How to Play Three Card Poker

Card games have played a big part within casinos throughout history and are still an important feature today with games like blackjack, baccarat, and three-card poker. There are many to choose from, but few can claim to have the same level of recognition as poker. It’s played around the world in casinos and online. It successfully made the giant leap to the digital world with multiple options available to select from.

It’s also one of the most diverse games, with so many different variants available for players to try their hand at. One such variant is three card poker, a twist on the traditional game in which a hand is, as the name suggests, made up of just the three cards. It may not be the purest form of the game but it has become a popular choice.

How Is Three Card Poker Different From Other Variants?

First, it’s probably easiest to lay out the rules of the game and then compare them to the other variants on offer to point out the similarities and differences. Firstly, this isn’t a standard poker game in which you sit at a table with a number of different players who you are competing against. Instead, it is a little more like blackjack or craps where you will be dealt your hand, and a dealer will also have a hand.

Players will make their ante bet before they are dealt their hand, and once they have their three cards, they can look at them and choose whether to fold or place another bet known as the “play”. This will be the same amount as the initial ante, which means that the player thinks their hand can beat the house’s. The play bet amount will be paid back to the player if the dealer’s hand is a Jack-high or lower. If it is a Queen-high or up, they will compare their hand with the player’s, and if it is worse than theirs, they will pay out the round.

The big difference with the game is that you’re not battling it out against other players. This means it lacks a lot of the strategy which you would employ in more classic variants like Texas Hold’em. In those standard games, you will engage in subtle gameplay such as bluffing, as well as trying to assess your chances based on your hand, and using community cards to make up a five-card hand that will win the game. This means that it’s much quicker to play three-card poker as it is a simple heads-up that doesn’t require the more intricate details that a full game would.

Playing a Hand of Three Card Poker

We have touched on the general overview of playing three-card poker, but now we’ll break it down step by step to show exactly how a game at the three-card table would go.

  1. Players sitting at the table will place an ante-bet
  2. The dealer dishes out three-card hands to each player
  3. The player looks at their hand - this is a no-blind game
  4. The player can now decide to either fold or place a play bet of the same value as their ante
  5. The dealer reveals their hand
  6. If the hand is a Jacks-high or less, the play bet is returned
  7. If the hand is Queen-high or more, the hands are compared, and the best one wins

As you can see, this is much simpler than what you would expect from traditional poker. In those more long-form games, you’ll encounter blinds, bluffs, flops, turns, and rivers. As such, this version of the card game is more popular for players looking for speed and simplicity rather than the longevity of a Hold’em game.

Bets in Three-Card Poker

As you can probably imagine, this isn’t the sort of game that offers a whole host of side bets for players to delve into and supplement their gameplay with. Because it’s much more closely aligned with blackjack, the bets are relatively simple. You will place your ante and your play bets as standard.

However, that’s not to say that there are no extra bets. Before seeing their cards, players can place a Pair Plus bet. This is a wager that the player’s hand will include a pair of twos or better. This isn’t in competition with the dealer, so it would pay out even if the hand is worse than the house’s. Some individual casinos might also offer special bets such as an Ante Bonus, which would pay out at higher rates for a straight flush (5:1), three-of-a-kind (4:1), and a straight (1:1).

There are also some different variants within three-card poker. Here in the UK, there is one known as Prime three-card poker. With this Prime bet, the player is paid out at 3 to 1 if their hand is all one colour, red or black. If theirs and the dealer's hand are all one colour combined, this is paid out at 4 to 1. Not all games will include this bet, and only specific Prime versions will, so players may have to actively seek out these games.

Hands Players Can Form in Three Card Poker

As with a typical game of poker like Texas Hold’em, there are a number of different hands that a player can make, which will have different outcomes depending on the hand that the dealer has. Some of these are recognisable from other variants, too. We’ve listed these hands in descending order of rank below.

Possible Hands in Three Card Poker

  • Straight Flush: Three cards of the same suit in sequential order
  • Three of a Kind: Three cards of the same value or rank
  • Straight: Three cards in sequential order (any suit)
  • Flush: Three cards of the same suit
  • Pair: Two cards of the same value
  • High Card: None of the other hands, value is determined by the highest card in the hand


What is the best hand in three-card poker?

The best hand that a player can get is a Straight Flush, which consists of three cards in the same suit in sequence.

Yes, you can take advantage of side bets like Pairs Plus. Some casinos may offer other, more specific bets, so check the rules of the game before playing.

If you want a bet that doesn’t pit you against the dealer, you can use the Pairs Plus bet as this can pay out even if the dealer’s hand is better.

To win a game of three-card poker, you must have a better hand than the dealer’s. You can also win a Pairs Plus bet if you have two cards of the same value.

Take Time to Think | | 18+

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