STRATEGY

Three Card Poker Rules – Tips, Tricks and More

As a poker player, sometimes you get tired of playing against other people, and you want to try out a game that has odds. One way that is very attractive to many standard poker players is to play Three Card Poker Rules. This is a table game where you play against the house, and you have the potential to win big if you’re lucky.

For those of you who are not familiar with this game, we will outline all of the basic rules and strategies that you need to know before you sit down and get your first hand. After you play a couple of rounds, you will be hooked. It’s really easy to learn, and it can be a lot of fun, and if you hit a big bonus, then you’ll understand why it’s so popular.

Cards and Initial Bets

Three Card Poker Bet

As the name would suggest, this game is played with three cards. The objective of the game is to beat the dealer with a stronger hand. Since you have such a limited amount of cards, however, most of the time a win will go to the player with the highest card.

As with all poker games, there are rankings of hands, from high card all the way to a straight flush. In this version, there is no royal flush (except if there is a six-card bonus, which we’ll get into later).

Hand Rankings

  • High Card: Aces are always high unless used in a straight
  • Pair: any pair of cards
  • Flush: in this game, a flush is worth less than a straight
  • Straight: any run of three, including A-2-3. There is no “rounding the horn” to make a straight of K-A-2
  • Straight Flush: any three consecutive cards that are suited. There is no ranking of suits, so if two players have identical hands, they are treated as equals.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that the dealer must have a qualifying hand to pay out all bets. In this game, a Queen or higher counts as a qualifying hand. If the dealer does not have at least a Queen, then your play bet is pushed back.

The betting system for this game is simple. You must first place a wager on the Ante spot before you get your cards. The minimum and maximum will be determined by the house, but usually, it will be half of the table minimum (i.e. a $10 table requires a minimum Ante of $5).

In addition to the Ante bet, you can also place side bets that will pay odds. Pair Plus is the most common side bet, although some casinos have a 6-Card Bonus, which we’ll discuss later.

Ante and Play

Three Card Poker Deal

Once all Ante and side bets have been placed, then you will get your cards. When delivering the hands, the dealer will get the last set of cards. In some casinos, he or she will then show the top card, but that is not always the case.

After looking at your hand, if you decide to play, then you will have to match your Ante bet and place the wager on the Play spot. Thus, if you wagered $5 on the Ante, then you must wager the same amount on the Play. Both of these have to be equal, but the bonus bets do not.

Surrender

In this game, you can surrender your hand if you do not wish to play. If that happens, however, you will lose your Ante and your Pair Plus bets. If the casino does have a 6-Card Bonus, then your hand will still qualify to win that bet during the showdown.

Once all Play bets have been placed, then comes the showdown. The dealer will reveal all three of his or her cards and set the hand. Again, the dealer needs a Queen or higher to qualify. If the hand does not qualify, then you win your Ante bet automatically, but not your Play bet.

After the dealer sets the hand, then he or she will compare the house hand to the player’s hands. During this time any bonus bets will also be awarded. We will go into payouts and qualifying hands in the next section. Ante and Play bets are only paid one to one. If you lose, then you lose both.

In some cases, there may be odds for the Ante if the player has a strong enough hand. If that does happen, typically the player will be paid four to one for a three of a kind, and five to one for a straight flush.

Pair Plus and Bonus Bets

Three Card Poker Showdown

One of the big reasons that people play this game is that they can potentially win big on the side bets. As we mentioned, Pair Plus comes with almost all Three Card Poker variations, but there is an additional spot for a 6-Card Bonus.

Pair Plus Bonus only qualifies if you have a pair or better. Thus, if your hand only has a high card, then you will lose this wager. What’s important to note is that you can win the bonus but lose the hand, as it pays out separately from your Ante and Play bets. For example, you may have a flush and lose to a straight, but you will still be paid for your flush on the Pair Plus. We’ll list the payouts shortly.

6-Card Bonus

If the casino offers this bet, then the way it works is that you combine your hand with the dealer’s. Using these six cards, you have the potential to make a five-card poker hand and win big money. To qualify for a 6-Card Bonus, you have to make trips or better. We’ll list the payouts next.

Three Card Poker Payouts

While you can potentially make money by playing the Ante and Play bets only, the fact is that you could earn much more by playing the side bets. If you do happen to get a strong hand, then you will get a big payday, which makes the game much more exciting overall. Here is a list of qualifying hands and their payouts.

Pair Plus

  • Single Pair pays one to one
  • Flush pays three to one
  • Straight pays six to one
  • Three of a Kind pays thirty to one
  • Straight Flush pays forty to one

6-Card Bonus

  • Trips pays five to one
  • Straight pays ten to one
  • Flush pays twenty to one
  • Full House pays twenty-five to one
  • Four of a Kind pays fifty to one
  • Straight Flush pays 200 to one
  • Royal Flush pays 1000 to one

As you can see, there is a lot of potential for big money by playing the bonuses. While the house edge is greater on these bets, they can pay out substantial pots if you play them. In many cases, there will even be a progressive jackpot that will pay out for a “mini-Royal,” which consists of A-K-Q suited in your hand.

House Edge

When talking about the house edge in Three Card Poker, what you have to realize is that there are two different sets of bets that will have to be taken into account. First and foremost, the casino will measure the house edge for Ante and Play bets, because those are necessary to play the game. Another thing that factors into the percentage is that the casino assumes that players are using standard Three Card Poker strategy, which is to bet nothing less than a Q-6-4.

In this case, the Ante comes with a house edge of 3.37%. Some players may look at that and assume that the Play bet then comes with a 0% edge, but they would be wrong. Combined, the total house edge for both wagers is 2.01%

Next, we have to consider the bonus bets. If you never play these, then you won’t have to worry about a house edge. However, most people that play this game will bet the Pair Plus in the hopes of maximizing the return. In that case, the average house edge for Pair Plus bets is 7.28%, using the payout system that we listed above. If the casino offers different odds, then the house edge will vary accordingly.

Where the casino really makes money is on the 6-Card Bonus. Using the payout list that we have above, the edge percentage is a whopping 10.23%, which means that you shouldn’t play that bet very often, if at all. That is, of course, assuming that you are playing the odds, and not for fun.

Three Card Poker Rules Conclusion

Three Card Poker Rules

As far as table games go, Three Card Poker is an excellent way to utilize your poker skills while not having to think very hard. Because you are playing against the house, you have to rely on fundamental strategy, which dictates that you should only bet a hand that has a good chance of winning. For example, if you have a J-7-4, then you should surrender as the odds are against you. Conversely, if you have a Queen or higher, then you should bet the Play every time. The only reason that you wouldn’t is if the dealer shows his top card and it beats your hand already.

With regards to the bonus bets, they can be a lot of fun but don’t go overboard. If you want to minimize your losses, then we suggest that you bet half on the bonus that you do on your base bet. Thus, if you place $10 on your Ante, then only put $5 on the Pair Plus. 6-Card Bonuses should only be played sparingly, as they hit very rarely. Overall, this is a great game where you can have lots of fun and potentially win big.  We hope you enjoyed learning about Three Card Poker Rules and look forward to your comments!


I'm a tech geek who enjoys extreme sports, computing and, of course, an avid poker enthusiast.


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