How to Play 3 Card Poker

How to Play 3 Card Poker

how to play 3 card poker
how to play 3 card poker

A full guide on how to play 3 card poker:

Up to 7 players will be playing against the dealer.

First we have to make a bet. There are 3 different ways to bet:
or both bets.. :

The ante is the bet you make when you want to play against the dealer.  After looking at your cards, you can then fold if you choose to, or if you want to play, you double your bet by placing the same amount on the play.  In playing the ante/play bets, the best you can win is 1:1, however if you hit a good hand, you also get paid an ante bonus.

How to Play 3 Card Poker

Pair Plus

The pair plus bet is a separate bet that you can make which is betting that you will be dealt a good hand. See paytable. Most popular in my experience is that players bet both bets on both the ANTE + PAIR PLUS but you can play each separately if you want to. The two different bet types PAIR PLUS AND ANTE are totally independent of each other. They both apply to the the same hand but can be considered two different games, each with different odds. Often I’ve noticed the players like to stack a fair few chips on the pair plus compared to their ante because after all if it comes in, they win more.

In maximizing your return when playing for longer periods it’s not advised to do that!.. but you would win more if you hit it. 🙂

Pair Plus Paytable

Ante Bonus

When all players have placed their ANTE and PAIR PLUS bets the dealer will deal the cards. 3 for you(and every other player), 3 for the Dealer

At this point all players will know the result of their PAIR PLUS bet, they will either have a hand or not. However they do not know what the dealer has so they will not know if they have beaten the dealer for their ANTE.

To continue the hand, the player must now judge for themselves if they have beaten the dealer.

FOLD if you want, losing only the stakes you put down so far.

OR bet on the PLAY. The PLAY bet can only be the exact same matched bet that the ANTE was when you placed it.

Having now looked at your cards you have the option to either fold or double your bet.
If you want to bet that you beat the dealer, you must now match your ANTE bet on the PLAY bet square.

When all players have either folded or bet the PLAY it is now time to reveal the dealers hand. In seeing the dealers hand, all players now know the full outcome their bets and all players are settled one by one starting from the right hand side of the table from the dealer.

If the player beat the dealers hand he/she is paid 1:1 for the ante and 1:1 for their play. They would get paid ante bonus too if they had straight, trips or straight flush.

The pair plus bet is paid (see paytable) or taken accordingly regardless of the dealers hand.

Dealer doesn’t qualify

The dealer must have a hand that is Q high or better. If not, the play bet is paid to all players (who didn’t fold) and the ante bet is returned to all players. If you had already folded, this is the time to sigh and think “I wish I didn’t” because you could have won/got your money back. You can liken this to the dealer going bust in blackjack where all remaining players get paid


3 card poker is a simple and straightforward game. When you actually break it down and look at how the game works and the house edges however, it’s a bit more complicated for such a seemingly simple game as I’m about to attempt to explain.

If you deal 1, 3 or a million cards to both a player and dealer/opponent, the odds of who wins would always be 50:50 like a coin flip.

The overall odds for ante/play bets is not 50:50 though, the house edge exists through the fact that the dealer has to qualify with Q high else payout is halved.

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If the dealer has a bad hand (doesn’t qualify) the payout is 1:2, bet #10 pays #5 (ante paid, play stands) and so in many hands the players possible win is reduced.

Also players will fold hands before the dealers hand is even shown in which case the the showdown never happens.

When dealer doesn’t qualify players with good hands would be annoyed that they didn’t get their maximum payout but players with medium to bad hands can/will get their risk rewarded. The house pays out to all valid hands (hands that weren’t folded). While the house has an advantage in chips taken from the hands folded before the showdown, all players are getting paid whether they beat the dealer or not – when dealer has not qualified.

In this way the overall payout from the house is balanced back a bit. The ante bonus payouts also gives back any advantage gained through the dealer must qualify rule. The dealer must qualify rule and the payout of ante bonus’s balance to give the house an overall an edge of around 3%.

Strategy and Odds

The strategy considered best for 3 card poker is to play when you have a hand of Q 6 4 or better. This gives you best probability of return over both games with house edge being about 3%.

How to Play 3 Card Poker

Calculating the odds of getting a pair..

52 cards, 4 of each denomination..

You will always get some random card first – so assume the first card dealt to the player is a 5..

To match the 5 to make a pair there are 3 of them left in the deck to hit out of the 51 cards left, there are the 3 possible outcomes:

1) The second card is a 5, third card is not a 5:
p1 = (3/51)(48/50) = 5.647%

2) The second card is not a 5, third card is a 5:
p2 = (48/51)(3/50) = 5.647%

3) second and third card are not 5′s but are same rank as each other:
p3 = (48/51)(3/50) = 5.647%

p1 + p2 + p3 = 16.94%

The other ones are bit harder to work out but no need to, they are as follows:

How to Play 3 Card Poker

Odds of hitting a Pair Plus

If you add all these up together you get the overall percentage of hitting any kind of pair plus hand and this is 25.62%, roughly one in four.

If perhaps you’ve ever wondered how many hands statistically speaking should be played before a STRAIGHT FLUSH turns up?
Answer: 100/0.22 = 454.5
IF you bet #5 on the pair plus for 100 hands, statistically you would win:

pair 1:1 16.94 times, 16.94*5=#84.70
flush 4:1 4.96 times, 4.96*20=#99.2
straight 6:1 2.36 times, 3.26*30=#97.8
three of a kind 33:1 0.24 times, 0.24*165=#39.6
straight flush 35:1 0.22 times, 0.22*175=#38.5

add all these up together and you get the stastical overall return of

(84.70+99.2+97.8+39.6+38.5)= #359.8

Now we add on the stakes that we didn’t lose when we hit the hands – 25.62*#5=#128.1 – returned to us when we hit the hands.

add this on to the winnings..


house wins #12.10,

house edge 2.42%

I made this calculation myself, as far as I can tell its right. The booklet of the casino says “pair plus house edge 2.7%” but I think this very small difference could be from just slightly different payout rules lets just leave it at that i suppose..

What’s important is that by breaking it down in this way shows clearly enough that betting EQUALLY each time you bet provides the best statistical chance of maximum return when playing over long periods of time.
If you were to bet #100 on a lucky shot at a pair plus bet, you would only have a 1 in 4 chance of winning anything. The odds are in the casinos favor that you will lose. But spread the bet into 20 #5 bets and you stand much more chance of a good return.

The moral of the story is that you should ration your bankroll into smaller bets.

How to Play 3 Card Poker

Final Summary

The only control that you have as a 3 card poker player is:

(a) how much you wager on the play and pair plus bets

(b) Play the hand or fold it.

If you play Q 6 4 or better and bet equally on ante and pair plus – consistently, whatever your stakes, this strategy is considered to reduce the house edge down to the minimum.

Also check: How to play roulette
How to Play 3 Card Poker

What do you think?


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