How to Play 3 Card Poker – Rules & Basic Strategy Tips

what is a straight flush in 3 card poker

11 minutes

Last Updated: April 16, 2024

Checked by: Zvonimir Potocki

Along with games like Ultimate Texas Holdem, Pai Gow Poker, 3 Card Poker is one of the most popular casino poker games out there. 

The basic rules of Three Card Poker are fairly simple and easy to learn, and if you are looking to become proficient at this game, you are in the right place.

In this article, we will teach you how to play 3 Card Poker, which 3 Card Poker rules to look out for, and which 3 Card Strategies you should use at the tables to maximize your winning chances.

3 Card Poker Rules

3 Card Poker Strategy

3 Card Poker Rules: Learning The Basics

The basic rules of 3 Card Poker are fairly straightforward. However, it is worth noting that unlike Texas Hold'em, 3 Card Poker is played strictly against the house.

You will be dealt cards, and your hand strength will be compared to the dealer's, but you will not have options to make bets, bluff the dealer of his hand, or anything else.

You can play 3 Card Poker by following these simple steps in every single hand:

  • Place an Ante Bet: Before you can start playing, you must place an Ante bet. Bet anything between the table minimum and table maximum to begin playing.
  • Receive Your Cards: Once you have placed an Ante bet, the dealer will deal you three cards. The game is played with a total of three cards, as the name suggests.
  • Play or Fold: Once you have your cards, you must choose if they are worth keeping. If you want to Play, you must place another bet worth the same amount as your Ante bet. If not, you can Fold your cards and forfeit your Ante bet.
  • Showdown: If you decide to play, the dealer will turn over their cards, and the two hands will be compared. If you have a better hand, you will win at even money on the Ante bet. If the dealer has at least Q-high and your hand is better, you will win at even money on the Play bet as well.
  • Get Paid the Bonuses: If you placed any money on one of the bonus bets, the dealer will pay that amount regardless of the outcome of the Ante and Play bets. Furthermore, you will receive a 4:1 payout on your Ante bet anytime you have Trips and 5:1 anytime you have a Straight Flush.

Hand Rankings in Three Card Poker

If you’re familiar with any form of poker like Hold’em or Five Card Draw, you’ll have a pretty good idea of how poker hands rankings work in 3 Card Poker.

However, hand strengths are somewhat different due to only three cards being dealt to the dealer and the players and no help from any community cards.

Here’s the order from the lowest to the highest:

  • High card
  • One pair
  • Flush (three cards of the same suit)
  • Straight (three cards of consecutive rankings, i.e., 5, 6, 7)
  • Three of a kind
  • Straight flush (three successive cards of the same suit)

If the dealer and the player have the same higher-ranking hand, like a flush or a straight, the one with the highest card in the combination wins.

For example, a 7, 8, 9 straight beats a 5, 6, 7 straight, and a King-high flush always beats a Queen-high flush. Suits are never used to determine the winner in Three Card Poker games.

Special 3 Card Poker Bets

three card poker hands

In addition to the two standard wagers, i.e., Ante and Play, you can place a couple more bets at the start of each hand.

These aren’t mandatory, but they add some color to the game and can be a lot of fun.

The two bets are Pair Plus and 6-Card Bonus, and here is exactly how they work:

Pair Plus Bonus Bet

With the Pair Plus bet, you’re betting an additional amount that your hand will contain one pair or better.

It doesn’t matter if the dealer qualifies for this bonus bet. If you get dealt a pair or better, you’ll be paid on your bonus bet according to the separate paytable, which usually looks like this (although it may vary from one casino to another)

  • One pair: 1 to 1
  • Flush: 4 to 1
  • Straight: 5 to 1
  • Trips: 30 to 1
  • Any straight flush: 40 to 1
  • Mini Royal Flush (Ace, King, Queen of the same suit): 200 to 1

The ‘Pair Plus’ bet is placed at the start of the hand before any cards are dealt, and you can’t withdraw it or increase it once the play starts.

Six-Card Bonus Bet

Another extra bet available in 3 Card Poker is the 6-Card Bonus.

As you might have guessed, this is a bonus bet that includes six cards, i.e., your three cards and the dealer’s three cards, and it can result in some big payouts if you get lucky.

Pay tables for this bet vary from place to place and may not always be offered.

Here is how a typical Six-Card Bonus paytable may look:

  • Three of a Kind: 7:1
  • Straight: 10:1
  • Flush: 15:1
  • Full House: 20:1
  • Quads: 100:1
  • Straight Flush: 200:1
  • Royal Flush 1,000:1

In some casinos, 3 Card Poker rules also account for the special combination that contains all cards 9 through Ace of the same suit, offering huge payouts.

3 Card Poker Strategy: How to Play Three Card Poker Optimally?

3 card poker strategy

Unlike some other casino games that involve complicated decisions at several different stages, the 3 Card Poker strategy is easy to learn.

All you need to remember is what hands you should and shouldn’t be playing. Of course, there are also some additional tips and tricks we can help you with, so here is a quick list of 3 Card Poker strategy tips to keep in mind when playing:

3 Card Poker Strategy Tip #1 – Play When You Qualify

There is a very simple way to decide whether or not you should play a hand after the initial deal in 3 Card Poker. While many players try to “feel” it out, you should always let statistics talk.

Namely, the mathematics of the game suggest that you should play anytime you have at least Q 6 4 (Queen, Six, and Four) in your hand.

If your hand is this strong or better, place the Play bet, if it is not, Fold. The reason behind this is the fact that this hand gives you a slight statistical advantage over the average hand your opponent might have.

3 Card Poker Strategy Tip #2 – Look at Other Players' Cards

When playing in a casino, you should never openly cheat, but there are some things you can do to give yourself an extra chance of winning without actually cheating.

One of the things you can do in 3 Card Poker to give yourself an edge is look at the cards dealt to your opponents before making your decision.

Some casinos allow players to look at other players' cards, and some don't. In either case, looking at someone's cards won't get you in trouble.

Worst case, the dealer will warn you that this is not allowed and that you should simply refrain from doing it in the future. Potentially, you may look for another casino to play where this is permitted.

Seeing other players' cards can give you a slight edge, as you may decide to play a weaker hand because the dealer is less likely to qualify, giving you a higher chance to win double money on the Ante bet.

3 Card Poker Strategy Tip #3 – Beware of the House Edge

Like most other gambling games, 3 Card Poker is a game that inherently favors the casino and gives the dealer a slight edge against the players.

In the case of 3 Card Poker specifically, the game returns a total of 96.7% of all bets made to the player, which means there is a theoretical house edge of 3.3%.

This is relatively high for a gambling game, and it becomes even higher if you place money on the prop bets like Pair Plus and Six-Card Bonus, which have an even higher house edge.

So, to give yourself the best chances, refrain from playing these bets for significant stakes and make sure that you are only playing the Ante and Play bet at levels you can actually afford.

3 Card Poker Strategy Tip #4 – Prepare for Variance

Variance is one of the biggest “problems” in gambling in general and one of the things that gives players a hard time when trying to beat the casino.

Many players walk into a casino and place bets that are too high for their bankroll. These players often go bust before they even have a chance to win, as the negative side of variance eats their entire stake.

If you want to play for a while and actually have a good time playing 3 Card Poker, be aware that you may lose up to 10 bets or more in a very short timeframe, so come in with enough money and a good betting strategy in place.

3 Card Poker Strategy Tip #5 – Refrain from Progressive Betting

Progressive betting systems like Martingale can work well in some gambling games, but in 3 Card Poker, you should not apply them too often.

You will already have to place a double bet anytime you decide to play your hand, and you will have to fold some hands in the meantime and won't have a chance to win those at all.

Since there is no guarantee of winning when you do double your bet either, progressive betting systems don't really work in 3 Card Poker and a more steady betting strategy focused on consistency is more likely to work.

Three Card Poker Live Play Etiquette

how to play three card poker live

These days, you can find Three Card Poker games at many online casinos, but you’ll need to observe certain rules when you're playing live. These are in place to ensure the game runs smoothly and everyone’s happy.

When folding your hand, there are several ways to go about it.

  • You can announce your intention and let the dealer know.
  • Otherwise, you can slide your cards to the front and place them under your ante chip.

This will let the dealer know you’re out.

Whatever you do, don’t start throwing your cards at the dealer or across the table. This may be somewhat acceptable in Texas Hold’em game, but it won’t fly in house-banked games.

The casino needs to avoid any kind of a mess to limit cheating possibilities and ensure a pleasant atmosphere for all players, so try to play nice.

If you’re on a hot streak, it’s nice to tip the dealer as well.

This may not feel like the most optimal decision in monetary terms, but it’s well worth it, especially in a casino you’re regularly frequenting.

If you treat the staff right, you can usually expect the same courtesy, and those few bucks you give up in tips can be quite valuable.

Finally, if you’re told something isn’t allowed, accept it and don’t try it anymore.

For example, if you can’t look at other players’ cards and the dealer warns you about it a couple of times, just stop doing it.

Remember that every casino has the right to make up its own house rules, and if you don’t follow them, you’ll eventually be asked to leave.

3 Card Poker In A Nutshell: Is It a Good Game?

Now that you know how to play 3 Card Poker and understand basic strategies the question is, is this game any good?

Is this the game you should be playing when you go to a casino, or are there better options?

I guess the answer to this question depends on your personal preferences. Rules of Three Card Poker are straightforward to learn, and 3 Card Poker odds aren’t bad when compared to other choices, so the game has that going for it.

There isn’t any particular reason to avoid Three Card Poker. It’s at least as good as any other table game out there, and in terms of odds, it’s better than most of them.

There isn’t a winning strategy for 3 Card Poker, either, so you’ll be losing some money in the long run, but again, the same is true for pretty much all casino games.

So, give it a go and see how you like it. As long as you enjoy it and follow the simple strategy tips from this article, you’ll be just fine.

3 Card Poker FAQs

How do I play 3 Card Poker?

3 Card Poker is a simple casino game that pits you against the dealer. Place an Ante bet, decide if you want to keep playing once you receive your three cards, and compare your hand to the dealer's. Learn more about the rules and strategy of the game on this page.

Which hand qualifies in 3 Card Poker?

In order to qualify in Three Card Poker, the dealer must have at least Queen-high. Any hand that does not contain at least a Queen or a pair does not qualify.

What is the house edge in Three Card Poker?

The house edge in this game is about 3.3%, as the overall RTP stands at 96.7%. This means that, on average, you will lose about $3.3 for every $100 you bet over the long run.

When should I place the Play bet in 3 Card Poker?

After receiving your first three cards, you should only place the Play bet if you have at least Q 6 4 in your hand. If your hand is weaker than this, you should Fold.

What side bets can I play in Three Card Poker?

The game offers two side betting options. These are Pair Plus and Six-Card Bonus. Note that both of these bets add extra house edge to the game and are not favorable for the player.

Does three-of-a-kind beat straight and flush in 3 Card Poker?

Yes! Unlike most poker games, in Three Card Poker, three-of-a-kind beats a straight and a flush, as playing with just three cards makes it extremely hard to get three of the exact same cards.

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