How to Play Three Card Poker: Complete Guide | LeoVegas

How to Play Three Card Poker


Place Your Bets: Start by placing an ante bet to play against the dealer.

Receive Your Cards: After placing your bets, the dealer will deal three cards to each player, including themselves. You'll then look at your hand and decide whether to fold or place another bet.

Compare Hands: If you decide to continue, your hand is compared to the dealer's hand. If the dealer doesn't qualify with a queen high (in same cases a pair of fours) or better, your ante bets are paid 1 to 1, and your play bets are returned as a push.

Winning Hands: In Three Card Poker, the best hand is a straight flush, followed by three of a kind, straight, flush, pair, and high card.

Table of Content:

What is Three Card Poker?

The simplest way to think of Three Card Poker is to consider it the express version of regular poker. Where full poker versions like Texas Hold'em are well-known as slower, more thoughtful games of probability, Three Card Poker takes the fundamental aspects and then transforms them into a much faster game.

Overall, it seems 3 card poker is a much more recent addition to casinos, only becoming adopted worldwide in the early 2000s. There are different ideas on where and when this poker variation first came about, with similarities that can be found in the Italian and Spanish card game Pimero and, later, evolving into the British card game Braggs. However, Three Card Poker as we know it was launched in the mid-1990s by Derek Webb. It is now a staple of casinos around the world but is especially popular amongst players in the US and the UK.

Three Card Poker Rules

The rules of how to play Three Card Poker are relatively straightforward and easy to grasp, particularly if you are already familiar with regular poker rules. It is played as a straight game between the player and the dealer, rather than against other players. However, much like in Blackjack, multiple players can come together to compete against a single dealer on the same table. The overall aim of the game is to make the best poker hand possible using the three cards that are dealt to you.

To start the game, there is first a round of ante bets and, after that, three cards are dealt privately to both the player and the dealer. Instead of 'calling' or 'raising', the player simply decides whether or not to place a 'play' bet depending on how confident they are in the hand they have been dealt. Unlike the casino game of Blackjack, the three initially provided cards are the only ones in play and neither side will be dealt any more cards for the rest of the round.

If the player chooses to stay with their own hand first, both hands are then revealed. To start with, the dealer must have a hand that is at least Queen-high, meaning that if no other combinations are made, it must have a Queen, King or Ace in the three. Otherwise, all bets are paid out at 1:1 and the round ends.

If the dealer is in play, then the hands are directly compared to see the highest-value hand. As in other versions of poker, tied hands are resolved by high card rules. Some casinos and providers do include additional side bets, although exactly which ones used varies.

Three Card Poker Hands

Thanks to the reduced hand sizes, the number of hand types in Three Card Poker is lower than in other games, with only six distinct types possible. High card is the most common at 76% of all hands dealt, while the rarest makes up only 0.22%. Below are the six hands listed by rank in ascending order:

  • High card - A hand without any other combinations, ranked on the highest-value card.
  • Pair - Two cards of the same value from different suits.
  • Flush - Three cards from the same suit.
  • Straight - Three cards in a consecutive sequence, such as 2-3-4 or 7-8-9. Ace cards can be used as a 1 or 11 for this combination. This hand outranks flushes, unlike in regular five-card poker games.
  • Three-of-a-kind - Three of the same value card from different suits.
  • Straight flush - The rarest type of hand, although much less rare than the equivalent in Hold'em, this requires both a flush and a straight at the same time, such as a 5-6-7 of hearts.

As an additional note, while the nearest equivalent to the extremely rare royal flush hand would be Q-K-A in the same suit, there is no real distinction that is made when it comes to payouts.

Three Card Poker Odds and Payouts

If the player loses,nothing is returned to them. In contrast, if the player wins, then both the bet and the ante will be returned at 1:1. Unlike other single-player poker varieties such as Texas Hold'em, there are no other payout levels for better hands.

The overall average RTP of Three Card Poker is around 97%, putting it in line with other games like Roulette and Blackjack. With that said, other odds are hard to nail down, with only the hand chances below being possible to calculate for sure:

  • Straight Flush - 0.22%
  • Three-of-a-kind - 0.24%
  • Straight - 3.26%
  • Flush - 4.96%
  • Pair - 16.94%
  • High card - 74.39%

As a note, there are sometimes options for additional bets to be placed in this game, although these are not universally used. These additional bets can include things like an ante bonus, which pays extra for wins that are a straight hand or better, or a 'Pair Plus' bet which pays out only if the player gets a pair. This latter outcome is not impacted by the dealer's hand, and it is not a requirement for the player to beat the dealer.

Three Card Poker Tips and Strategies

As there are fewer cards in the hand and fewer betting chances in Three Card Poker compared to other versions of poker, it significantly cuts down on the number of variables to consider and, as a result, the amount of strategy needed when playing the game. The best approach to take to the game is learning the statistics of the different hands.

In general, the chance of the dealer having anything better than a high card hand is only around 25%. For that reason, a player hand with any kind of decent pair, higher than 6 or 7 in total, is usually worth playing, while a flush or better is always worth trying.

Three Card Poker FAQ

How do you play Three Card Poker for beginners?

As far as poker games go, Three Card Poker is probably the simplest form to play for new players as there are far fewer things to think about compared to many other probability-based popular card games. There are fewer options to bet on, fewer card combinations, and the whole game is finished relatively quickly, so it doesn't take too much time to gain adequate experience with this game.

How many cards are used in Three Card Poker?

As the name suggests, the actual game of Three Card Poker is played with three cards each for both the player and the dealer, as opposed to regular five-card poker games. The deck used in Three Card Poker is the same as a regular poker deck, which is a standard 52-card deck with the standard four suits.

How do you win in Three Card Poker?

Just as in other poker games like Hold'em, winning means having a better hand than your opponent, which in this case is the dealer. Any ties in hand rank are decided on the highest value of the cards in the combination, or if the values are the same, the highest value of other cards in the hand.

In addition, if the dealer or player's hand isn't at least a high card of Q or more, then the round ends and both ante and bets payout to the player.

What are the odds of winning at Three Card Poker?

Unlike regular games of poker, Three Card Poker has fixed odds. Although results depend on both the player hand and the dealer hand, it's still not straightforward to calculate the odds. With that said, the estimated RTP for the game is listed as 97% which gives some indication of how often the player may expect to win on average.

What are the best hands in Three Card Poker?

As in Texas Hold'em, the best hand possible is a straight flush. However, thanks to the number of cards in a hand, the next best becomes three-of-a-kind which is almost as rare. While flushes outrank straights in five-card poker games, the opposite is true for Three Card Poker where straight hands pull ahead. Furthermore, there is no real defined royal flush in this version of the game.

What is the house advantage in Three Card Poker?

The house edge on Three Card Poker changes depending on the ante and play stage of the game. On the ante bet, the house edge is around 3.3%, while it is around 2% on the play bet. As an extra, if the Pair Plus bet is offered, then the house edge for that is around 4.4%.

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