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3 Card Poker

3 Card Poker is a relative newcomer to casino gambling, but it’s made up for lost time by becoming the most profitable proprietary table game ever created. Before you get too excited, however, I should mention that the profits are going to either the casino or the person who owns the rights to the game.

While this fact may sound daunting, it doesn’t mean that players should avoid the game. Three-card poker can be an immense amount of fun, and its multiple betting options make it perfect for those with a short attention span. At the very least, I suggest giving it a try to judge whether or not it’s right for you.

In this article, we’ll start off by looking at how to play 3 Card Poker. Then we’ll look at the odds of hitting various hands, as well as the house edge. Finally, we’ll discuss how to employ basic strategy in the game in order to increase your chances of winning.

Rules of 3 Card Poker

The following are the traditional rules for a game of Three-Card Poker:

  • Play begins with the player making up to two wagers. The first is known as the Ante, and the second is known as the Pair Plus wager. Both of these are optional bets in some casinos, while others require the Ante wager to be made. The Pair Plus option is made in the hopes that the player will have a final hand consisting of at least a pair.
  • Once the initial wagers have been made, both the player and the dealer receive three cards. If the player placed an Ante wager, they now have the option to fold or raise. If they elect to continue, they must place a Play wager that is equal to the ante. If they fold, then the player loses his initial bet.
  • Next, both hands are revealed to determine the winner. When the dealer turns over his cards, he must have a queen or better in order to qualify. If the dealer does not meet this minimum, then the player’s Ante bet pays even money and the Play wager pushes.
  • If the dealer does qualify, both hands are compared against one another. The higher hand wins based on the chart provided in the next section.
  • If the dealer wins, then the player loses all bets. If the player wins, he receives even money on his Ante and Play wagers. In the case of a tie, the player’s bets push. The overall percentage odds are as follows: 44.91% for a player win, 55.03% for a dealer win, and 0.06% for a tie.
  • An Ante Bonus may also be available if the player winds up with a straight or better. This payout is unrelated to the strength of the dealer’s hand.
  • If the player has a pair or better, then they receive a Pair Plus Bonus according to the chart included later in this article. Otherwise, the house collects this amount.


Hand Order in Three-Card Poker

The following is the ranking for hands in 3-Card Poker. I’ve also included the probability for achieving each of these hands.

  • Straight Flush (0.002172)
  • Three of a Kind (0.002353)
  • Straight (0.032579)
  • Flush (0.049593)
  • Pair (0.169412)
  • Ace High or Lower (0.743891)


Pair Plus Wager

This optional side bet pays if the player has a pair or better at the completion of the hand. The expected house edge is 7.28%, so advantage players may want to stay away from this one.

  • Straight Flush pays 40 to 1 (0.002172 probability)
  • Three of a Kind pays 30 to 1 (0.002353)
  • Straight pays 6 to 1 (0.032579)
  • Flush pays 3 to 1 (0.049593)
  • Pair pays even money (0.169412)


Optimal Strategy

Since the game doesn’t allow the player to throw away or collect any new cards, employing a strategy can be difficult. According to the various sources I’ve consulted, the best option for the player is to raise if you have a Q/6/4 or better. By following this advice, you can expect to win 5.29% on the raise (while losing 8.66% of the ante).

Some players prefer to raise with a queen or better, which is essentially the same as mirroring the dealer (since they need a queen or greater to qualify). This results in a house edge of 3.45%. While far from ideal, it’s still preferred to no strategy at all, as this non-tactic gives the house an edge of 7.65%.

If you’re tired of traditional casino games, 3 Card Poker can inject a much-needed boost of excitement into your regular gaming sessions. While there’s no way to erase the house edge, a smart player using the best possible strategy can reduce it to a manageable amount. When combined with the unique nature and sheer novelty of the game, this is more than enough reason to give it a try.