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3 Card Poker

3 Card Poker is a poker variant commonly played as a casino game. It takes the three main components in any poker game – luck, wagering and decision-making – and makes it easy enough for even a total beginner to learn and play right away.

3 Card Poker Rules

The primary difference between 3 Card Poker and other types of poker is the number of cards each player is dealt.

Unlike some poker games in which players up to seven cards, 3 Card Poker players get only three cards.

The other major difference is that, unlike in traditional poker games, you don’t play against the other players at the table.

Instead, you play against the dealer, also known as 'the house'.

These changes have a major impact on the way that the game is played. It also has a large influence on what you – as the player – should be doing during your turn. Before we going covering any strategy, however, let’s go over the rules.

3 Card Poker Rules

Every type of poker game has its own rules and 3 Card Poker is no different. Here’s how the hands are played:

1. Each player interested in playing a hand makes a forced Ante Bet. This bet is made before the player receives any cards. Once it is made, it must remain and it cannot be raised or lowered. The amount you must bet depends on where you’re playing. Each table is likely to have its own minimum and maximum bet sizes.

2. The dealer deals three cards to each of the players and three to himself as well. All cards are dealt facedown. Each player may then look at his or her hand.

3. Now it’s time to make a decision! Will you fold or continue you to play? After examining your hand, you must choose whether to fold or make a 'Play Bet.' If you fold, you sacrifice your ante and can’t win any money – but you can’t lose any more, either. If you want to continue, you must make the Play Bet. This bet is equal to the size of your Ante Bet and it cannot be raised or lowered.

4. After all the players have decided to fold or play, the dealer turns his hand face-up. The dealer only qualifies to continue if his poker hand is at least as strong as Queen High. If he doesn’t qualify, all players who did not fold receive a 1:1 payout on their Ante Bet. They do not win anything on their Play Bet, but they do get it back.

5. If the dealer does qualify, then there is a showdown between the dealer and each of the players, individually. If your hand is stronger than the dealer’s, you get a 1:1 payout on your Ante Bet. You also get a 1:1 payout on your Play Bet. If your hand is weaker than the dealer’s, you lose both bets. If your hand ties the dealer hand, you 'push' and receive your bets back.

6. But, wait?! Do you have a bonus? If your hand is at least as strong as a Straight, you’re entitled to a bonus payout. In fact, you receive your bonus payout even if your hand loses to the dealer’s hand.

7. After the dealer collects all the losing bets and pays out on all the winning bets, the hand is over. If you want to play again, you’re going to have to make a new Ante Bet so you can get in the next hand.

3 Card Poker Video Tutorial

Many times, while playing 3 Card Poker, you’ll see another available bet. There are many types, but you are never obligated to play them. They are called “side bets” and are just an extra option for the player who wants to make more bets or feels lucky.

The most common side bet is called Pair Plus. You’re betting that your 3-card hand will have at least a pair in it. If you’re right, you’ll win bonus money!

Other Rules

Because you are only dealt three cards, 3 Card Poker is a very interesting game. After all, you can’t even make all of the standard poker hands! These are the rankings of hands in 3 Card Poker. You’ll notice that some of the hands are removed, and some of the other hands are at different places on the list than they would be if you were playing a five-card poker game.

  • Straight Flush -   9♣ T♣ J♣
  • Three of a Kind -   2♥ 2♠ 2♦
  • Straight -   5♣ 6♥ 7♥
  • Flush -   K♠ Q♠ 8♠
  • Pair -   3♦ 3♠ 4♠
  • High Card -  A♣ 6♠ 5♥

See the differences?

Four of a Kinds and Full Houses are gone completely, and other five card hands (such as Flushes and Straights) have been reduced to just three cards. Three of a Kind, which is usually a so-so hand in a five card poker game, has suddenly become a powerhouse and is only beaten by a Straight Flush. The last change is that a Flush no longer beats a Straight.

If you’re wondering why there are so many changes, the modifications aren’t arbitrary. They’re all affected by the odds. The rarer a hand is, the stronger it is

3 Card Poker Odds

Even if you won’t remember them all, it’s a good idea to take a look at the odds of any game you’re playing. 3 Card Poker is no different. Here are the odds of being dealt each of the different hands when you sit down at a 3 Card Poker table.

Hand Likelihood of being dealt

Three of a Kind


Straight Flush








High Card


As you can see, a vast majority of the time you’ll be left with just a high card as your hand. That’s one of the problems of being dealt only three cards: you don’t get as many exciting hands. The good news? The dealer, your only opponent, won’t get many exciting hands either!

3 Card Poker Strategy

There are only a few decisions you’ll have to make during a hand of 3 Card Poker, so there are only a few places where you can optimize your strategy. The first is betting.

While it’s exciting to wager and win larger bets than smaller bets, it takes far fewer losses to go broke when you’re making big bets. If you want to make sure that you’re having a good time, adjust your bet size so that you can play for a while, even if you’re losing. A good rule of thumb is to ante no more than 5% of all the money you’re willing to lose in a session. Ante even less if you’re playing side bets.

Another area to improve is in deciding when to fold and when to play. How do you know when to fold? Luckily, there is a clear mathematical answer to this question. When you take into account the dealer’s need to qualify and the different ways you can make money, it becomes evident that you should play every hand that is at least as strong as Q♦ 6♣ 4♠. One thing you should not do is play every hand. That yields a house edge of 7.65% for the casino. That’s almost 8% of every bet you make!

 Play 3 Card Poker at PartyCasino.

3 Card Poker Tips

  • Want to play even more hands? If you’re dead set on playing hands weaker than the Q64, make sure that they are of three different suits. That makes it harder for the dealer to have a flush and increases the chances that he’ll disqualify.
  • Stay away from the side bets unless you’re trying to win big or lose big. They all have big house edges and are likely to bleed you dry.
  • Don’t let other players dissuade you from your strategy. One of the good things about 3 Card Poker is that – because you’re not trying to take the other players’ money – things can be very social. Players may sometimes try to 'help' you by giving advice. Stick to your guns. You know what’s best for you.