Three Card Poker

A Complete Guide to Mastering Three Card Poker


Three Card Poker is a popular casino card game that I’ve played quite a bit. It’s a game that combines the excitement of poker with a faster pace that works well at casino table games. It was invented in 1994 by Derek Webb and has since spread to many casinos around the world. The game is easy to learn, but it also offers the potential for high payouts, which makes it a favorite among casino-goers.

The game is played with a single deck of 52 cards and is actually two games in one. There’s the Play/Ante game where you play against the dealer to see who has the highest hand, and there’s also the Pair Plus game that rewards you if you get a pair or better. In casinos, you can choose to play one or both games.

The history of Three Card Poker is not as long as other casino games like blackjack or roulette, but it has made a significant impact since its introduction. Its success is due to its simplicity and the speed of play – it’s a lot faster than traditional poker games. Now, let’s dive into the details of how to play this exciting game.

Quick Tip for Three Card Poker

Always play Q-6-4 or higher, fold anything lower – this is the simplest strategy to reduce the house edge.

Rules for playing Three Card Poker

Understanding the rules is crucial to playing Three Card Poker. Here’s a detailed breakdown:

  1. The game starts with each player making a bet. There are two types of bets: Ante (which is a bet against the dealer) and Pair Plus (a bet that your hand will be a pair or better).
  2. After bets are placed, each player and the dealer get three cards, face down.
  3. Players then look at their cards and decide whether to fold or continue. If you fold, you lose your bets. If you continue, you must place an additional bet equal to the Ante.
  4. The dealer then reveals their hand. The dealer must have a queen high or better to play. If the dealer doesn’t have a qualifying hand, the players win their Ante bet, and the Play bet is returned.
  5. If the dealer’s hand qualifies, it’s compared to the players’ hands. If your hand is better, you win even money on both the Ante and Play bets. If the dealer’s hand is better, you lose both bets.
  6. If you have a straight, three of a kind, or straight flush, you receive an Ante bonus, regardless of the dealer’s hand.
  7. The Pair Plus bet is won if your hand is a pair or better and is paid out according to a specific paytable, regardless of the dealer’s hand.

It’s important to note that the rankings of the hands in Three Card Poker are slightly different from traditional poker because you only have three cards. From highest to lowest, the hand rankings are: straight flush, three of a kind, straight, flush, pair, and high card.

Equipment and Setup for Three Card Poker

The equipment for Three Card Poker is simple. You need:

  1. A single deck of 52 cards.
  2. A table with designated areas for Ante, Play, and Pair Plus bets, as well as dealer cards.
  3. Chips for betting.

The setup involves each player placing their bets on the designated areas. The dealer then shuffles the cards and deals three cards to each player and themselves.

How to Play Three Card Poker

Playing Three Card Poker involves a few key steps:

  1. Key Game Mechanics: You’re playing against the dealer, and you need to have a better hand to win. You can also win with a good hand even if the dealer has a better one, thanks to the Ante bonus and Pair Plus payouts.
  2. Setup: Place your Ante and/or Pair Plus bets. Receive your cards.
  3. Gameplay: Decide whether to fold or play after seeing your cards. If you play, place your Play bet.
  4. End of the Game: Compare hands with the dealer to see who wins. Get paid out for any Ante bonuses or Pair Plus wins.

Here’s a list of gameplay phases:

  1. Placing Bets: Decide on your Ante and Pair Plus bets.
  2. Dealing Cards: You and the dealer each get three cards.
  3. Play or Fold: After seeing your cards, choose to play or fold.
  4. Reveal: The dealer shows their hand, and hands are compared.
  5. Payouts: Winners are paid out based on their hands and bets.

How to Win at Three Card Poker

Winning at Three Card Poker involves understanding the odds and probabilities, as well as the house edge. Here are some key points:

  1. The house edge for the Ante bet is about 3.37%.
  2. The Pair Plus bet has a higher house edge, but it also offers the potential for higher payouts.
  3. Basic strategy suggests playing any hand that is Q-6-4 or better.
  4. The odds of getting a pair are about 1 in 4, a flush about 1 in 5, a straight about 1 in 31, three of a kind about 1 in 425, and a straight flush about 1 in 3,217.

By understanding these odds and when to play or fold, you can increase your chances of winning.

Best Strategies for playing Three Card Poker game

Here are some strategies to help you win at Three Card Poker:

  1. Always play Q-6-4 or higher and fold anything lower.
  2. Make the Pair Plus bet if you’re looking for bigger payouts and are willing to take on more risk.
  3. Pay attention to the payouts for the Pair Plus bet and look for tables that offer the best odds.
  4. Manage your bankroll carefully and don’t chase losses.

By following these strategies, you can improve your chances of winning and have more fun playing Three Card Poker.


There are a few variations of Three Card Poker, including:

  1. Prime: An additional side bet where you’re betting that all your cards will be the same color.
  2. 6 Card Bonus: A side bet where you use your three cards and the dealer’s three cards to make the best five-card poker hand.

These variations add extra excitement and betting options to the game.


Here are some common scenarios:

  1. Good Scenario: You have a straight flush. You win the Ante bonus and get a good payout on the Pair Plus bet.
  2. Bad Scenario: You consistently get hands lower than Q-6-4. It’s best to fold these hands to minimize losses.

In both scenarios, knowing when to bet and when to fold is key to turning the situation to your advantage.

Frequently Asked Questions about playing Three Card Poker game

Here are some common questions and answers:

  1. Q: What’s the best hand in Three Card Poker?
    A: The best hand is a straight flush.
  2. Q: Should I always make the Pair Plus bet?
    A: It depends on your risk tolerance. The Pair Plus bet has higher payouts but also a higher house edge.
  3. Q: Can I see the dealer’s cards before I make a decision?
    A: No, you must decide whether to fold or play based on only your own cards.

For more information on Three Card Poker, check out these resources:

Wizard of Odds – Three Card Poker

Three Card Poker Gameplay [Video]