Three Card Poker - How to Play

For many poker players, three-card poker is a new, exciting poker experience. Ironically, there are some scholars of poker who claim that three-card poker is the original form of poker. As no one really knows when poker got its start, this is all just speculation. What no one disagrees with is that three-card poker is fun and fast and gaining players all the time.

One of the attractions of three-card poker is that the players play only against the house. In this way it resembles blackjack, but in blackjack one player's decisions can affect other players' hands. In three-card poker that never happens. So a warm camaraderie develops around the table.

Players have only two decisions to make in three-card poker. The decisions are also quite simple and straightforward. After an exhausting session at one of the highly strategic games, a respite of three-card poker is often quite welcome.

Three Card Poker

Play Sequence

*** Most casinos require all players to place an ante. At some casinos the ante is optional.

*** After placing an ante a player has the option to make a "pairs plus" bet. This bet pays according to a posted payment schedule for any player holding of pair or higher. This payment is made regardless of the actual outcome of the hand. This means that you can lose the hand but win a payout on your "pairs plus" bet.

*** After all the antes and "pairs plus" bets have been made, the dealer deals three cards to all players and to himself.

*** Now players must decide whether to fold or to make a play bet. The play bet will be equal to the ante. It means the player wishes to stay in the game.

*** After all players have either folded or made a play bet, the players and the dealer all show their hands.

*** The dealer must have at least queen high to win.

*** If the dealer doesn't have queen high, all remaining players win 1-1 on their ante and the play bet is returned to them.

*** If the dealer has queen high or better the hands are compared. If the dealer wins, the player loses his ante and his play bet.

*** The value of hands differs from standard poker because there are only three cards. Hand ranks are:

* Straight Flush

* Three of a Kind

* Straight

* Flush

* Pair

* High Card

*** If the player wins, he receives 1-1 for both his ante and his play bet.

*** There is also another payout. This one requires no bet on the player's part. If the player is dealt a straight flush, flush, or straight he gets a bonus based on his ante. The bonuses vary somewhat but straights always pay 1-1 on the bonus. Payouts for straight flushes are 5-1 or 4-1. Payouts for flushes are 4-1 or 3-1.

*** Surprisingly, ties are not common. When there is a tie some houses call it a wash and some houses award a win to the player.

Betting Rules

*** Most casinos require an ante before a player can make a pair plus bet or a play bet after the cards are dealt.

*** The "pairs plus" bet and the play bet are usually fixed as equal the ante.

*** Once the cards are dealt, players cannot make a "pairs plus" bet

*** It's important to keep in mind that players don't have to think about what the other players have.

*** Since players play only against the house, the most important bet they make is whether to continue with a play bet or to fold and lose their ante.

*** Most strategy advisors say fold on less than Queen-6-4. However, even if your hand is weak the dealer may not qualify to win because he may lack queen high or better. In that case, you will win 1-1 on your ante.


*** If you have a Queen or better, place a bet in the "Play" spot, otherwise fold

*** A dealer will qualify with a Queen on approximately 2/3 of the hands, also 4 out of every 10 "Ante" hands will win an ante bonus


In 3 Card Poker, the player competes against the dealer, not other players. As a player, you will need to have a better hand than the dealer or get a hand that ends up in a pair or higher. The house has a 3.4% advantage in this game.

Posted by Nick David

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