How to Play 3 Card Poker

three threes three card pokerThe idea behind 3 Card Poker back when it was invented in 1994 was to make a casino game by taking elements of normal traditional poker. What they created is a fast paced casino game where a player takes on the dealer instead of other players, ensuring it combines elements of Blackjack too.

In fact, table layout that the game is played on is similar to that of Blackjack and the whole point of the game is to beat what the dealer is holding.

When you take your seat to play 3 Card Poker, you will see three separate betting spots laid out in front of you. These are Play, Ante and Pair +. These represent the different actions a player can take during the game. Just like in real Poker, when you the bet the Ante, there is a required minimum wager that must be placed. It will be equal to the table’s bet.

From here, 3 cards are dealt to each player, while the dealer also picks up 3. Those that doubt the strength of their hand can fold just like in the real thing. They will however forfeit their Ante bet. Once the folding players are out of the hand, it’s time for the remaining players to play on and their first move will be to make a new bet. This can be done by staking in the Play circle.

As soon as all bets are in, the dealer shows their hand. The dealer’s qualifying hand must be a hand with a Queen or higher. Should this not be the case on reveal, then all of the players still in the hand will see their stakes returned plus get evens back on the Antes. If the dealer’s hand does qualify then it will play off against players’ hands.

Should the dealer have the stronger hand, then the player loses both the Ante and the play but if the player wins then they will be paid evens on both bets. There shouldn’t be a draw, but this can happen and, when it does, the player is deemed the winner.

But what about the third circle, the Pair + button? Consider this a side bet that will payout automatically when the player has a pair or better in their hand, regardless of who wins the hand in play.

So, now you might be asking about hand ranks. If you have any previous poker experience, then you should pick this up pretty quickly. This is because they are all closely related to their hand strengths in Hold’em or Omaha. The main difference being that you only have 3 cards rather than 7 or more.

In the case of 3 Card Poker, some hands are ranked higher than in real poker. In order from the lowest to the highest, these are High Card, Pair, Flush, Straight, Three of a Kind and Straight Flush. In a game of Hold’em, high card is also the lowest set you can play, but Three of a Kind – 3 cards of the same suit – is ranked higher here.

As a far less complex version of poker, forget all about bluffing and concentrate instead on the only 3 Card Poker strategy that really plays which is to fold on hands lower than a Queen, 6,4 and stay in the game for anything higher. Stick to this and you’ll be 3 Card Poker shark in no time.

How To Play 3 card Poker

three card poker table
Captain-tucker, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Three card Poker is a table game in which poker and blackjack meet. Whereas with regular poker players compete against each other, 3 card Poker is a house banked game like blackjack. The game gets underway with an ante bet as well as a potential Pair Plus wager. In this player versus dealer variant, both players will then receive 3 cards each. Players can take a look at their own cards; however, the dealer’s cards remain dealt face down and stay that way.

As long as you have made your ante bet, your only decisions to make then is to either fold the hand or raise the stakes. Should you decide to fold, you will drop out the hand and lose your ante bet. If you make a raise, then you will need to make another bet, one that’s equal in size to your ante. There is no flop, turn or river in 3 card Poker, instead the dealer is required to instantly reveal what he is holding as soon as you have made your raise.

The dealer will be looking for a hand that contains a queen or better in order to qualify. If the dealer fails to qualify, you will receive a payout at even money on your ante bet. However, the raise portion is considered to be a push and this stake will simply be refunded. Should the dealer qualify, then play progresses to a hand comparison, where traditional poker hand strengths will dictate the outcome.

Hand Rankings

three of a kind in poker

To that end, the poker hand rankings, from best to worst are as follows: Straight flush, Three of a kind, Straight, Flush, Pair, Ace (high or lower). Note, some poker hands, such as Royal Flush and Four of a kind, are missing in this game.

In 3 card Poker it is the stronger of the two hands that wins both the ante and the play bets at even money. That is unless, you have managed to pull off a straight, in which case a bonus is paid out on top even if the dealer wins.

The Pair Plus bet has nothing to do with the dealer but instead rewards you for your hand strength and pays out in relation to how well your hand ranks. The ante bonus and the Pair Plus bet payouts are based on a pay table which varies widely from casino to casino. This pay table also influences the house edge for 3 card Poker.

To Raise Or To Fold?

poker chips betAs a general rule, if you are holding a hand that ranks Q-6-4 or better, then it’s probably worth considering raising and continue playing, otherwise you might want to fold. 3 card Poker is a simple enough game to learn play. It is nice and fast moving as well. As long as you know your card ranks then you really don’t need to worry about too much else.

Because 3 card poker requires much less critical strategic analysis than regular poker, it is far more reliant on luck than skill or strategy as the hands don’t play on for rounds and there is no long game. With a reasonable house edge, 3 card Poker is as simple as it is simply about you and the dealer getting dealt 3 cards.

Players only need to compete if the dealer qualifies with a queen or higher. You can either fold or raise which is up to you, but it is recommended that raise when you have a hand that will beat a Q-6-4. Anything less, then you should probably think about fold. Plus, you have an optional Pair Plus side bet to play if you want. Simple, fun and uncomplicated, 3 card Poker is definitely worth a go next time you get the chance.