3 Card Poker

What is 3 Card Poker?

Legendary 3 card poker that started it's journey in the late 90's, might be the easiest poker version on the planet. It's so simple that even a cat could learn how to play it.

So what is 3 card poker actually? It is more of a casino table game that is played against the dealer rather than other players. Due to its "heads-up" nature, 3 card poker is more popular on online casinos than poker rooms. If you already know standard poker, then 3 card poker rules are easy to learn. If you don't, it's still a quite simple card game.

In 3 card poker, you compete against the dealer to see who has the best 3-card poker hand. Beat the dealer and you win your bet (or bets). Hit a premium hand like a Flush or Straight and get paid handsomely. Lose to the dealer and you lose your bet(s). Simple as that!

Yet, as a simple it is, winning BIG demands the right betting strategy, and some luck.

In this article, you can learn all about the rules of this exciting poker game, how to play it, and of course - how to win in 3 card poker!

How to Play 3 Card Poker

3 Card Poker uses the name "poker" because it uses the standard poker hand ranking order but it's more of a casino game than a poker game per se.

You can alter your bets slightly to chase different premium or bonus hands but there's no poker strategy - eg deciding which cards to keep or draw, making bets against other players - involved.

How to play 3 card poker, you simply choose between a couple of bets before the deal, see what 3 cards you receive, and hope for the best.

There's an important exception to the standard poker hand rankings to note, though:

Because it's harder to make a straight in 3 card poker than a flush, the ranking order for straights and flushes are reversed. This means:

  • A straight is MORE valuable than a flush in 3 Card Poker rules

Otherwise, there are no changes to the hand rankings except for the elimination of any hands that require more than three cards.

This makes things pretty simple as there are only six possible 3 card poker hands you can make. Here are the three card poker hand rankings from highest to lowest:

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

How to Make Your Bets in 3-Card Poker


When you take your seat at a 3 Card Poker table you can usually choose between a couple of bets depending on the type of table you pick.

At most 3 Card Poker tables you can play:

  • Ante bet
  • Play bet
  • PairPlus
  • Both Ante and PairPlus bet

The Ante, Pair Plus and Play Bets

Before you receive any cards you have to make a decision. Will you bet:

  • A) Just the Ante bet or
  • B) The Ante and the Pair Plus bet

3 card poker payouts depend on which bet are you using and also the RTP is affected by this.

The Ante bet you must make to receive any cards. The Pair Plus is optional bonus bet. Basically, you're simply betting whether you think you will be dealt a pair or higher in your 3-card poker hand.

Once everyone at the 3-Card Poker table has made that decision and made their bets, the dealer deals 3 cards face down to everyone in the hand. You can then look at your cards.

Once you've looked at your cards you now make another decision: Do you want to go on and match your hand up against the dealer and see which one is higher?

If you do, then you now make a "Play" bet, which is equal to the ante bet. Here's a look at the basic order of gameplay.

  1. Place your ante bet (or ante and Pair Plus bet)
  2. Receive your cards
  3. Choose to fold (losing all your bets made already) or make the Play bet (matching the ante)

If you fold you will lose your ante and your Pair Plus bet (if you made it). If you Play (by matching the size of the ante), then you move on to compare your hand to the dealers to see if you get paid.

How Do I Win a 3 Card Poker Hand?

So to win your ante bet your 3 card poker hand has to be higher than the dealer. 

3 card poker winner

The dealer must hold a queen-high or better, though, to qualify.

  • If the dealer does not qualify the player receives 1:1 on his ante and is returned his or her Play bet.
  • If the dealer qualifies and the player wins, the player receives 1:1 on both the Ante and Play bet.
  • If the dealer qualifies and the player loses, the player loses both bets.
  • If the dealer qualifies and ties the player, the player pushes: both bets are returned.

In addition to the player versus dealer payout players playing Ante and Play receive bonus payouts (regardless of the dealer's hand) for strong hands:

  • Straight Flush - Pays 5:1
  • Three of a Kind - Pays 4:1
  • Straight - Pays 1:1

The Pair Plus Bet

Possibly the easiest of any casino table game you can play, the Pair Plus bet requires absolutely no decision making on your end.

  1. Place your Pair Plus bet before the deal (the bet must be between the table minimum and maximum bet amounts)
  2. Receive your cards
  3. Get paid (or not)

If you do hit a poker hand that is a pair or higher, the 3 card poker payouts scale as follows:

  • Straight Flush - 40:1
  • Three of a Kind - 30:1
  • Straight - 6:1
  • Flush - 4:1
  • Pair - 1:1

If you have just a high card and no pair you lose your Pair Plus bet but you can still win your Ante bet if your high card is higher than the dealer's (remember the dealer must have at least a Queen for his or her hand to qualify).

Likewise, you can still lose to the dealer and lose your Ante and Play bets but hit your Pair Plus bet and get paid. You don't have to win your ante or play bet to qualify for the Pair Plus payout.

3 Card Poker Strategy: The Golden 3 Card Poker Rule

Because the game of 3-Card Poker is so simple most players like to play "blind" -- or play every hand regardless of what they're dealt.

While that can be pretty fun to be in the action all the time it does have a consequence - it basically improves the house advantage up to about 7% from the standard 3%.

Because of that big leap in the house edge if you play every hand, most experienced 3-Card Poker players stick to a general strategy rule of thumb - aka the "Q64"

What does that mean?

  • Only play hands that have a Queen, 6 and 4 or higher

If you stick to that requirement you keep the house edge as low as possible - between 2-3% depending on the casino.

Should I Play the Ante, Play and Pair Plus Bets or Just One or Two of Them?

That really depends on just how much action you're looking for and how much you're willing to lose. Statistically, playing both the Ante and the Pair Plus bets equally each time gives you the best statistical chance of maximum return over the long haul.

But, of course, that will come with some losing streaks - especially if you're counting on hitting the Pair Plus bet. These are your odds of hitting a Pair Plus:

  • Pair: 16.94%
  • Flush: 4.9%
  • Straight: 3.26%
  • Three of a kind: 0.24%
  • Straight Flush: 0.22%

In simpler terms, you have more or less a 25% chance to hit a pair or better. The flipside of that is obviously you lose that bet 75% of the time.

To give yourself the best odds against the house you really should never play the Pair Plus bet (or the 6-Card Bonus bet - more on that below).

The way to ensure you lose the least amount of money and keep the 3 card poker payouts high as possible,-+ only play the Ante bets and the Play bet if you have Q64 or higher.

Stay Away From the 6 Card Bonus

Be careful with the 6 Card bonus.

Ah, the "Bonus" bet. It always looks so enticing, just sitting there offering up huge odds and crazy big payouts should you hit one.

The reality, though? You rarely, if ever, will. The longshot odds of hitting most bonus bets are simply too long to make them profitable over time.

That's definitely the case with the 6 Card Bonus bet on some 3 Card Poker tables.

In short, the 6-Card Bonus is a payout based on the combination of your 3 Card Poker hand and the dealer's 3 Card Poker hand.

Put the two together, make the best 5 card poker hand you can (based on the standard poker hand rankings, of course) and you'll be paid out accordingly:

  • Royal Flush: 1,000 to 1
  • Straight Flush: 200 to 1
  • Four of a Kind: 100 to 1
  • Full House: 20 to 1
  • Flush: 15 to 1
  • Straight: 9 to 1
  • Three of a Kind: 8 to 1

Looks good, right? But while you might get a nice rush from hitting the bonus every now and then the casino edge is well over 7% for that one - meaning you just can't make any money on it over time.

If you do hit on one of the bonus hands, though, your bet is paid out whether you win either of your ante/play bets.

Play 3 Card Poker Free Online or With Real Money!


Most online casinos have a free play section where you can try out the games (and learn the three card poker rules) before putting your own money down. Free 3 card poker rules are easy to learn, so at best it only takes like 10 minutes to really understand what this great poker game is all about.

Check out the toplist above for the best online casinos to play 3 Card Poker for free or with real money!

If you're looking to play some 3-card poker online, virtually every virtual casino has it in their offerings as it's a customer favorite. At 888Casino, MrPlay Casino, or Rolling Slots, for example, you can even play 3 Card Poker with a live dealer!

The most popular Three Card Poker online is from industry-leading provider Evolution Gaming. Their version can be found in almost every well-equipped live casino.

Keep in mind, that Evolution Three Card Poker can be only played with real money. If your Three Card Poker strategy is not yet polished, it might be a good idea to play for free, first in the table game version, or at least follow the live game few rounds before placing any real money bets.

One possibility, how to play 3-card poker for free online, or with bonus money, is to check if there are any good casino bonuses available for you. By claiming casino bonuses you can use all the extra bonus money on new casino games and learn the game in real money mode, which is much rewarding and exciting than just with play money.

3 Card Poker FAQ

  • What is 3 card poker?

    3 card poker is a casino card game based on regular poker with some unique rules that specify the payouts. In this version, the poker hand is formed with three cards, which the game also gets its name from. The casino version of three card poker was originally created in 1994 by a gentleman named Derek Webb and patented in 1997. Nowadays it is played in regular casinos, poker rooms, and also on online casinos as virtual table games and live game.
  • How do you play 3 card poker?

    3 card poker is a heads-up poker game where the player always plays against the dealer. Each poker hand is formed with only three cards and the winner is the one with a better three card poker hand. Royal Straight Flush is the strongest and the weakest is the high card. Every round starts by placing bets. There are three options for these - Ante, PairPlus (Pair+), and 6 Card Bonus Bet. Choose wisely because different bets give different payouts but also affect the house edge. So, in short, just place your bet and hope for the best.
  • What is the best 3 card poker game online?

    The best and most popular 3 card poker game online at the moment is Three Card Poker by Evolution Gaming. This Three Card Poker is a casino live poker with a real dealer streamed from the provider's own studio. 3 card poker is also offered as a virtual poker game with an RNG dealer.
  • Where can I play Three Card Poker?

    Three Card Poker can be found in multiple online casinos and popular poker rooms. Check the list above and see which online casino or poker room suits you best. Also, if you are already registered on popular poker sites like 888casino or Pokerstars you can also find Three Card Poker from their selection.
  • Can I play three card poker with bonuses?

    Playing three card poker with a bonus is possible, but a bit difficult. Usually, all poker games give 0% towards completing wagering requirement, which means you are not able to withdraw any winnings you may get by playing this game. Look for online casinos that have live Three Card Poker and offers bonuses also for live casino.
  • What are the 3 card poker payouts?

    Payouts in 3 card poker rules depend on the game version and which bet is used. Ante bonus payouts are the lowest, paying from 1:1 to 5:1. Next comes the Pair Plus payouts from 1:1 to 100:1 winnings. Six card bonus payouts go as high as 1000:1 and with Three of a kind, it still pays the bet 7:1.

Would You Like to Know More About How to Play Poker?

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