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How to Play 3-Card Poker - Rules & Strategy

How to Play 3-Card Poker - Rules & Strategy

A game of three-card poker is the kind of poker variant you can pick up the easiest, and today's blog will show how to play three-card poker.

It's a fun game that's easy to learn, and it's one of the reasons why it enjoys such popularity.

Even though the game is relatively easy to play, learning the basics is necessary. In today's blog, we go into further detail and explain some three-card basic poker rules, along with three-card poker odds, bets and strategies.

What Is 3-Card Poker?

What sets three-card poker apart from other poker variants is gameplay. You will only have three cards at all times, and you will be betting against the dealer. No other players are involved; your main objective is to beat the dealer's hand.

Unlike in Blackjack, you cannot exchange or draw more cards. It's all about the three cards you have been dealt. Our blog on different types of poker discusses more variations.

In three-card poker, the house edge doesn't come from a share of the pot, as it is already built into the game's odds. Other poker games like Caribbean Stud Poker share similarities that you may already be familiar with.

Three-card poker comes in two forms in online casinos, allowing you to play live three-card poker, depending on the casino.

The game is not too complicated, and if you can create the right hand at the right time, three-card poker can be valuable to you.

How to Play 3-Card Poker?

The object of three-card poker is to create the best poker hand you can with three cards. According to the rules, you start by making an ante bet and/or a pair plus wager. In other words, you are betting you have a hand with at least a better pair.

The game will then continue as follows:

  • You will be dealt three cards face down, and the dealer will be dealt three cards, too
  • You can check your cards to decide your play wager (equal to your ante wager). We will speak more about strategy later, but it is best to play all hands greater than a Queen, Six and Four and fold any worse hands.
  • You can fold, and if you do, the game ends, and the dealer wins the ante wager and the pair plus wager
  • If you place a play wager, you will turn over your cards to see if your hand beats the dealer's
  • The play wager will be returned to you if the dealer's hand is Jack-high or worse
  • The play wager and ante bet will be paid out at a ratio of 1:10 if you have a better hand than the dealer.

Payouts differ from one casino to another. Some casinos have an Ante Bonus payout if you have one of the strongest hands. No additional wagering is required, and the payouts on straights or better are part of the ante-play portion.

3-Card Poker Bets

Now that we have discussed the types of bets, let's have a look at them in a bit more detail:

  • Ante Wager - Before the game starts, you must make an ante-wager; you are betting against the dealer, and to win this wager, your hand must beat the dealer's.
  • Pair Plus Wager - This bet is based on the three cards you are dealt, and it is essentially a bonus wager. To win it, your main objective is to get a pair or better. If you are dealt at least a pair, you will receive the payout; however, any hand less than a pair means you lose the wager. With this bet, you are not going against the dealer.

If you'd like to learn more about poker terms, check out our earlier blog for a more in-depth look.

3-Card Poker Hand Ranking

When you play three-card poker, you want to create the best poker hand possible according to the paytable, and the great news is that three-card poker odds and hands are easy to grasp.

Remember, three-card poker is not a card-drawing game. Three-card poker's outcome depends entirely on the three cards that you have been dealt, so let's take a look at the hands you can create, ranked from highest to lowest:

  • Straight Flush - Three cards in sequential order of the same suit. You can class an Ace as high or low ( A-K-Q or 3-2-A). An example of a Straight Flush would be King, Queen, and Jack of Hearts. Ties are broken by the highest ranking card in hand, except 3 is used for a 3-2-A Straight Flush
  • Three of a Kind - This is a straightforward but tricky hand to collect, comprising three cards of the same rank
  • Straight - Three cards in sequential order of non-matching suits
  • Flush - Any three cards of the same suit, for example, 4-7-9 of Hearts
  • Pair - Two cards of the same rank (e.g. two Jacks) and the third card of a different rank
  • High Card - Cards that are not paired or do not have a consecutive order or matching suits

Essentially, having any other card combination means you don't have a (winning) poker hand.

You should also know that these hands are slightly different from those you would find in a regular poker game because straights outrank flushes. In your average five-card poker hand, flushes rank higher than straight.

3-Card Poker Strategy

Like with many poker games, a certain degree of strategy is required, depending on your experience.

The optimal strategy suggests:

  • Playing hands valued at Q-6-4 or better, including Pairs
  • Folding anything else

Making a Play Wager also includes any time you have a high Ace or King, regardless of how high your other two cards are and if your cards are Q-7 or better, regardless of your third card value.

If your hand is not at least this high, the optimal strategy says you should fold, including if you have a Jack or lower. In this situation, it is better to Fold, regardless of your other two cards' value.

If you have the advantage of seeing one of the dealer's cards, you can change your strategy accordingly.

When it comes to the house edge, the ante-bet game will always give the house an edge of around 2% of your total ante and play bets in the long run. However, since you won't make the play bet on every deal, you could also look at the house edge as 3.4% of the ante.

Of course, these percentages will vary with payouts on the ante bonus, and unfortunately, there are not many opportunities to swing the mathematical edge in your favour.

3-Card Poker In a Nutshell

Three-card poker is undoubtedly a popular game, and from the strategy point of view, it isn't too challenging, which is why so many players enjoy it. It's far more laid-back than other poker variants.

If you'd like to learn more about poker, check out our blog how to play poker where we lay out the ins and outs of the game.

One thing you should always consider, as with any casino game, is your bankroll management. Set yourself a budget before you start playing, and stick to it. If you lose your bankroll, don't go chasing your losses.

Three-card poker can be an enjoyable game, but the fun evaporates if you're chasing losses, and when the fun stops, it's time to step away from the table.

You can rely on this blog to grasp the type of poker hands you want to create to earn maximum profit, and the more practice you put in, the better!

Good luck!

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