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Three Cards Poker Rules and Strategies

how to play three cards poker

Three Cards Poker Rules and Strategies for Beginners

Three cards poker is one of the most played variations of the cards game that has been around for over a century. It is novice-friendly and quick, which makes it very popular among new players. On this page, you will find everything you need to know about 3 cards poker.

What is 3 Card Poker?

Three Card Poker is a type of poker, which modern version was created in 1994 specifically for casinos. It is a simplified version of the traditional game with significantly faster rounds. It quickly became popular thanks to large payouts and simple rules that make it similar to a table game. Nearly every casino offers it nowadays, both offline and online. Even though the modern rules are rather young, the predecessor of online three card poker has appeared over one hundred years ago.

Different variations of poker have been around since the thirteenth century. The game kept changing over the years, and there were dozens of popular versions by the 1800s. Stud Poker was one of the most played of them. It combined rules of the traditional poker with an English card game called brag. In this version, each player received three cards. As you might have guessed, three-card poker owes its appearance to Stud Poker.

During the nineteenth century, poker has been changing rapidly. Many versions of the game appeared every year, such as Five Card Stud or Dr Pepper (which was named after a popular soft drink). All of them shared similar features, but they always had a specific trait that made every variation unique. Some of the terms used in the oldest poker version still exist by now, such as wild cards or the pot.

By the start of the 20th century, there were so many types of poker that a committee was set up to classify regulations and rules for the most popular games. Eventually, three-card poker appeared among many late variations such as Omaha poker or Rush poker. In general, it is a form of Stud Poker that combines the rules of several less popular variations. Its distinctive feature is the number of cards: only three cards are given to every player and the croupier at the start of the game.

How to Play Three Card Poker?

The game is played between the dealer and the players. Both online three card poker and the live version of the game use only one deck of cards that has to be shuffled for every hand. In land-based gambling establishments, shuffling is performed with a shuffling machine most of the time. Usually, standard tables for seven people are used in offline casinos.

You are not playing against other players in contrast to traditional poker. Instead, your only goal is to beat the croupier. There are three different betting spots for each player called “Ante”, “Play”, and “Pair Plus”. As you have probably guessed, you can choose one of the three actions every round. Here is how the game is played usually:

  • Each player makes a bet according to the minimum wager and places it in the “Ante” section in order to play.
  • Every player receives three cards, as well as the croupier.
  • If you do not like your hand, feel free to fold it. You will use your Ante bet in this case.
  • If you like your hand, you can make a new bet and place it in the “Play” section of the table.
  • As soon as every person behind the table has made their wagers, the croupier exposes their hand. It must a Queen high or better in order to play. If the croupier’s hand is too bad and they cannot play, every player will get back their both Ante bets and Play bets one to one.
  • If the croupier does play, their hand will be compared to the hands of the other players. If the player wins, they will get money on both of their bets 1 to 1. If the player loses, they lose both Ante and Play bets. In the case of a draw, the player wins.

That is how the game is played most of the time — it is very simple! Additionally, you can place an extra bet in the “Pair Plus” section of the table. This wager will be played separately from the main game. If you get a pair or better, you will win it regardless of the dealer’s hand.


Pair plus payouts:

At the start of the game, you can make a Pair Plus wager to bet that you will have a pair or better. Here are the payouts:

  • Pair — 1 to 1;
  • Flush — 3 to 1;
  • Straight — 6 to 1;
  • Three of a Kind — 30 to 1;
  • Straight Flush — 40 to 1.

Remember that the probability of Pair or better is less than 17%, which makes it a rather risky bet.

Ante bonus payouts:

In contrast to other variations of poker, every hand in this game has an extra payout associated with it. The player who has one of the three possible highest hands gets a bonus regardless of the dealer’s hand. Usually, the payouts are the following:

  • Straight — 1 to 1;
  • Three of a Kind — 4 to 1;
  • Straight Flush — 5 to 1.

Do note that some casinos offer live 3 card poker online with other payouts or do not offer an Ante Bonus at all.

Hand ranks

As we have already mentioned above, Three Card poker is very similar to stud poker, but the hand rankings are slightly different. In this variation, straights are rarer than flushes, so they have a higher rank. Here is the complete list of possible hands from higher to lower:

  • Straight flush;
  • Three of a kind;
  • Straight;
  • Flush;
  • Pair;
  • High card.

Since there are only three cards, some of the combinations are absent in this version.

Three Card Poker Winning Strategy

The game is fairly simple so you can easily master it by following these basic recommendations that will help you win more.

Never place a Pair Plus wager

Despite the high payouts, you should never make this bet. This wager increases the house advantage by more than 2%, so odds are against you. It seems like a small addition, but you will simply lose more money making a Pair Plus bet even if you win a big sum once.

Fold anything lower than a Queen, 6, and 4

The winning strategy for three card poker is extremely simple just like the game itself. All you need to do in order to maximize your winnings is to call with a Queen, 6, and 4 or higher hand and fold any other combination. That is it! Everything else depends on your luck only. This makes the game perfect for beginners who are afraid to make mistakes.

Tips for 3 card poker players

There are not really any more tips since the game is really that easy. You can start playing 3 card poker online for money right now even if you have never played it before. Just follow the recommendations listed above and you should win consistently.

Play With Us

As you can see, the game is extremely simple and you can actually make money playing it if you get lucky enough. It is fun, quick, and easy to learn — what else do you need? You should try it and test your luck! There are many online casinos where you can play free three card poker without any restrictions. Those who prefer to play on mobile can use the 888poker app, which offers an intuitive interface and generous bonuses. Get it right now and start winning money online!