How to Play 3-Card Poker Online | 3-Card Poker Rules

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3 Card Poker is one of the simplest casino poker games you can play.

As you might have guessed, you use just 3 cards to make a poker hand.

You then 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, yeah?

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.

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

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 they are ranked from highest to lowest:

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

How to Make Your Bets in 3-Card Poker

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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, PairPlus 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 PairPlus bet

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

Once everyone has 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 you 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 game play.

  1. Place your ante bet (or ante and PairPlus 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 PairPlus 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.

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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. 

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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 arereturned.

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 PairPlus Bet

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

  1. Place your PairPlus 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 3 card poker hand that is a pair or higher, the payout scale is 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 PairPlus 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 PairPlus bet and get paid. You don't have to win your ante or play bet to qualify for the PairPlus payout.

3 Card Poker Strategy: The Golden 3-Card Poker Rule

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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 PairPlus 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 PairPlus bets equally each time give 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 PairPlus bet. These are your odds of hitting a Pair Plus:

Pair 16.94%
Flush 4.9%
Straight 3.26%
Three of a kind .24%
Straight Flush .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 only play the Ante bets and the Play bet if you have Q64 or higher.

3-Card Poker: Stay Away From the 6-Card Bonus

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Don't do 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 the 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.

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Play 3-Card Poker Free Online!

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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, for example, you can even play with 3 Card Poker with a live dealer!

Every online casino also has free play section where you can try out the games (and learn the rules) before putting your own money down. Check out toplist above for the best online casinos to play 3 Card Poker for free online!

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