How to Play 3 Card Poker

3 Card Poker Rules

Exotic 3 Card Poker is an exciting but relatively new card game variation. 

Derek Webb, a poker enthusiast from Britain and former Prime Table Games proprietor invented it in 1994 (protected by patent rights in 1997). Yet, it was first introduced at the Grand Casino Gulfport in Mississippi, USA. This information can be easily found on Wikipedia 🤓

Nowadays, one can find this format in many ground-based and online casinos. Gameplay is simple yet captivating and exhilarating, you will understand its rules and nuances in just a few hands. 

However, it's advisable to acquaint yourself with the basic theory first, and we’re here to assist you with that. Let's get started!

Hierarchy of 3 Card Poker Hands

Combinations, their strength, and the number of elements in a set deviate from traditional poker disciplines. Here's what you can collect in the discussed game (hands are listed in descending order):

ComboExplanationProbability
 Straight flushThree consecutive cards, all belonging to the same suit. For example, Q♠K♠A♠.
1 to 454
Three of a kind3 cards sharing the exact rank (7♠7♣7♥, Q♥Q♣Q♦ and so forth)
1 to 416
StraightThree off-suit elements in consecutive order, e.g. T♦J♣Q♥.
1 to 30
FlushAny 3 suited cards, for instance, 7♥ T♥ K♥.
1 to 19
PairTwo cards with identical values (for example, 4♠4♣, J♣J♥, K♥K♠, etc) + one random card.
1 to 4.9
High cardNo hand collected. Three elements are not connected in any way; the highest rank is taken into account.
2.85 to 1

As you can see, straights are more powerful than flushes, while triplet comes over straight and flush. Ace is regarded as the lowest card to complete an A-2-3 straight.

Essential Guidelines of the Game

What are the rules for Three Card Poker? This format requires a very standard playing deck, which is composed of 52 pieces (without jokers). Similarly to Caribbean poker rules, here you also vie with a dealer. Only three cards are at the player’s disposal, as implied by the name. No shared board, and no possibility to exchange what you’re holding. It should also be pointed out that Ace serves as both high and low.

The number of boxes (seats) is limited, so no more than 6 people can play at one table. Being the only active gambler, you are allowed to take up several spots, that is to say, run multiple games simultaneously. In this case, your bet sizes can differ across each individual box.

This discipline basically combines two "matches", or rather, bets – Ante and Pair Plus. Everyone has the freedom to choose how they want to proceed: place ante only or take advantage of both bets (it's entirely up to them). Their sizes are typically identical, but some casinos have exceptions. Therefore, it is better to clarify all the specifics before joining the table.

Is 3 Card Poker a good game to play?
Is 3 Card Poker a good game to play?

Well, that depends on your personal preferences. Gameplay is largely different from familiar Texas Holdem, yet thrilling. This discipline, however, is usually presented in online casinos, and we haven't come across it on poker sites.

Three Card Poker Rules for Ante Game

Step 1
Step 1

A gambler makes a mandatory Ante bet, it works the same way as in traditional poker games.

Step 2
Step 2

Next, a dealer – either real or virtual – deals the player 3 cards face up and lays out their own set shirt up. We remind you that it's impossible to swap your hand if you are not satisfied with it.

Step 3
Step 3

Not it's time to evaluate your combo. Based on its strength, people must decide whether to continue fighting or give up and fold. If you believe that your set is strong enough, move forward and call. That is, bet an amount equal to the Ante.

Step 4
Step 4

If the game proceeds, the dealer flips their combination over and compares it with the players’ ones according to the hand hierarchy mentioned earlier.

Optimal strategy hint
Optimal strategy hint

We have a little tip on how to play three card poker and hold back from wasting money. If your combo is worse than Qx6x4x, it is better to fold it immediately.

How Winnings Are Paid Out

Ante game involves both standard and bonus rewards. Regular payouts directly depend on the gambler's and croupier's hands, as they are compared to determine the winning one. They are paid according to the following scheme:

  • Dealer fails to qualify

That is, their combo doesn’t allow them to continue participating in the action. In this situation, ante is paid out 1:1, and play bet is refunded in full.

  • Dealer qualifies, but their hand is inferior to that of the player

In this scenario, their cards meet the requirements to enter the game, but they are weaker than yours. Both regular bet and ante are granted 1:1.

  • Dealer qualifies for the game and wins it

This outcome results in both of your bets being lost. Your opponent got a superior hand, which proved to be stronger than yours.

  • Dealer qualifies, but there is a tie result

Both you and the croupier have hands of equal ranking, resulting in no winner. In this case, you receive all the money spent on bets back.

It is important!
It is important!

To qualify, a dealer must have a queen or higher. Otherwise, they automatically lose that hand.

Ante Bonus

This extra payout does not predicate upon your rival's holding at all. It is awarded in addition to the standard win if the player completes any of the following combinations:

HandPayout
Straight1 to 1
Three of a kind4 to 1
Straight flush5 to 1

Pair Plus Round: Specificities & Payouts

In fact, "Pair +" is a sort of a prop bet that the player will get at least a pair (any value) or better. Dealer's cards are not taken into account in this case and cannot affect hand outcome. When your combo is worse than a pair, the casino takes away your Pair Plus bet, and a new round begins. If you’re dealt a qualifying hand, gameplay follows the same steps as the above-mentioned ante variant.

Pair + paytable

Qualifying setPayout
Pair1 to 1
Flush4 to 1
Straight5 to 1
Three of a kind30 to 1
Straight flush40 to 1

A Few Hand Examples to Consider

Let's consider a few hand examples to gain a clearer idea of the game as well as possible betting options. Putting theory into practice, so to speak.

Example #1

3 card poker rules

Having paid a $10 ante, a player received a frankly weak hand – 9♣7♣4♥. In such situations, it's best to fold immediately, and that's exactly what Hero did. They only lost 10 dollars (i.e. the mandatory bet).

Example #2

3 card poker hand example

Hero placed two bets (ante and pair+), each amounting to $10. They were dealt 2♦2♠K♣, meaning that their pair plus bet played due to a pair of deuces. The player chooses to go ahead by betting $10. The dealer flips over their cards, which turn out to be weaker. Luck is on Hero's side, and their net winnings total $20 (pair + reward and standard prize money for a successful round).

Just a friendly suggestion from the editor 😀
Just a friendly suggestion from the editor 😀

If you find the gameplay boring and monotonous, try mixing it with some other format, for example, strip poker. This option is, of course, not suitable for online or regular casinos, but it can be an entertaining activity for home recreation (all participants must be consenting adults!).

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Final Thoughts

Three-card poker has achieved popularity among those who appreciate non-traditional formats. There’s no need to fret over whether outs come, as you are dealt a complete hand from the start. To win, you need to beat only a dealer, and not 2-9 other opponents.

Bluffing plays a significant role in card games, but you won’t have to resort to it or other strategic techniques – almost everything here depends on lady luck. But, if you're yearning for the thrill of calling, raising, and beating opponents, you might find the variation of Short Deck Poker intriguing. This is a favourite format of Tom Dwan, an expert in identifying a worthy game.

FAQ
📌 What are the rules for 3 Card Poker?

This game runs in the "gambler vs croupier" format where they both receive three cards. Multiple participants can play simultaneously (up to 6 people), but they cannot compete among themselves. Each individual’s combination is compared with the dealer's holding.

There are several types of bets: Ante, Bet, and Pair Plus. Once a player reviewed their combo, they have two choices: bet (amount is usually equal to the current Ante wager) or simply fold cards. Croupier, in turn, opens their set, followed by the winner determining. Payouts are calculated based on predetermined odds and bonus conditions.

👀 Is it worth it to play 3 Card Poker?

The choice is yours, but this is definitely an interesting leisure option due to its straightforward rules. Besides, this discipline provides cash prizes for defeating a dealer as well as bonus rewards, which is a big plus and adds to its prestige.

Nevertheless, keep in mind that all types of poker where you play against casinos are gambling entertainment and carry the risk of losing money. All gamblers are therefore advised to approach such activities responsibly.

🍀 Is Three Card Poker all luck?

The rules of the game are inherently designed to give dealers a mathematical advantage. There is no shared board or opportunity to exchange cards, bluff, or employ other manoeuvres. You check your hand and then decide whether to call or fold, that’s all.

Developing an optimal strategy here is impossible, but some actions can help greatly reduce the house's (online or offline) edge.
For instance, choosing to continue only with a strong hand or cards that are not worse than Qx6x4x.

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