Nearly all poker games involve people playing against other people. 3 Card Poker, however, is a popular table game in many casinos that’s played against the house! Even if you might see multiple people playing on the same table at the same time, don’t let this fool you; they’re still all playing their hand against the dealer’s hand and never against each other.

Assuming you make a hand of a specific value, 3 Card Poker can have pretty big payouts! It’s also a very straightforward and easy game to learn. 

So, read on to find more about this popular casino table game and exactly how to win at 3 Card Poker!

Table of Contents

3 Card Poker: How to Play

This section will cover everything you need to know for how to play 3 Card Poker at a casino, including how to win at 3 Card Poker.

3 CARD POKER REQUIREMENTS

This casino game is played with 1 x 52-card playing deck and betting chips. There will usually be automatic shuffle machines used to shuffle another deck of cards during the current hand to ultimately speed up gameplay from hand to hand.

3 CARD POKER OBJECTIVE

How to beat 3 Card Poker is simple:you want to make the best 3-card poker hand possible! There’s no exchanging or drawing more cards like “hits” like in Blackjack. It’s merely about the cards you’re initially dealt.

Depending on how you choose to bet, you’ll either want to (1) hope to make a pair or better; and/or (2) have your hand end up being of a higher ranking than that of the dealer’s. 

3 CARD POKER RANKINGS

 Kc-Qc-Jc cards sitting on top of a pile of poker chips

3 Card Poker hand rankings are simple: You want the highest poker ranked card(s) in your hand to win! Do note that the rankings in 3-card poker are slightly different than regular poker. 

Here they are ranked from best to worst:

  • Straight Flush: 3 cards of consecutive value andin the same suit (i.e. Kc-Qc-Jc)
  • 3 of a Kind: 3 cards that match of equal value (i.e. 8-8-8)
  • Straight: 3 cards of consecutive value (i.e. 6-7-8)
  • Flush: 3 cards of the same suit (i.e. Ad-9d-3d)
  • Pair: 2 matching cards of equal
  • Value, plus one “kicker” (i.e. A-A-4)
  • High Card: Non-paired cards with no consecutive order or suit matching between the cards (i.e. Qc-6s-4d)

Note that for a high card hand, this means that any A-X-X hand will beat a K-X-X hand; in other words, even if you have A-3-4, you’ll still beat a holding of K-Q-9, even though the average value of the K-9-8 might be higher. Additionally, note that if the first high card is “tied” in a high card hand, then the second card will determine the winner, and so on.

Also notice that even if two players have a hand of the same poker hand ranking (i.e. a pair), the player of the higher value of hand within that rank will win (i.e. A-A-2 beats 2-2-A, as one as a pair of Aces and the other only has a pair of 2’s).

How to Play: 3 Card Poker Rules

  1. Betting: There are two betting options in 3 Card Poker:
     
    • Ante: Where you’ll be playing your hand against the dealer’s, trying to make the highest rank of poker hand.

    • Pair Plus: Where you’ll aim to make a hand of a pair or better with your hand. (The dealer’s hand is irrelevant for this bet.)

    • NOTE: Different casinos have different betting requirements. Some require you to put forward an ante if you want to play a hand, with the Pair Plus bet being optional. Other casinos allow you the choice if you want to play with the Ante or the Pair Plus.

  2. Dealing: Three cards are then dealt face-down to each player in the hand and to the dealer. Similar to Blackjack, and as was mentioned earlier, you’re only trying to beat the dealer (i.e. if you used the “ante” betting option).The other player’s cards bear no relevance for what you’re trying to beat.

    player and casino dealer in a duel

  3. Playing Action: After the player receives their cards, it is then their turn to act. They either have the option of “playing” their hand or discarding it.
     
    • If the player discards their hand, the dealer wins the player’s initial ante and any Pair Plus bet, if applicable. 

    • If the player wants to keep playing, they must place forward a Play” bet. The play bet amount must match the ante that the player initially used.Typically, these chips will be placed down after a player arranges his hand sequentially and then places these cards face-down in the area marked “play”.

  4. Winning and Payouts: The next step of the hand is for the player to reveal his cards, immediately followed by the dealer doing the same. Then hands are compared, and any appropriate monies are collected or paid out:
     
    • If the dealer has a J-high High Card hand or worse, their hand doesn’t qualify to be “played.” All players still in the hand will win the amount equivalent to the “ante” bet but will push with their “play” bet – meaning they simply collect back the chip(s) originally played, but don’t win an additional amount for this wager (but they don’t lose it either). Note that if the dealer’s hand is better than the player’s hand but that the dealer’s hand still didn’t qualify, the player will still win the amount equal to their ante chip. At the same time, they’ll “push” with their Play wager, being able to recollect it after the hand (If the dealer has J-4-3 and the player has T-9-7 and “played”, the player would win the amount equal to their ante for the hand.)

    • If the dealer has a Q-high High Card hand or better, their hand “plays” and is ranked in comparison to the player’s hand. If the player’s hand is better, the player wins the amount equivalent to both their “ante” and “play” bets. If the dealer’s hand wins, the player’s money from these betting sections of the table is collected accordingly.

    • As the “Pair Plus” wager is played independently, it will be either collected if the player doesn’t make a pair or better or it will have its corresponding winnings paid out accordingly. This result comes despite the dealer’s hand and/or if the player wins or would win against the dealer. See below for common payout structures for these High Hands.

3 Card Poker Rules: High Hand 3 Card Poker Payouts

3 Card poker hand JhJsKd with the words “1 to 1” underneath it

Though these can differ from casino-to-casino and place-to-place, here are the standard 3 Card Poker Odds used for “Pair Plus” wager payouts typically used in America, along with select payout variations used:

  • Pair: 1 to 1
  • Flush: 3 to 1 (or 4 to 1)
  • Straight: 6 to 1 (or 5 to 1)
  • Three-of-a-Kind: 30 to 1 (or 25 to 1)
  • Straight Flush: 40 to 1 

In addition to the Pair Plus, casinos typically offer Ante Bonus payouts too, if you make one of the strongest of hands. These payouts require no additional wager like the Pair Plus bet. 

Payouts for the Ante Bonus might look something like this, but are also subject to different payout structures:

  • Straight: 1 to 1
  • Three-of-a-Kind: 4 to 1 (or 2 to 1 or 3 to 1)
  • Straight Flush: 5 to 1 (or 3 to 1 or 4 to 1)

3 Card Poker Rules: Stakes

It should be noted that there are minimum and maximum bet size sat 3 Card Poker Tables. If it’s a $5 minimum table, though, “playing” a hand will cost $10 total: $5 for the ante wager and $5 for the play wager if you decide to keep and play your hand against the dealer.

The ante and play chips must always be of the same numeric value when played. However, they can both differ from the amount used for the Pair Plus wager. 

Note that the Pair Plus wager must still also be within the minimum and maximum table stake values.

3 Card Poker Strategy

Optimal strategy for 3 Card Poker indicates that you should generally play all hands of a value of Q-6-4 or better and fold everything else.

This casino table game will always give the house a slight edge of around 2% over the long-term. However, the edges for Pair Plus and Ante Bonuses will be slightly different from place to place depending on the payouts.

seesaw with a player on the up-side and image of a casino building on the down-side

In general, American casinos will give the house a 7.28% edge for this part of the game, while it will only provide the house with a 2.7% edge in Europe.

3 Card Poker: Etiquette

Regarding etiquette in 3 Card Poker, there are three things to note:

  • Playing your hand: If you want to not just ante up but also play your hand, arrange your cards from low to high, place them horizontally face-down in the “play” box, and then place your “play” wager on top of your cards.

  • Folding your hand: If you anted-up but don’t want to “play” your hand, you can toss your cards forwards towards the dealer. Or slide your cards underneath your already-bet chips (in the “ante” and “Pair Plus” spaces) and then push the cards and chips towards the dealer together.

  • Tipping: It’s customary to tip dealers when you win. While the amount and frequency you tip are up to you, 10% is usually an acceptable sizing. (Remember that this could be done using $1 chips if you’re playing with $5 chips.) To tip your dealer, after a hand, place your tip to the right of any of the betting circles: Pair Plus, Ante, or Play. 

House Rules: Every Casino Is Different

It’s essential to shed light on some differences there may be from one casino to the next in terms of house rules:

  • Number of Simultaneous Hands for One Player: Some casinos only allow players to play one hand at a time, while other casinos allow one player to play multiple hands at once (across the different sections for betting at the same table).

    player at casino table with arms spread across half of the hand spots

  • Sharing Your Hole Cards: Some card rooms have a strict ONE player per hand policy. Other places allow different players to share their hole cards and help each other make decisions for how to play their hand(s).

  • Which Bet MUST Be Placed: Some places require that you must put forward an ante chip to be dealt into a 3 Card Poker hand, leaving the Pair Plus as the optional wager category. In other casinos, you have the option of playing the ante chip or the Pair Plus wager (or both together).

How to Cheat: 3 Card Poker

It’s difficult to cheat, per se, in 3 Card Poker. That said, there is only one deck in play, unlike in most Blackjack games, so counting cards to give yourself an advantage isn’t entirely out of the question. 

If the casino allows for it, you could certainly look at the other player’s hands, too, to find out what other cards are in play and if it’s likely that the dealer might qualify or not with their hand. 

For example, if most of the Aces, Kings, and Queens are in play amongst other players, it might be advantageous to put down a Play chip. Perhaps you’ll win an ante wager at least if the dealer’s hand is a Jack High or lower and doesn’t qualify.

3 Card Poker Online

3 Card Poker is predominantly a live table game. However, some online casinos have set up virtual table games or live streams of table games to accommodate for an online experience.

Check with your online casino of choice to see if 3 Card Poker is available to you.

3 Card Poker Summary

We hope that this guide has helped explain to you how to play 3 Card Poker and win! It’s undoubtedly an easy table game to learn and an incredibly fun one to play.

Remember all the different betting options available to you and be sure to do your research to find out about what the House Rules are for the 3 Card Poker game you’re playing in. 

Good luck!

About the Author
By
Matthew Cluff is a poker player who specialises in 6-Max No Limit Hold’em games. He also periodically provides online poker content for various sites.
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