3 Card Poker Guide – Rules, Odds and Strategy!

3 Card Poker

3 Card Poker Rules

3 Card Poker is an increasingly popular casino game. The game pits the wits of the player against the casino dealer. As the name suggests, both the player and the casino dealer are dealt 3 cards each and the strongest poker hand wins. There are however a few other rules you need to understand, these i am going to explain now.

Players start out by making an ante; this is the initial bet in the game. After the ante bet is made, the player and the dealer are dealt 3 cards, the players cards face up and the dealers cards face down.

The player then decides whether he wants to play or fold based on the strength of his holding. If the player folds he forfeits his ante, if he decides to play he makes an equal size bet to the ante again.

If the player folds, the hand is over and another hand begins. If the player decides to play, the dealer then flips over his hand and compares it to the player’s hand.

If the dealer “does not qualify” he has a hand weaker than queen high. In this case the player wins 1:1 on his ante bet and the play bet is a push.

If the dealer qualifies, the dealer hand is compared to the players hand. If the player has a stronger 3 card poker hand then both his play and ante are paid at 1:1. Most casinos offer bonuses for straights, 3 of a kind and straight flushes. So for example, if you are lucky enough to get a straight flush you will be given an ante bonus of  5:1.

If the dealer has a stronger hand than the player, then the player loses both his ante and play bet.

The standard ante bonus structure is 5-4-1. This means players get a bonus of 5:1 for a straight flush, 4:1 for 3 of a kind and a 1:1 bonus for a straight. Before playing you should check this because the bonus payout greatly affects the house edge. If the bonus payouts are less than this, we strongly suggest you avoid playing, since it will increase the casinos edge. In the typical 5-4-1 version of 3 card poker, the house edge is 3.4%. In a 4-3-1 version of the game the house edge is a whopping 6.8% and should obviously be avoided.

3 Card Poker Video

This 3 Card Poker game was played at Roxy Palace casino.

3 Card Poker Hand Rankings

Similarly to Texas Holdem and other poker games, below are the 3 Card Poker hand rankings. There are however some differences, in 3 Card Poker a straight beats a flush and 3 of a kind beats a straight. The table below sorts poker hand rankings from weakest at the top, to strongest at the bottom.

Poker Hand Hand Example
High card (Queen high or better) Q82 different suits.
Pair 889
Flush A72 same suit
Straight 89T any suit
Three of a kind JJJ
Straight Flush 456 same suit

Pair Plus Bet

The pair plus bet is a completely separate bet to the ante/play bet. It should be looked at as a completely different game. Instead of comparing your hand against the dealers, the pair plus bet is a bet on whether you will be dealt a pair or better. Players get dealt a pair or better approximately 25% of the time. The pair plus bet requires absolutely not skill and there is no strategy whatsoever to this part of the game.

The standard pair plus payout is displayed below, before playing we suggest you check that the pair plus payout is equal to the table below, if the pair plus payout is worse than the table below, it will greatly increase the casinos advantage and thus should be avoided.

Hand type Payout
Straight flush 40:1
3 of a kind 30:1
Straight 6:1
Flush 4:1
Pair 1:1

Using the above payout structure on the pair plus bet, the approximate house edge is 2.32%.

3 Card Poker Strategy

For the ante/play portion of the game, the optimal strategy is in fact very simple.  Players should fold every time their hand is weaker than Q-6-4 and play every time it is stronger than that. So for example, if your hand is Q-8-2, you should play. Whereas if your hand is J-5-2 you should fold.