How to Play
Three card poker is a little different from other varieties of poker, in that there are only two people involved in the game; the dealer, and the player. If you’re playing against friends, then you can take these roles in turn, but at the casino or online, the dealer is always the dealer and you’re always the player.
Before the deal
The game starts with the player placing what is known as an ante wager; a bet that makes the game worthwhile for the dealer, and / or a pair plus wager. A pair plus is essentially the player betting that they will have a hand of at least a pair or better and is completely optional, but can be lost if they don’t end up with a pair or better. The ante wager and pair plus wagers can be anything the player wishes to bet, as long as it’s within the table limit and the player’s budget.
Once the ante or pair plus wagers have been made, both the player and the dealer will then be dealt three cards face down. The dealer will shuffle the pack, then deal one card to the player, one card to themselves, and so forth until both the dealer and the player have three cards. It’s important that neither the player of the dealer shows anyone the three cards in front of them, as this could give the entire strategy of the round (or even game) away.
After the player has assessed their cards, it’s time to either place a wager equal to the ante wager, (essentially ‘buying in’ and betting that their cards are better than the dealer’s), or to fold and end the round. Folding should only be done with an especially weak set of cards, as the player will lose any ante or pair plus wagers they’ve put down.
If the player decides to match the ante and wager, then both the dealer and player lay down their cards, known as the showdown. There are a number of outcomes at this stage:
- If the dealer has queen high or better, then they qualify to play – anything lower, and the player wins their ante wager back at 1:1, but loses their pair plus wager, unless they have a pair or better.
- If the dealer qualifies and has a stronger hand, then the player loses their ante wager and pair plus wager
- If the player’s hand is stronger, then the player wins their ante wager and any additional wager back at 1:1 (this excludes the pair plus bet, unless the player has a pair or better in their hand)
- If there is a tie, then all wagers are returned to the player (aside from the pair plus bet, unless the player has a pair or better in their hand) and the game moves on to the next round.
- If the player has a straight or better, then many casinos offer an ante bonus, so don’t forget to check this is you’re lucky enough to have three cards in a row or better.
The best three card poker hands
Knowing your hands is the key to success in three card poker, so learn these before you start playing and know which are strongest. We’ve ranked them in order.
- Straight flush – three card of the same suit, in sequence, i.e. 7♣, 8♣, 9♣
- Three of a kind – three card of the same rank, i.e. three 7s
- Straight – any three cards in sequence, i.e. 5♣, 6♥, 7♣
- Flush – any three cards from the same suit
- Pair – two cards of the same rank, i.e. two 2s
- High card – whoever has the highest single card out of the player and the dealer if no one can make up any of the other hands.
Pay-outs and ante bonus
The opportunity to win big comes with the pay-outs that different hands will get you. The house (i.e. the casino) may offer odds on certain hands appearing, which means if you’ve got a great hand, you could be in for some serious cash. Some odds are only offered on your pair plus wager, but some will pay out on your ante wager. Here are some typical pay-outs for certain hands, so make sure you don’t fold if you’ve got one of them!
Ante Bonus – paid out on the ante wager only
Straight flush – 5:1
Three of a kind – 4:1
Straight – 1:1
Pair Plus winnings – paid out on any pair plus wager only
Straight flush – 40:1
Three of a kind – 30:1
Straight – 5:1
Flush – 4:1
Pair – 1:1