Three Card Poker is often known for its slow pace of play and it’s low variance nature, meaning that you could spend hours at a table without putting your whole bankroll in too much danger. But, don’t let that fool you as there are chances which you can take to win some serious money from Three Card Poker. The game may not be as popular as it once was, but you will still often find it within land based casinos and online.
How to play 3 Card Poker
The objective of the game is to make sure that the three cards you are dealt beats the dealers three cards. The hand ranking will follow that of normal hand rankings, but obviously with three cards instead of 5 cards.
Step 1 – Check table rules
Before you sit, make sure that you check the table rules and apply them to your game.
For example, it’s pretty standard for a casino to class Queen high as the minimum starting hand for the dealer, but there may be times where they increase to King or even Ace high, which devalues hands.
Also, make a note of the pay tables for the Pair Plus bet as well, of which we will describe more in the coming steps.
Step 2 – Place your bets
The next step is start placing your bets. To get things rolling you will need to place an Ante bet. This bet signifies to the dealer that you are ready to play the hand and you want to be dealt cards.
At this point you will also be able to place a Pair Plus bet as well. This is an optional bet on the hand and it will pay out if you get a pair or better from your hand. The odds for the payouts on this hand will increase as your hand ranking increases.
This bet is seen as the way in which you can win a lot money very quickly within Three Card Poker, although it does come with a high degree of variance and increases the house edge somewhat.
Step 3 – Check your cards
We then get to look at the three cards that have been dealt and from there decide if you are going to bet or not.
If you decide to bet then you bet on the ‘Play’, which needs to be the same amount as that of the Ante.
Alternatively, if you decide that your hand is not strong enough to play then you can fold your hand, which means your hand gets mucked and you lose your ante bet as well as your Pair Plus bet.
Step 4 – Dealer plays
After you placed your bets, the dealer then turns over their cards. At this point the dealer will need to have Queen high or better to have a qualifying hand.
If they fail to have Queen high or better then the Play bet is always going to be a ‘push’ (tie) and your stake will be returned. The Ante bet that you placed in this scenario would pay out even money.
If the dealer does have Queen high or better then their hand is considered live and will go up against your three cards. If they beat you hand then you lose your Place bet and your Ante.
If you qualify for the Pair Plus bet then this will pay out regardless of whether or not you beat the dealer’s hand.
Hints and tips
Q/6/4 or Better
Whilst basic strategy in Three Card Poker varies with each player, a good rule of thumb, rather than having to remember a ton of different hand scenarios, is to only play Q/6/4 or above. So, if you get dealt something like J/5/2 then you should fold, but if you get K/4/3 then you should play.
Well, the reasoning behind this is that Q/6/4 is the cut off point to now make your hand +ev. By this we mean that the expected loss is the first hand that drops under 1.00, making it a positive for the player. A hand like Q/6/3 – weaker than Q/6/4 – will have an expected loss of 1.002.
Like all casino games it’s important to take house edge into consideration. The house edge on three Card Poker is middle of the road to be honest, but it does fluctuate on the amount that you bet and fold. For example, if you were to simply bet every hand that you play blind then you increase the house edge of the game to 7.65%. But, if you played with a fairly solid strategy or one that even mimicked the dealer, you would reduce this edge to just 3.45%.