Three Card Poker Basics and Strategy

Three card poker is a card game played at both land based and online casinos. It has been around since the late 1990’s and can be found at almost all casinos. There are some variations of the game such as Prime or Three Card Progressive Poker, but this article will focus on the basic game. Three Card Poker is a game of chance that is a derived from five card stud poker. The hand rankings are the same as in poker except only three cards are used. This means that a straight or flush only needs to be three cards in a row or of the same suit and not five cards.

The wagering in Three Card Poker consists of two separate bets, Pair Plus is one bet and Ante and Play is the other. Each player can place a bet on either one or both of these wagers before play begins. The initial bet on the Ante and Play option is called the Ante. Once the wagers are placed three cards are dealt to each player and the dealer. Players then have the option to place a play wager by matching their ante wager or folding. The hands are then exposed. The dealer must have a hand of Queen High or better for the dealer hand to qualify. The reason that this is important is that if the dealers hand does not qualify, only the ante wagers are played and they are paid at even money. The play wagers are returned.

If the dealers hand does qualify then each players hand is compared to the dealer’s hand. If the payers hand loses, both the ante and Play wagers are lost. If the players hand wins both the Ante and Play wagers are paid at even money. If the hands are tied then there is no wager and the bets are returned to the player. There is also an ante bonus that does not play against the dealer’s hand. The Ante bonus pays out at even money for a straight, four to one for three of a kind and five to one for a straight flush. This bonus is paid even if the dealers hand is better than the players hand.

The Pair Plus wager loses if the player has less than a pair and wins with a pair or better. The Pair Plus wager is not against the dealer so the dealers hand does not matter to this wager. It pays if the dealer does not qualify or if the dealers hand beats the player’s hand. The Pair Plus Wager pays out at the following rates:

  • A pair pays 1 to 1
  • A flush pays 4 to 1
  • A straight pays 6 to 1
  • 3 of a kind pays 30 to 1
  • A straight flush pays 40 to 1

The most common strategy in Ante and Play is for the player to play only when they have a queen or better. The optimal strategy is actually to play only queen, six, four or better but the odds are almost identical either way.