How to Play 3 Card Poker and Win – Can You Beat Three Card Poker?

There are plenty of different variations of poker, so players have the opportunity to choose which ones play to their strengths. One of the more recent adaptations of the game is three card poker.

The game is played more quickly than traditional poker, the rules are simple and the payouts are potentially pretty big. If that doesn’t sell the game, I don’t know what will.

Although it goes by a similar name, three card poker differs from its namesake in many ways. In fact, one of the few things that remains the same is the ranking of hands — although even this is slightly difference, because it’s based on a three-card hand.

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  1. Three card poker is essentially two games in one. Players are allowed to place an ante bet, but they also have the option for a PairPlus bet. The latter means that the player is betting on where or not he or she will be dealt a pair or better. In many casinos, the player is required to first make an ante bet before he can make the PairPlus bet.
  2. Once each player makes an ante or PairPlus wager or both, the dealer then deals a three-card hand to each player, including himself.
  3. After looking at his or her cards, each player must make the decision to either fold or continue. If the player decides to keep playing, they must make an additional bet that is exactly equal to their original ante.
  4. Once all additional wagers are made, the dealer will turn over his three cards to determine if his hand qualifies for the play. To qualify, the dealer must have at least a queen or higher.
  5. If the dealer’s hand does not qualify, the ante wager and play bets will be returned to the players. If the hand does qualify, it will be compared to the player’s hand. Obviously, if the dealer wins, your bets are lost. If the player wins, the bets are paid evenly. If the hands tie, the player wins the hand.

Ranking hands

The hands are similar to regular poker, but they’re modified to suit the three-card hand.

  • Straight Flush– Three cards of the same suit in sequence. Example 6-7-8 of spades.
  • Three of a Kind– Three cards of equal rank.
  • Straight– Three cards in sequence of mixed suits.
  • Flush– Three cards of the same suit.
  • Pair– Two cards of equal rank.
  • High Card– The highest card in your hand.


Wins typically earn you even pay, but there is an option for an ante bonus, which, fortunately, doesn’t require any additional bets. Because the straight flush and three of a kind are ranked as the two highest hands, they earn a bonus. Pay tables may vary among casinos, but usually they are as follows: 5 to 1 or 4 to 1 for a straight flush and 4 to 1 or 3 to 1 for three of a kind.


Most card players agree that the best strategy is to raise only if you’ve got a Queen, 4 and 6 or better. This has become the guideline hand because in poker, the ranking of hands is determined first by the highest card, which, in this case, is a queen. If that card is tied with the dealer’s hand, the next card will be used to break the tie, and so on. Because the 6 card is mid-level, you have a moderate chance of beating the dealer’s hand. On the off chance the second card still results in a tie, the third card is used. The 4 card is only slightly below the 6.

Other experts suggest going by dealer rules and raising on a queen or better. This isn’t a horrible strategy, but using the Q-4-6 strategy will increase your edge a little more. If you play by the dealer strategy, the house edge is about 3.45%. If you play blindly and raise on everything, the house edge more than doubles at 7.65%.

When betting on a PairPlus, keep in mind that you’ll be dealt at least a pair about 25% of the time. The house edge for a Pairplus is about 7.28%, which is not terrible. If you are willing to risk it (assuming you’re not exceeding your gambling budget by doing so), the payout for this wager can be pretty high. The pay table that is most commonly used in casinos now is as follows:

  • Straight Flush– 40 to 1
  • Three of a Kind– 30 to 1
  • Straight– 6 to 1
  • Flush– 3 to 1
  • Pair– 1 to 1

The rules and strategy for three card poker are simple enough, which is what makes the game so attractive. This, along with the reasonable house edge, has made it a very popular game at casinos all over. If you’re able to stick to a strategy that works for you (preferably Q-4-6 or dealer rules), you’ll significantly decrease the house edge.

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