How To Play 3 Card Poker

In most casino games, you’re up against different opponents. Three card poker is a popular casino game where you play against only one opponent, the house.

You’ll find players flocking to the 3 card poker table. It’s an easy and fun game with rules similar to the original poker. Also, the chances of winning big are high if you have a good hand.

Three card poker is a game that requires strategy and not luck to win. How so? Below, is a 3 card poker guide on the proper playing style and strategies. Bring your online bonus codes, and your thinking cap!

What Is 3 Card Poker?

Among most casino games, three card poker is a game you can win with a good hand selection. This means if you rely on intuition to win, it’s a nonstrategic way to profit from the game.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the original card game poker. It would surprise you to know three-card poker has been around for a long time, from its predecessor.

It’s an easy type of poker game to play, with very straightforward rules. You can also play this game online for free and win real money.

It’s no wonder three-card poker is one of the most popular games, whether in land or online casino games.

In three-card poker, your only opponent is the dealer. Unlike the standard poker game, you’re against many opponents.

The only information available to you is your hand, which are the three cards dealt.

Your goal is to have a good selection of cards that beats the dealer’s hand. It sounds simple and easy to follow. 

But first, you will need to understand the odds and learn the strategy of the game.

How Is 3 Card Poker Played?

Before you pull off any winning strategies, it’s important to master the basics of the game first.

If you’re a beginner in three card poker, here is a guide of how to play 3 card poker:

In the casino game, you’ll be playing with a single deck of 52 cards. You as the player will make the ante bet.

The ante bet is what you pay before you’re dealt with your hand. Both you and the dealer will have a hand of three cards.

Because the dealer’s hand isn’t shown, you can decide your next action from your three poker cards. After examining your hand, you can choose to fold or call.

Unlike blackjack, there are no options to draw another or to exchange a card. By folding, you give up your ante bet. You must do this when your poker hand is not at least high.

If you call or raise, you must make an extra play bet equal to your ante. The dealer then shows his three cards.

3 Card Poker Outcomes

Once the dealer shows his hand, he must have a Queen high-hand or higher to qualify. If his hand does, you can compare your hand to his. The best hand determines the winner.

Below are the 3 card poker outcomes:

  1. Your hand wins. You win even money on the ante and play bets.
  2. Dealer hand wins. You lose both your ante and play bets.
  3. Tie for both hands. Both ante and play bets are a push.

If your hand is at least a straight or higher, you will receive an ante bet. This is regardless of the value of the dealer’s three cards.

If you made a pair plus bet, the value of your hand determines how much it pays. The payout is different depending on which table you choose to play.

Poker Card Rankings

For you to win, you must have the highest-ranked poker hand. The 3 card poker rankings are almost similar to the original poker.

Here are the poker rankings from highest to lowest:

  1. Straight flush –  3 cards with consecutive values, with the same suit
  2. Three of a kind  – 3 cards with the same value
  3. Straight – 3 cards with consecutive values
  4. Flush – 3 cards bearing the same suit
  5. Pair – 2 matching cards of the same value
  6. No pair – no consecutive pair of cards that match by suit or value

For no pair hands, having an Ace is better than having a King. Let’s say you’re dealt with A-3-4 against the dealer’s K-Q-7.

The average value of the dealer’s hand is higher than yours. Regardless of this, your Ace beats his hand.

If both your first high cards are a tie, the second card determines the winning hand.

What Is The Best Way To Bet In 3 Card Poker?

As easy it is to play 3 card poker, the odds are different when it comes to betting. The house edge is around 3.3 percent if your playing strategy is favorable.

It’s also possible to bring up the house edge by making side bets or playing with the incorrect strategy.

There are two options for betting in three card poker:

Pair Plus

If you want to win in Pair Plus, your aim is to have a hand of pair, flush, straight, 3 of a kind, or straight flush.

Betting on pair plus in three card poker can be tempting as the payouts when winning are big. Especially if your hand is a straight flush, it pays 40-1.

But this betting option brings the house edge up by more than 2.3%. This means you also risk losing more of your wager.

Below are the rankings and the frequency of pair plus hands:

  1. Straight flush – 48 number of hands
  2. Three of a kind – 52 number of hands
  3. Straight – 720 number of hands
  4. Flush – 1,096 number of hands
  5. Pair – 3,744 number of hands
  6. No pair – 16,440 number of hands

Flush occurs more than straights, so you win bigger from straights when betting on pair plus.


Some casinos allow mini-royals as the highest poker ranking hand. A mini-royal hand should have an Ace, King, and Queen of the same suit.

In a single deck, there are four mini-royals for each suit. With mini-royals included, the ranking and frequency of pair plus hands are as follows:

  1. Mini-royal – 4 number of hands
  2. Straight flush – 44 number of hands
  3. Three of a kind – 52 number of hands
  4. Straight – 720 number of hands
  5. Flush – 1,096 number of hands
  6. Pair – 3,744 number of hands
  7. No pair – 16,440 number of hands

Pair Plus Payouts

In pair plus, the stakes are high when you’re dealt with three cards that make up a straight flush or 3 of a kind.

If casinos allow it, mini-royals would have the highest reward. These may vary depending on where you play, but all bets start with a 1-1 payout on a pair.

A straight flush pays 40-1. This means if you bet $5 dollars, you win $200 dollars and you get to keep your playing bet.

Whether in live or in online casinos games, below are the most common payouts for pair plus hands:

  1. Straight flush: 40-1
  2. Three of a kind: 30-1
  3. Straight: 6-1
  4. Flush: 3-1
  5. Pair: 1-1

In online casino games, you’ll find some tables that pay 5-1 on straights and 4-1 on flushes.

If your three-card poker hand isn’t favorable, your option is to fold. Otherwise, you can risk raising foa big payout in return.

It’s important to remember that only 25.6% of poker hands are a winning combination or a pair. The risk of losing big against the house edge is high.

Your goal in pair plus shouldn’t be to beat the dealer’s hand. It’d be more profitable for you to choose tables that are favorable for you.

Ante Play Odds And Strategy

In Ante, your aim is to have the highest poker ranking hand against the dealer’s three-card hand.

When you make an ante bet, the dealer deals you a three card hand. If the dealer doesn’t qualify by having any Queen or higher, he folds. With this, you win even money and both ante and play bets.

If the dealer’s poker hand qualifies, you can compare his three card hand to yours. To win, your hand must have a higher poker rank than his.

The 3 card poker ranking remains the same, with mini-royal and straight flush as the highest.

If you have a no pair hand, your highest card ranking should be higher than the dealer to beat him.

If it’s a tie for your first cards, your second card against the dealer determines who wins. But if all cards are the same, the conclusion is a tie. Both you and the dealer keep your bets.

Ante Play Strategy

There’s only one strategic combination of cards to bet on during ante-play. This serves as your guide whether to fold or call.

When you’re dealt with a three card hand of Queen-6-4 or higher, you should call. So when should you fold in three card poker?

If you’re dealt with a poker hand that’s not as high as Q-6-4, fold everything. In ante-play, you bet on any pair or higher. If you’re betting in a pair plus table, you can make the bet in ante-play combo.

Let’s say your high card is a Jack. You should still fold regardless of what values your other cards are.

But your poker hand isn’t a pair or higher, you can make the play bet if your high card is an Ace or a King.

Ante Bonus And House Edge

Some online casino poker games offer ante bonus payouts. In three-card poker, every time you have a straight, three of a kind, or straight flush, you’re paid an ante bonus.

Like pair plus bets, you don’t have to make an extra wager. Strong poker hands allow you to win ante bonuses.

If you’re dealt with a good hand, you’re rewarded with bonuses on top of your ante bet. This is without taking your play bet into account.

Compared to the dealer, even if your hand isn’t better, you still win an ante bonus. There are different payouts, depending on which poker play table you choose.

Here is the most common ante bonus payoff in 3 card poker:

  1. Straight Flush – 5 to 1 (or 3 to 1 or 4 to 1)
  2. Three of a kind – 4 to 1 (or 2 to 1 or 3 to 1)
  3. Straight – 1 to 1

In a 5-4-1 scheme, the poker house edge as the percentage of ante is at 3.37%. This sets the starting point for average losses.

It’s important to note that the house edge as the percentage of the total ante bet is a different concept. In the same payoff table, this brings the poker house edge to 2.01%.

Because of this, the three-card ante play combination is one of the better poker bets to make.

This is the percentage of ante bet total the house expects to keep. Among other payoff tables, it’s better to bet in 5-4-1 payoffs.

When Should You Fold In 3 Card Poker?

We’ve mentioned how the best strategy is to bet on a three-card poker hand that’s Q-6-4, and fold anything lesser.

There is an exemption to the rule which helps you decide when to fold or not. If you have a high-card Queen with no pair or higher, your second highest card determines whether to fold or bet.

Below is a guide for when you should fold or call, given that you have no pair and your high card is a queen:

  • If you have a Queen-high and your second highest is 7 or higher, bet.
  • If you have a Queen-high your second highest is 6, bet if the 3rd card is a 4 or 5.
  • If you have a Queen-high and your second highest is 6, fold if the 3rd card is a 2 or 3.
  • If you have a Queen-high and your second highest is 5 or lower, fold.

Final Note

I hope you’re now more confident and eager to play 3 card poker and win! It’s one of the easiest casino games you can play that’s profitable for you too.

Even for professional 3 card poker players, it takes time and practice to achieve big wins. 

For beginners who are looking to win serious money, it’d be best to do research and to master the house rules first.

Remember not to focus all your energy on beating the dealer. This is a huge mistake made by 3 card poker players who disregard the strategy.

It pays to know the odds when betting. Also, make sure to choose a pay-off table that suits the amount you’re comfortable risking.

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