3 Card Poker Rules for Beginners

Home » 3 Card Poker Rules for Beginners
3 Card Poker Rules for Beginners

3 card poker is a game that has gathered a lot of momentum in both land-based and online casinos. This is understandable considering it is fun, easy to learn, has numerous variants, and can offer excellent payouts. However, before you delve into this game on your next visit to Las Vegas or an online casino, you need to know the rules first. 

It is a game that requires you to get the best poker hand you can with just three hands, but there is more to this game. In this guide, we will be looking into its rules, how it works, how to play three card poker, the poker hand rankings, and many more aspects of this game. Before we proceed, what exactly is 3 card poker? 

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What Is 3 Card Poker?

3 card poker is an easy-to-learn poker variant where you get only three cards, unlike other options like the 5 card draw. You play against the dealer in this game or your card’s hand value. Also, you can bet against your hand and the dealer, depending on your preference.Three-card poker requires you to land three cards consecutively to make a straight and three of a suit to land a flush. 

Three-Card Poker History 

3 card poker was initially introduced in the 17th century as three-card brag. This was in England, before it found its way into the United States due to immigrants from the British Isles. From here, the game quickly gained popularity. 

In the 1970s, casinos began to offer 3 card poker, which quickly became a popular option for casino players. Soon after, it was integrated into online play and has continued to grow even more popular. This is why you’ll find plenty of variants today that you can only access on online casino sites. 

How do you Play Three Card Poker?

One major question you’ll find online regarding 3 card poker is: “How do you play 3 card poker?” If you have this question, you are not alone. Fortunately, playing 3 card poker is easy if you know what to do. Here are a few steps to help you get started. 

  1. Participating players place an ante or pair plus wager to begin the game. Here, they wager that they will get a hand or no less than a pair or better. 
  2. Every player and the dealer are dealt three cards facing downwards. At this point, the match is against the dealer and not the other players in the game. Depending on the cards dealt to the player, they have two options. These are: 
  • Play: Go along with their hand and match their ante bet 
  • Fold: Forfeit the ante bet without risking extra cash
  1. Next, the player will check his/her hand and decide if he/she wants to place a play bet to either pit their hand against that of the dealer or not. The play bet is usually the same as the amount the player places in the ante bet. According to optimum strategy, players should play hands better than four, six, and queen—and fold if their hand is worse. 
  2. If a player chooses to fold, the hand ends, and the dealer will collect the player’s ante wager and pair plus wager. 
  3. If a player chooses to place a play bet, their cards will be placed in front of them to decide if he/she has a hand better than the dealer. The player will get their play wager back if the dealer’s hand is a jack high or weaker. But if the dealer has a hand consisting of a quick-high or better, the player gets paid their ante and play wager at 1.1 if they have a hand that’s better than the dealer’s.
  4. If the dealer has a better hand than that of the player, the player loses both their play and ante wager. But if the outcome is a tie, the play, and ante bets are returned to the player. 
  5. Players who make an ante bet and get a straight or better will get an ante bonus. This is paid to the player irrespective of the dealer’s hand. 

Betting Options in 3 Card Poker

There are several betting options available on three card poker. These include: 

Ante Bet

This is a bet to pit yourself against the dealer’s hand alone. When betting against the dealer, the goal is to get a 3 card poker hand value that is greater in value than the dealer’s qualifying hand. This is typically a queen or better. If you decide to play on a three-card poker table, you can choose to compete against the dealer alone by placing an ante bet within the specified min and max bets allowed at the table. Once a player has been dealt their cards, they have two choices. 

The first is to fold if they like their hand and feel it can beat the dealer’s. Alternatively, they can place a wager amount that is the same as the ante bet on the play spot. At this point, the person with the best hand wins. 

Pair Plus Wager 

Here, you are betting against a specified payout table. The aim of wagering the pair plus bet is to get a pair or better. These types of wagers allow players to bet against their hand alone and not against the dealer. If the player is lucky to land a pair or better, they win the bet. The pair plus bet may be within the stipulated min-maximum bet range stated at the table. One of the best aspects of this bet type is that players will get paid out if they make this wager, regardless of the dealer’s hand. 

Ante Wager and Pair Plus 

You bet against the dealer and the posted payout table in this case. If you decide to do this, you are playing against two unique pay tables with varying payout requirements. However, if you decide to make this wager in three-card poker, you’ll need to note the following: 

The aim of this bet is to receive a 3 card poker hand that is better than the qualifying hand of the dealer. 

  • You’ll need to land a pair or better to win.
  • The pair plus and ante bet are of varying amounts.
  • If you place this bet, you get paid regardless of the dealer’s hand. 
  • Your bet can be any amount as long as it is within the minimum and maximum bet on the table. 
  • The ante and play bet must be the same. 
  • If you make the ante bet and pair plus bet but fail to make the play wager, you will forgo the pair Plus and ante bet. 

3 Card Poker Hand Rankings 

The hand rankings in three card poker vary slightly from your typical poker rankings since they use three cards instead of five. To ensure you get the best results when you play, it is crucial to note the hand rankings of this game. We have put them together below, starting from the lowest. 

  • Straight Flush: This hand consists of 3 cards belonging to the same suit in successive ranks. For instance, 8H, 7H, and 6H. The queen, king, and ace have the highest ranks in a straight flush, while the lowest are 4, 3 and 2. 
  • Three-of-a-Kind: This hand has three cards with the same rank, irrespective of the suit, like 10S, 10H, and 10C. Three aces have the highest rank here; the least is three 2s. 
  • Straight: Consists of three cards of successive rank, irrespective of the suit. For instance, 8D, 7C, and 6H. The straight with the highest ranking is  ace, king, and queen, while ace, 2, and 3 are the lowest. An ace could either be high or low, depending on the circumstance. 
  • Flush: This hand contains three cards that belong to the same suit, irrespective of rank. Examples of cards here include 10S, 4S, and 2S. The flush cards with the highest ranks include ace, king, and jack, while 5, 3 and 2 are the lowest. 
  • Pair: This hand consists of two cards with the same rank, regardless of the suit. E.g., 2C, AH, and 8D. The pair with the highest rank is two aces, while two 2s are the lowest. 
  • High Card: This is made up of three cards that don’t belong to any of the hands covered so far. E.g., KC, 8H, and 4D. The high cards with the highest ranking are   ace, king, and 9, while 5, 3, and 2 are the lowest. 

3 Card Poker Payouts

Three card poker payouts tend to differ depending on the bet. We have listed them for you in the table below. 

Payouts for Pair Plus 

Mini Royal50-1 
Straight Flush                    40-1
Three-of-a-Kind                  30-1
Straight            6-1
Flush   3-1
Pair         1-1

Payout for Ante Bonus 

Straight Flush                    5-1 
Three-of-a-Kind                  4-1 
Straight    1-1 

Payout for Play 

If the dealer fails to qualify, the payout is as follows: 

  • Play: Push 
  • Ante: 1-1 

If the dealer qualifies and loses to the player, the payout is as follows: 

  • Play: 1-1
  • Ante: 1-1 

If the dealer qualifies but ties with the player, the payout is as follows: 

  • Play: Push
  • Ante: Push
Best Three-Card Poker Variations

Best Three-Card Poker Variations

There are plenty of three-card poker variations today, but some of the top options we recommend include:

  • Macau Three-Card Poker
  • Three-Card Brag
  • Ultimate Three-Card Poker
  • Three-Card Prime
  • California Three-Card Poker

Strategy for Three-Card Poker 

The 3-card poker game is very easy and does not involve too much strategy. Your main priority in this game will be to determine which cards to forgo and which to keep. The optimum strategy suggests that every hand greater than Q, 6, or 4 should be kept, while every card below this should be forfeited. 

This may seem very straightforward, but it is a strategy that will surely provide you with the best outcome possible. Once you have this down, you’ll be fine. 

How to tell if you have a queen-six-four or better

To determine this, begin with your highest card and check if it’s higher than a queen. If it is, then play and ignore the remaining cards. However, if you get a queen as your initial card, and the next card is better than a 6, still play notwithstanding your third card’s ranking. But if the second card is less than 6, then fold and wait for the next hand. 

3 Card Poker Winning Odds

Like most poker games in casinos, the house edge for 3 card poker is quite reasonable. Play bets and ante bets have a 3.37% house edge, while the pair plus bet has a 2.32% house edge. 

Although the chances of landing a winning hand are the same for the player and dealer, the house retains most of their edge since players don’t get a payout for the play bet, except when the dealer has no less than a queen high. 

Some of the odds that come with landing major hands have been listed in the table below. 

Hand Odds 
Straight Flush 0.217%
Straight 3.257%
Flush 4.95%
One Pair 16.94%
Ace High or Lower76.38%

Playing 3 Card Poker in Online Casinos

Online 3 card poker is no different from your traditional poker in land-based casinos, so you can also use the same tactics for winning here. However, you should note some more things if you decide to wager on online three-card poker. 

First, you’ll need to find the right 3 card poker casino, as the platform you choose can determine your experience. We recommend you use only licensed platforms with measures in place to keep you safe. Also, you’ll want to evaluate other factors, like payment options, customer support, games on offer, and the platform’s user-friendliness before you make a decision. 

Next, pick the right poker variant for you and stick with it. Even though it may seem like it, playing some hands in one game and jumping to another is not the best winning strategy. To improve your chances, settle for an option, learn the rules and stay consistent. This will ensure you win more in the long run. 

Also, make sure you understand the controls of the 3 card poker variant you settle for. Not all games work in the same manner, and even though some aspects might be similar, there may be buttons placed in other locations. Starting a game without knowing how to fold or raise won’t be fun. 

Next, make sure you keep tabs on your bankroll. This is not difficult in a land-based location since you use physical chips that you can monitor. However, it may be trickier online, and you may exhaust your funds before you realize it. We recommend you keep a budget and leave the moment you exhaust your set budget. Online three card poker is very entertaining, and you may get carried away without even realizing it. 

Lastly, we recommend you play responsibly. Three card poker should only be for entertainment and should never be seen as a source of income.

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