Three card poker is a poker variant that was patented in the late 1990s as a version of poker that could be played at a similar speed to other casino table games. It’s a popular choice as it contains elements of more traditional poker variants like Texas Hold ‘Em, but is quicker, requires less skill and is played against the dealer rather than fellow players.
The player and the dealer are each dealt three cards: the objective is to have a better hand than the dealer to win. Even if there are other players, you won’t be competing against each other.
Overview of play
In three card poker, players compete against the house.
Three card poker is quick and easy to learn.
- Players make an ante bet before receiving their cards.
- Once players have their three cards, they can either surrender their hand and ante bet, or place a bet equal to the ante.
- Dealers hand is revealed and winner is determined.
Hands in three card poker are pretty much the same as in other poker variants, except that hands are made up of only three cards and a straight is higher than a flush. The order goes:
- Straight flush
- Three of a kind
- High card
Ties are broken by the second highest card, then the third. For example, if both dealer and player had a pair of twos, the winner would be determined by the highest remaining card. If this was the same, then it would be a tie and the bets push (i.e. is returned and no one loses or wins any money).
The dealer hand only plays if they have a Queen or higher. For anything lower, their hand does not qualify, and they do not play. This means the players still in will ‘win’ back the amount they have wagered, thus not winning or losing any money.
Where to Play
Three card poker can be played online and at select land-based casinos. As you go against the dealer and not other players, its common to play alongside multiple other players. However, unlike traditional poker, you don’t need to worry about their poker faces.
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In three card poker, there is usually no opportunity to see what cards the dealer may have (although there is a modified strategy if one of the dealer cards is visible). So strategy goes beyond reading the other players.
- Know when to bet and when to surrender
If you are not holding a pair or better, and are reliant on high card wins, always place a bet on Q64 or better. Anything lower than this, fold and move onto the next deal.
This is because the dealer’s hand is only playable is they hold a Queen or higher; anything lower and the bets are pushed back, and by following the above recommendations statistically the player is more likely to win.
- Modified Strategy
In some versions of the game, you may be privy to one of the dealers’ cards. This will change the strategy slightly and allow you to predict their next move.
If the dealers card is:
- J or lower: always place a play bet. The odds that the dealer hand is lower than yours.
- Q: Only place a play bet with Q92 or better.
- K: Only place a play bet with K92 or better.
- A: Only place a bet with A92 or better.
You can also get some online casinos to automate this process for you, taking away some of the guess work on when to play.
- Pair Plus wagers
Instead of (or as well as) placing an ante bet to take part in the main game, you can place a Pair Plus wager. This is a bonus wager that is predicated on having a pair or higher. The amount paid out will depend on the hand, with more paid out for three of a kind that just a pair. Many players will place bets on both, increasing chances of winning (although this must be balanced with the fact that it also doubles the cost of playing).
- Prime bet
Some casinos offer this alongside or instead of Pair Plus. In essence, all that is required is to have three cards of the same color (does not need to be the same suit). There are additional bonuses is the three dealer cards are also the same color (and match yours).
- 6-card bonus
This variation adds another fun element to the game and goes back to the more traditional versions of the game. By using your three cards and the dealers three cards, you need to make the best possible 5 card hand.
Three card poker is a very simple and fun game to play. However, it’s not always a good way to win big. Strategies can be used to increase chances of winning, but ultimately the house edge can be hard to beat. It is best to use these strategies and additional wager opportunities to spice up the game and enjoy it for what it is.