Three Card Poker

Date IconLast Updated: 2022 Dec 7

A hidden gem in a small number of land casinos, and an under-appreciated mainstay of casinos online, three card poker is a great game for quick thinkers and those looking to win money in the world of poker online cash games.

Three Card Poker might not garner the same reputation the likes of Texas Hold'em Poker might get, but it certainly holds its weight in terms of a strong following of players and prevalence within casino offerings.

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The Basic Rules of Three Card Poker

Three card poker is a simple game to get the hang of. The game is played heads up between the player and dealer at a table not dissimilarly set up to the one you would find in a game of Blackjack. The game borrows elements from poker games like Texas Hold’em and Omaha and combines them with elements of other classic casino table games. Watch our full explanation of the mechanics of three card poker below.

WATCH: How to Play Three Card Poker

  1. Player places an ante bet if they want to be included in the hand. Player can also place a traditional pair+ bet which pays out 1-to-1 if the player gets a pair (or better)
  2. Three cards are dealt to both the player and dealer. If a player gets a pair the pair+ bet is paid out.
  3. Player decides whether the match their ante bet with a “play” bet
  4. Dealer allowed to play if they have Queen-high or better
  5. If dealer does not have Queen-high or better the ante bet is paid 1-to-1 and play wagers refunded
  6. If dealer does have Queen-high or better then both the player and dealer’s cards are flipped to determine the winner

Common Three Card Poker Gameplay Broken Down

3 Card Poker Explained

Placing Bets in Three Card Poker

Players joining a game must place an ante bet before their cards are dealt, and once the cards are seen, a player usually has two options: fold or play. To fold means the player gives up, and forfeits the ante. To play means a player places a second bet, exactly equal to the ante, in the 'Play' diamond.

Whether you can sit out rounds at an online three card poker table depends on whether the table is heads up or one at which there are multiple players. This differs depending on the casino you’re playing at. If you’re playing against the house without other players you won’t be able to sit out a round, unless it’s a VIP live dealer casino table.

Hand Rankings

Normally the hands in three card poker come from a single, standard 52-card deck. Here are the winning hands and the probability of getting each.

#HandDescriptionProbability %
6High CardHighest card in your hand wins74.39%
5PairTwo of the same card16.94%
4FlushThree cards of the same suit4.96%
3StraightThree cards in a sequence3.26%
2Three of a Kind (Trips)Three of the same card0.24%
1Straight FlushThree cards of the same suit in a sequence0.22%

If you’re a Texas Hold’em player you’ll recognise the hands above and you’ll be better placed to formulate a three card poker playing strategy. One thing to note is that a Royal Flush does not exist in three card poker. Q-K-A suited is considered a straight flush.

Dealer’s Cards

The dealer in Three Card poker does not qualify for the round if they don’t achieve a hand of Queen-high or better. If this happens the player wins and their bet pays 1-to-1. If the dealer and player have two hands of the same rank, then the initial ante bet will be refunded, but if the player has also made a Pair+ bet it will have been settled once the cards come out. If a player decides to fold after their initial ante bet the dealer is not at liberty to disclose their cards.

Pair Plus

The most common side bet that’s found in online three card poker games is called “Pair Plus”, mostly stylized as “Pair+”. This is a bet that in the 3 cards you receive you will get a pair, or better (hence the “+”). The Pair+ bet is settled immediately once the cards have been dealt. Pair+ pays, generally, at 1-to-1 for a pair and goes as high as 200/1 for a straight flush. If the player wants to, they can opt for just a Pair+ bet instead of an ante bet. This is a faster way of playing three card poker, albeit with a lower hit rate.

6 Card Bonus

The 6 Card Bonus bet is, like Pair+, an optional side bet, in which the objective is to make a high ranking hand by combining the player’s cards and dealer’s cards. 6 Card Bonus normally only pays from trips upwards, with the highest win on offer at 1,000 to 1 for a straight flush. Unlike the Pair+ wager, the 6 Card Bonus bet must be placed concurrently with an ante wager, as potential payouts are determined after the hands are dealt.

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