How to Play Three Card Poker
Three Card Poker is one of the most popular games in casinos today. In fact, of the newer proprietary games that have entered casinos in the last few decades, none of have been nearly as successful as Three Card Poker . A great combination of simple rules, huge payouts and just a small bit of strategy are what make the game a favorite in so many online casinos as well as in live play.
Three Card Poker Rules
In Three Card Poker, the goal for each player is to make the strongest three card poker hand possible. Hands are ranked in the following order, from highest to lowest:
- Straight Flush
- Three of a Kind
- High Card
A game of three card poker begins with each player making either or both of two bets. They can make the ante bet, and/or the Pairplus bet. The main game involves the ante, so we’ll leave Pairplus for later.
Each player then receives a three card hand, face down. The dealer is also dealt a face down hand. Each player can look at his hand and decide whether they would like to fold or raise. If the player folds, they lose their ante bet; if they choose to raise instead, they must make a second bet of equal size to their ante bet. This is usually marked as a “play” bet.
After all players have made their decision to raise or fold, the dealer reveals his hand. If the dealer has a hand of at least queen-high, then the dealer is said to qualify. If the dealer does not qualify, all remaining players automatically win their ante bet for even money, and the play bet is a push.
If the dealer does qualify, the players’ hands are now compared against the dealer’s, with the higher hand winning. If the player wins, then both the ante and play bets pay even money. If the dealer wins, the player loses both bets.
In addition, if the player has a particularly strong hand, they will win an ante bonus. This bonus should be paid out whether or not the player beat the dealer, as long as they made the ante bet and are still in the hand. The ante bet pay table varies, but usually looks something like this:
- Straight Flush: 5-1
- Three of a Kind: 4-1
- Straight: 1-1
The other bet that most players will play is the Pairplus bet. This bet is very simple; it simply looks at the player’s hand and pays according to how strong the hand is, regardless of how strong the dealer’s hand might be. As the name suggests, the player needs a pair or better to win. Again, pay tables can be significantly different between casinos, but the following is typical:
- Straight Flush: 40-1
- Three of a Kind: 30-1
- Straight: 6-1
- Flush: 3-1
- Pair: 1-1
Three Card Poker Strategy
Three Card Poker strategy is quite simple. The optimal strategy is to raise with any hand of Q64 or higher, and to fold everything else. Using the above ante bonus pay chart, the house edge with the optimal strategy is about 3.4%. If you need an even simpler strategy, simply raising on the same hands that the dealer qualifies with – any queen-high or better – only raises the house edge by about 0.1%. Meanwhile, there is no strategy for Pairplus, since it’s entirely determined by the value of the cards you are dealt; the house edge on the Pairplus table listed above is 7.3%.