3 Card Poker

Invented by Derek Webb in 1994, 3 Card Poker is the perfect game for those that love poker action, but also prefer fast-paced gaming sessions. It is believed that Webb wanted to offer an option to players that enjoy the rules and payouts of poker, which wouldn’t take as much time per dealing as other variants take.

The game started its pursuit of winning a place among the top poker variations in land based casinos and nowadays it can be played at online gambling destinations as well. New players can understand its basics in no time, especially if they are familiar with the standard poker rules and strategies.

It’s interesting to point out that 3 Card Poker offers two modes of play; thus, in a single session players can score more than one win. The payouts on the game are quite attractive too and therefore it was really just a matter of time when poker fans would accept it as a top pick.

So, in this thorough text dedicated to 3 Card Poker we will introduce the game to our readers. Plus, we will provide information regarding the game rules, payouts and strategies. Additionally, we will mention a thing or two regarding the house edge of the game as well as offer some helpful playing tips.

Understanding 3 Card Poker

In order to successfully play 3 Card Poker, a player first must understand the game and, more importantly, its objective. Naturally, winning is always the reason why anyone would join a poker table. However, in order to earn a prize while playing 3 Card Poker at an online casino a player first needs to know what’s happening on that table.

Usually, 3 Card Poker is played with a single deck of 52 cards i.e. with one standard deck of cards. Players will notice that unlike regular poker games and just like the name of this poker variant suggests, the dealer and the player receive three cards each instead of five. The cards you get pretty much decide your destiny.

However, depending on which mode you decide to pursue (Ante or Play), you may win or lose even if the situation on the table is identical. These two modes, furthermore, can be played both together and separately. Some casinos, additionally, let players place another bet called Pair Plus, which can earn them even higher prizes.

Ante and Play Wagers Explained

The two modes of play on 3 Card Poker are actually two kinds of wagers that players can place. Depending on the casino’s policy, they may be given the option to either place one or two of the wagers or the Ante bet may be mandatory.
The Ante and the Play wagers are always equal; however, the second one is not always played. In order for the Play wager to be played the dealer’s hand must be Queen high or better. If this is not the case, then the dealer shall not play and thus there will be no action on the Play wagers, if there are any.

How 3 Card Poker is Played

Well, now that you know the objective of the game, it’s time to learn how to play. A 3 Card Poker session begins by dealing cards; both the dealer and the player are given three face-down cards. Depending on the hand they receive, the player is given the chance to continue playing or fold.

Also, this is the time for the player to place the Ante wager against the dealer. Afterwards, a Play bet equal to the Ante bet is placed as well. Once all of this is done, the game can continue with its next phase i.e. playing out or ending.

This depends solely on the dealer’s hand. As it was mentioned before, in case the dealer has Queen high, then the cards are open and the winner is the one that holds the better hand. Under this scenario, the player can either win both the wagers or lose everything.

The second scenario is for the dealer not to hold Queen high. In this case, the Play wager is considered drawn, while the Ante bet is paid to the player.

If the player and the dealer tie, both bets will push resulting in no winners.


3 Card Poker is an interesting game that attracts lots of players. Even though the fast-paced gaming sessions are partially responsible for that, a big role is played by the mouth-watering payouts too. Below you can find the payouts for the Ante bet and the Pair Plus bet.

Additionally, we would like to point out that unlike the traditional poker ladder where Flush beats Straight, the 3 Card Poker ladder recognises Straight to be a better hand than Flush.

Payouts for Ante:

  • Straight Flush – 5:1
  • 3 of a Kind – 4:1
  • Straight – 1:1

Payouts for Pair Plus:

  • Straight Flush – 40:1
  • 3 of a Kind – 30:1
  • Straight – 6:1
  • Flush – 4:1
  • Pair – 1:1

Optimal Playing Strategy

Just like there is an optimal playing strategy for the majority of the casino games, there is one for 3 Card Poker as well. However, unlike other games that involve more cards and options, 3 Card Poker is a relatively simple game and therefore there aren’t too many guiding points.

It is widely known that players should raise if they receive a combination of cards made of Queen, 6 and 4 or greater. This strategy may seem unusual, but experts have made the calculations and claim that this is the optimal way to play this poker variant.

Additionally, some players tend to raise on any queen or better; this behaviour is actually mimicking the dealer and usually its results are worse than the ones mentioned before. A simple glance at the house edge reveals that when players raise or play without a strategy they play with house edge of 7.65%; in contrast, using the optimal strategy lowers the house edge to 3.45%.

3 Card Poker House Edge

As many of you know, the house edge is the favourability a game has towards the house. As we have already mentioned in the previous paragraph, certain strategies may lower the house edge, but on most games it cannot be completely neutralised.

When it comes to 3 Card Poker, the house edge depends on the wager. Therefore, players that will place only the Ante and the Play bet can expect house edge of 3.37%. The high-paying Pairs Plus bet has, naturally, much higher house edge of 7.27%.


In the end, we would like to point out that there are some variations of 3 Card Poker. However, whether a player is able to play them or not depends on their casino operator.

One variant is Prime 3 Card Poker, a game usually offered in UK casinos. The Prime bet can be placed prior the dealing and pays only if the colour of the player or the colour of the player and the dealer cards is matching.

Another variant is Six Card Bonus, in which players receive prizes for getting certain five-card poker hands combining theirs and the dealer’s cards. The payouts vary from 5:1 to 1000:1, depending on the combination.

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