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how to play 3 card poker with chips and 3 7s on a red tabletop

3 Card Poker is an exciting and popular version of poker that is perfect for those just starting out. As it uses a smaller hand size than other types of poker, it can help players become familiar with the more common types of poker hands without having to account for additional cards. What is 3 Card Poker, what sort of strategy should you employ, and how can it be played online?

Rules of 3 Card Poker

Of all of the different types of poker, 3 Card Poker is by far the easiest to learn how to play. There are no community cards, no hole cards, and the pot isn’t split in any way; it is arguably the most streamlined and accessible version of poker available. However, even if the rules aren’t as complex as other poker variants, they still dictate how 3 Card Poker advances.

Each game of 3 Card Poker begins with the player making two wagers. The first wager is known as the Ante wager, and the second is known as the Pair Plus wager. At some casinos, both of these may be considered optional bets, while at others, the Ante wager is required to play. The Pair Plus wager is made in the hopes that the player’s final hand contains at least a pair.

Once the wagers have been made, both the player and the dealer receive three cards. If the player had placed an Ante wager, they can fold or raise. If they choose to raise, they must place a Play wager equal to the Ante wager, but if they fold, they lose their Ante wager.

Both hands are then revealed. If the dealer’s hand doesn’t have a Queen or better, it doesn’t qualify to play. If the dealer’s hand doesn’t qualify, the player’s Ante wager pays 1:1 and their Play and Pair Plus wagers are returned. If the dealer hand does qualify, the hands are compared against each other.

If the dealer wins, the player loses all of their bets. If the player wins, they receive 1:1 on both the Ante wager and the Play wager. In the unlikely case of a tie, the player’s bets push back to them. The odds of a dealer win are 55.03%; a player win, 44.91%; a tie, 0.06%.

There may also be an additional Ante bonus if the player’s hand contains a straight or better - that is, three cards of sequential rank, regardless of suit. The two hands better than a straight are three of a kind and a straight flush - three cards of sequential rank in the same suit.

If the player’s hand has a pair or better, they receive a Pair Plus bonus based on their Pair Plus wager. If they don’t have a pair or better, they lose their bet.

Hand Order in Three-Card Poker

When you’re learning how to play 3 Card Poker, online or in person, one of the most important things to know is the hand order - which hands are the best, and which hands are beaten by other hands. Because 3 Card Poker makes use of a smaller number of cards than other types of poker, there are fewer hands that can be assembled - for example, you can’t have two pairs, as you would need at least four cards.

The ranking of hands in 3 Card Poker is:

  • Straight Flush: three cards of sequential rank in the same suit - Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts, or Spades. There is a 0.2172% probability of being dealt a straight flush.
  • Three of a Kind: three cards with the same value across different suits. There is a 0.2353% probability of being dealt three of a kind.
  • Straight: three cards of sequential rank, regardless of suit - a 10, J, and Q would be a straight. There is a 3.2579% probability of being dealt a straight.
  • Flush: three cards of the same suit, regardless of rank - a 4, 10 and K of Hearts would be a flush. There is a 4.9593% probability of being dealt a flush.
  • Pair: two cards of the same value across different suits. There is a 16.9412% probability of being dealt a pair.
  • Ace High or Lower: a hand where an Ace or lower is the high card. There is a 74.3891% probability of being dealt an ace high or lower.

Pair Plus Wager

While it isn’t essential when you’re learning how to play 3 Card Poker, you’ll recall that you might have the opportunity to make a Pair Plus wager. This is a side bet that the player’s hand will have at least a pair or better. The expected house edge on this bet is 7.28%, so even if offered, players may wish to stay away from making one. However, if you do choose to make one, you can find out how much you might win depending on which cards are in the player’s hand.

  • A Straight Flush pays 40 to 1.
  • Three of a Kind pays 30 to 1.
  • A Straight pays 6 to 1.
  • A Flush pays 3 to 1.
  • A Pair pays even money.

3 Card Poker Strategy

When you think about how to play 3 Card Poker, you might wonder what the optimal strategy is. Since 3 Card Poker is a much simpler variant than other types of poker, and thus there are no community cards, there’s no way to add to, change, or manipulate the cards you’re dealt.

Due to this, the only “strategy” that can be enacted is to raise only if you have a hand of a Queen, a 6, and a 4, or better. Following this advice means that you can expect to win 5.29% on the raise, but lose 8.66% on the ante. Since you are raising with a Queen or better in hand, you are essentially mirroring the dealer, since that’s the only way their hand can qualify; even though this results in a house edge of 3.45%, not doing so results in a house edge of 7.65%, so it is the best play that one can make.

Play 3 Card Poker Online

If you want to play 3 Card Poker online, it’s easy to get started. The first thing you’ll need to do is find an online casino or poker room that offers 3 Card Poker. While it isn’t as popular as variants like Texas Hold’em, 3 Card Poker is a fixture at most online gambling sites.

We’d recommend looking at a few different sites that offer the game and choosing the one that is the best for you, based on factors like different games, what kinds of tournaments they offer, or what kinds of bonuses they have available. You’ll also want to make sure that the site accepts your payment method of choice so that you can easily add money to your account for real money play.

Once you have decided on a site you’d like to play at, the next step is to sign up. In order to do so, you’ll be asked for identifying details, and may be asked to submit additional documents in order to withdraw any winnings you might accrue.

Depending on the site you have chosen to play at, you may be able to play through your web browser. However, many poker rooms require you to download their gaming software to your computer, as a means of extra security. No matter which option is available to you, you can start playing 3 Card Poker online once you sign in.

How to Play 3 Card Poker FAQ

What is the best way to play 3 Card Poker?

The best strategy for how to play 3 Card Poker is to always bet when your hand is Queen-6-4 or higher. You should also bet whenever your high card is an Ace or a King, regardless of the value of your other two cards, or any time your hand consists of at least a Queen and a 7. Having these cards in hand mitigates the risk that the dealer has a better hand than you.

Is 3 Card Poker easy?

3 Card Poker is one of the simplest game variations, and it is very easy to learn how to play. Since your hand size is limited to three cards, there are far fewer hands you can play than in other types of poker. Due to this, 3 Card Poker is a great poker game for beginners that can also help you navigate more challenging varieties like Texas Hold’em or Omaha.

What are the odds of winning in 3 Card Poker?

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.

What is Queen high in 3 Card Poker?

Queen high means that the Queen is the highest card in a given poker hand. In order for the dealer's hand to qualify for play in 3 card poker, it must be at least Queen high. If it does not quality, players win their ante wager and their play wagers are returned.