3 Card Poker Rules – Learn How to Play Three-Card Poker in 5 Minutes
Last Updated: November 8, 2023
If you like playing poker but also prefer betting against the casino and not other players, Three-Card Poker is a must-try.
This unique amalgamation of poker and table games makes it a relaxing but still engaging poker variation. Plus, Three-Card Poker can offer very rewarding payouts.
While it is a straightforward game that you can learn in minutes, you should know all of its rules before playing it for real money.
On this detailed but concise page, we’ll show you how to play Three-Card Poker, cover everything you should know about its payouts, house edge, and more!
3 Card Poker Rules – A Quick Overview
Three-Card Poker uses basic rules that are simple to remember and quick to learn. Unlike blackjack, the game requires minimum input from the players, as you’ll only have to decide whether to place certain bets.
Each Three-Card Poker table can accommodate up to seven players plus the dealer. When betting, you’re not playing against other players, only the dealer. In other words, to win the round, your hand only needs to be better than the dealer's.
As you’re not drawing new cards or combining anything from a community board, Three-Card Poker is a stud poker variation instead of a draw poker one. So, let’s go through an entire Three-Card Poker round to see how the average game plays out.
How to Play 3 Card Poker
Three-Card Poker’s gameplay might seem difficult and complex in the beginning. That said, the game can be divided into easy-to-follow steps to help you keep up with the action.
This applies in all land-based casinos, online gambling sites, and online live dealer settings. Every Three-Card Poker game begins with every player placing their bets, which leads us to the first step.
1. Choosing Your Three-Card Poker Bets
When it comes to selecting your bets in Three-Card Poker, there are two options. You can place the ante bet or the Pair Plus bet. With these two bets in mind, you might come across differing rules in different online casinos.
For instance, some casinos will require you to place the ante bet and treat the Pair Plus bet as the optional pick. In other casinos, you’ll be able to choose between the two bets.
The ante bet focuses on your hand’s strength compared to what the dealer has. You’re betting against the dealer and must have a higher-valued hand than them to win the game.
In contrast, the Pair Plus bet only pertains to your hand, as the dealer’s hand is irrelevant. To win this bet, you’ll need to have a pair or better in your three-card hand.
Lastly, if you decide to place both the ante and the Pair Plus bet, you’ll essentially be playing two separate bets with their own paytables. The outcome of one bet doesn’t influence the other.
2. Receiving the Cards and Further Betting Action
After all of the players at the table have placed their bets, the dealer will distribute the cards. They will deal themselves and every player three face-down cards. The players can check their cards and decide if they want to continue playing or fold their hand.
If you decide to fold, the dealer wins automatically. If you choose to continue playing, you must make an additional Play bet. Also called a Raise, this bet is required if you want to stay in the game and is equal to your ante bet.
Keep in mind, if you decide not to make the Play bet, you will also forfeit your Pair Plus wager, in case you previously placed it.
Following this betting round, the dealer will collect the bets and cards of all players who decided to fold. The dealer will reveal their hand and compare it to the hand of every player at the table.
But, before any winners can be determined, the dealer’s hand should qualify. To qualify for the round, the dealer should have a Queen high or better in their hand. If the dealer has a weaker hand than this, their hand is disqualified.
In such situations, you will win your ante bet and get a 1:1 payout. But, your Play wager will push, meaning you will just get your original bet back.
As the Pair Plus bet isn’t based on the dealer’s hand, it’s still in play, and you can get an additional payout depending on your hand.
3. Determining the Winner and Payouts
If the dealer’s hand qualifies, they will compare their hand to yours to determine the winner. The rules for this are simple and easy to remember. If the dealer has the stronger hand, they win, and you will lose both your ante and Play bets.
Oppositely, if you have the stronger hand, you win and get a 1:1 payout for both your ante and Play bets. Lastly, if you have a hand equal in strength to the dealer’s hand, the result is a push. In this case, your ante and Play bets are simply returned to you.
What Are The Card Rankings In Three-Card Poker?
As the name implies, Three-Card Poker only includes three cards in every hand. This makes it different from most poker variations and also means that the standard card rankings don’t entirely translate to this card game.
With that in mind, here’s a complete rundown of all of the hand rankings in Three-Card Poker:
- Straight Flush – The strongest hand in the game, it’s a hand containing three consecutive ranked cards in the same suit. The best straight flush in Three-Card Poker is an Ace-King-Queen hand.
- Three-of-a-Kind – Made up of three cards of the same rank, this is the second-strongest hand in Three-Card Poker and occurs only in around 0.24% of hands you play.
- Straight – A straight is any hand that comprises three cards in a sequence, regardless of their suit. The probability of getting this hand is 3.26%.
- Flush – Three cards sharing the same suit, regardless of their ranks. The strongest flush is an Ace-King-Jack hand.
- Pair – A pair is any hand containing two cards of the same rank, regardless of their suit. A pair of Aces is the strongest hand in this regard.
- High Card – The weakest hand in the game, it’s a hand that doesn't have any of the above-listed combinations. It’s also the most common hand in Three-Card Poker, as the probability of getting such a hand is a whopping 74.39%.
Three-Card Poker Payouts – How Much Can You Win?
The payouts for the Ante and Play bets are a fixed 1:1. However, other Three-Card Poker bets have much more rewarding payouts that can deliver a big payday.
Many casinos also offer an Ante Bonus payout available for players who have placed both the Ante and Play wager. These payouts don’t require any additional bets and are simply based on the strength of your hand.
Moreover, you can win the Ante Bonus payout even if the dealer doesn’t qualify or qualifies and has a stronger hand.
More precisely, if you have a Straight, you will get paid 1:1. A Three-of-a-Kind hand will get you a payout of 4:1, while the elusive Straight Flush will pay 5:1, regardless of the outcome of the base game.
The Pair Plus bet can be even more rewarding. Here are the most common payouts casinos generally offer for the Pair Plus bet:
- Straight Flush – 40:1
- Three-of-a-Kind – 30:1
- Straight – 6:1
- Flush – 3:1
- Pair – 1:1
Some casinos also have a separate Pair Plus payout for the “Mini Royal”. This is the highest possible Ace-King-Queen straight flush, offering a 50:1 payout.
What Is The Housed Edge in Three-Card Poker?
While the Three-Card Poker payouts can be very rewarding, it’s also essential to know the game’s house edge. In this regard, Three-Card Poker has a solid house edge, albeit slightly higher than some casino table games.
The house edge in Three-Card Poker can be observed through different lenses, as you’re making both ante and Play bets.
Looking only at the ante bet, the house edge is just under 3.4%. The house edge on the total action (ante and Play bets combined) is just over 2%.
Additionally, the Pair Plus bet has an unfavorable house edge of 7.28%. Considering this, it’s a bet that’s best avoided, as the house has a more considerable long-term advantage over you.
Popular Three-Card Poker Variations
The most popular Three-Card Poker variations casinos include is the one including the Six Card Bonus. For this side bet, you can combine any of the cards in your hand with any of the dealer’s cards to create the strongest five-card hand.
This is the most rewarding side bet in Three-Card Poker, as payouts can be as high as 1000:1 for a Royal Flush hand.
Another popular variation is Prime Three-Card Poker. This variation includes an optional side bet that pays if your cards have a matching color.
If your three cards are the same color, you will get a 3:1 payout. Moreover, the bet can also include the dealer’s hand, in which case you will get a 4:1 payout if all six cards have the same color.
Best Strategies for Three-Card Poker
There’s little room for making decisions in this game. However, unlike baccarat, Three Card Poker does have some basic strategies you should be aware of.
As the dealer needs at least a Queen high hand to qualify, you should play every hand that’s Q-6-4 or better.
This will put you in the best position to at least push. On the other hand, if you have any hand weaker than this, you should always fold.
Can You Count Cards In Three-Card Poker?
Unlike in some other casino games, the opportunity to count cards and gain an edge over the casino is almost non-existent in Three-Card Poker.
The main reason why this is the case is that the cards are shuffled after every hand. This means that you can’t count high and low cards to know what cards the dealer might have.
In some casinos, you will be allowed to see other players’ cards. This can be helpful in determining whether or not you want to place the Play bet.
That said, as this can be very useful information for an experienced Three-Card Poker player, most casinos won’t allow you to do this.
There are some potential advantage plays if the dealer accidentally reveals one of their cards when dealing the cards from the shuffler.
This action can expose the bottom card. Seeing the bottom card, especially if it’s a high card, can bring you a slight advantage and help you decide if you should fold or bet.