Three Card Poker – Rules – Strategy – Play Online!

Three Card Poker is America’s fastest growing specialty table game. This is a fast and exciting poker game that offers three ways to play and four different ways to win. The three-card format makes the game quick and easy to play, and players can bet on their own hand or against the dealer or both. More and more players are drawn to the game because of its simplicity, action level and competitive house advantage.

Three Card Poker was invented by Derek Webb of Prime Table Games. Three Card Poker is derived from a centuries old game called Brag (which later wound up in India as Flush).

Of the one million games played in Webb’s computer simulation tests, the player’s hand ranked as a Queen High or Better in 687,674 hands. The player wagered on Play while folding on 312,326 hands. The total at stake was 1,687,674 bet-unit (Antes + Plays).

The Dealer qualified in 473,924 of the games and folded in 213,750. In the showdown, the dealer won 233,643 and the player won 238,408 hands. 1,873 were pushes.

As a result, the player lost 89,045 bet-units (5.72% of the total) before any bonus awards were included. The bonus awards added up to 52,852 bet-units, diminishing the house win to 36,194 bet-units and a house advantage of just 2.14 percent.

Real Time Gaming produced the initial online software for Three Card Poker and changed the name to Tri-Card Poker, as it is known on the online casinos that offer it.

Three card poker is really two games in one. The player may bet on either one, both, and in different amounts. Both games are based on hands consisting of three cards. A straight is harder to form than a flush.

Probabilities – Three Card Poker
Hand Combinations Probability
Straight flush 48 0.0021719
Three of a kind 52 0.0023529
Straight 720 0.0325792
Flush 1096 0.0495928
Pair 3744 0.1694118
Queen to ace high 9720 0.4398190
Jack high or less 6720 0.3040724

Pair Plus

This is a simple game in which you get three cards and are paid according to their value. The dealer’s hand is immaterial. There is no raising and no discarding, in fact no skill of any kind is involved.

The following table shows various paytables for Pair Plus. It used to be that the only table was pay table 1. Pay table 4 is becoming increasingly prevalent in Las Vegas, especially on the Strip.

Payoff Table for Pair Plus
Hand Probability Table 1 Table 2 Table 3 Table 4
Straight flush 0.002172 40 to 1 40 to 1 35 to 1 40 to 1
Three of a kind 0.002353 30 to 1 25 to 1 25 to 1 30 to 1
Straight 0.032579 6 to 1 6 to 1 6 to 1 6 to 1
Flush 0.049593 4 to 1 4 to 1 4 to 1 3 to 1
Pair 0.169412 1 to 1 1 to 1 1 to 1 1 to 1
Nothing 0.743891 lose lose lose lose
House Edge 2.32% 3.49% 4.58% 7.28%

Ante and Play

Play begins with a wager on ante. After the player views his three cards he may either raise by putting an equal bet on play or fold and lose the ante bet. If the player folds he also loses the Pair Plus bet if one was made, however this should not be any sacrifice because if the Pair Plus bet paid anything the player shouldn’t fold.

If the player does raise then he goes against the dealer’s hand. The dealer needs at least a queen high to qualify. Below are the possible outcomes and their payoff:

  • Dealer does not qualify: Ante wins 1 to 1, play bet is returned
  • Dealer qualifies and player beats dealer: Both play and ante win 1 to 1
  • Dealer qualifies and dealer beats player: Both Play and ante lose
  • Dealer qualifies and dealer ties player: Both Play and ante push

The Ante bet has an extra bonus that does not depend on the dealer’s hand. There are different variations of the bonus paytable. The following table shows some variations along with the corresponding game house edge and element of risk.

Ante Bet Bonus
Hand Probability Table 1 Table 2 Table 3
Straight flush 0.002172 5 to 1 4 to 1 3 to 1
Three of a kind 0.002353 4 to 1 3 to 1 2 to 1
Straight 0.032579 1 to 1 1 to 1 1 to 1
House Edge 3.37% 3.83% 4.28%
Element of Risk 2.01% 2.28% 2.56%

Three Card Poker – Strategy

Rule #1: FOLD unless your hand is Q-6-4 or better.

Seeing Additional Cards

Other Players’ Cards

If you don’t have Q high or better, fold unless you can see the following in other players’ hands:

a) 3 additional cards all of which are Q or higher
b) 6 additional cards of which at least 4 are Q or higher

If you are holding Q-6-4 and the 6 additional cards you can see are all Jack or less, fold.

Seeing One Of The Dealer’s Cards

Some three card poker dealers sometimes carelessly reveal the bottom of a card when passing them from the automatic shuffler to the table. Seeing just one of the dealer’s cards is equal to seeing 40 other cards. Seeing one of the dealer’s cards gives you a significant 3.48% edge on the house. If you are so fortunate, this is a great time to bet the table maximum based on the following:

  • Play all hands if the dealer’s card is a Jack or less
  • Play Q-9-2 or better if the dealer’s card is a Queen
  • Play K-9-2 or better if the dealer’s card is a King
  • Play A-9-2 or better if the dealer’s card is an Ace