Card Poker games is 3.37%. However, when you play with the Pair Plus side-bet, it rises to 7.28%. It is therefore beneficial to play without the side-bet as you get a lower house edge.
  • Keep tabs on your bets: Funnily enough, the RNG versions of 3 Card Poker games often have medium to high stakes set by default. Don’t just dive straight in a click the deal button. Adjust your stakes first. We recommend playing with minimum stakes to start off with. Remember, if you play and don’t fold, you’ll need to place another bet equal to Ante, so keep plenty of card back up in reserve and place small bets, to begin with.
  • Avoid strategies: Progressive betting systems such as the Martingale can be useful in cutting down your losses (because in theory, eventually, you’ll cover them with a win), but be warned: using betting systems such as this with 3 Card Poker can be ruinously expensive. Again, you’re wagering twice on a hand you wish to play.
  • Play for free to hone your skills: Why would you risk playing 3 Card Poker if you don’t properly understand the rules. As simple as this game is to grasp, we do still advocate playing it for free at first. You can open any number of free play Three Card Poker games online and play with fake money. This allows you to hone your skills and practice long before you decide to wager real money on this game.
  • Look out for progressives: It is rare, but sometimes you may come across a version of Three Card Poker which features a progressive jackpot. In these games, the progressive bet is offered as a $1 side-bet, and it only marginally raises the house edge to 4.5% in many cases. This can be worth a punt if you land a particular combo. In most cases, players need to land a Mini Royal Flush (Queen, King, and Ace) in spades to win the top prize.

Play Three Card Poker today

Now that you have a little bit of an understanding as to how the game is played, how easy it is to get to grips with, and what options you have open to you, will you give it ago? You can find both RNG and live 3 Card Poker games across the net, and we’re sure that once you start playing, it will rapidly become a firm favorite or you, just as it has with some many other US casino players.

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