3 Card Poker: Rules, Strategy, and Where to Play April 2024

Created in 1994 by Derek Webb, Three Card Poker is one of the most widely played variations of Texas Hold 'em. Both IGT and Evolution offer popular versions of the game that are available across numerous online casinos.

In this guide, you’ll discover how to play Three Card Poker and learn strategies to improve your chances of winning. We'll also cover the best online casinos that offer this fun poker variation.

WHAT IS THREE CARD POKER?

Three Card Poker is a card game, known for its fast-paced gameplay, easy rules, and array of side bets that add excitement. A player's objective is to make a higher-ranking poker hand than the dealer using only three cards.

Hand rankings in Three Card Poker differ from traditional video poker rankings in two ways:

  • A straight outranks a flush
  • A three-of-a-kind outranks a straight and a flush

The differences stem from Three Card Poker having fewer cards in the final hand. A three-of-a-kind is so valuable because there are fewer ways to ways to achieve this hand when you only have three cards to work with.

HOW TO PLAY THREE CARD POKER

The rules of Three Card Poker are easy to grasp, but it's even easier if you're familiar with traditional poker rankings. Rather than playing with five cards and countless possible hand combinations, Three Card Poker simplifies matters by focusing on only three cards to create fewer possible combos.

Let's review a hand of Three Card Poker from the initial bet to the showdown:

MAKE ANTE WAGER AND OPTIONAL SIDE BETS

Place your opening bet, called the Ante bet, and consider making an optional Pair Plus bet or Six Card Bonus bet. The dealer deals three cards face up to the players and three cards face down to himself.

online three card poker table with the player making a 10 cent ante bet
In this example, the player starts the game of 3 Card Poker by making a 10-cent Ante bet. When they push "Deal," they'll receive their cards face up from the dealer. The player could also make a Pair Plus bet and/or a Six Card Bonus bet, but choosing not to sticks to optimal 3 Card Poker strategy.

MAKE PLAY WAGER OR FOLD

Once the players have checked their cards, they have a decision to make: either fold (resulting in the loss of their Ante wager) or place a Play bet (which is a raise). Players make Play bets by placing chips on the Play spot.

When a player thinks his three card hand is strong enough to continue, he makes a Play wager equal to the size of his Ante wager.

online three card poker table with the player receiving a jack of hearts and a pair of twos
The player receives a pair of twos and a Jack of Hearts from the dealer. They decide to make a Play bet, which matches their Ante bet of 10 cents.

COLLECT ANY WINNINGS

When all the players are finished betting (or folding), the dealer reveals his hand. The dealer's three card poker hand is compared to the players' to determine the winner.

The dealer's hand doesn't qualify if he doesn't have queen high or better. In that case, your Play wager results in a push and you get your bet back. Additionally, you win your Ante bet with a payout of 1:1.

When the dealer qualifies, the player wins even money on both the Ante and Play wagers when he has the best three card hand. The player loses both the Ante and Play wagers when the dealer qualifies and outranks him. If the player and dealer tie, the Ante and Play wagers result in a push.

If a player is dealt a straight or better, he qualifies for the Ante bonus regardless of what the dealer is holding. See the picture below for payouts for winning and for the Ante, Pair Plus, and 6 Card bonuses.

online three card poker table with the player winning 30 cents
The player's hand (a pair of twos) beats the dealer's hand (10 high) to win the 20-cent Ante and their 10-cent Play bet. If the player had made the Pair Plus bet, they also would've gotten a 1:1 payout for their two-of-a-kind.

3 CARD POKER TERMINOLOGY

Here are more key terms to know before hitting a Three Card Poker table:

  • Ante bonus: An Ante Bonus is paid whenever a player has one of the three highest-ranking hands in Three Card Poker: a straight, a three-of-a-kind, and a straight flush. The player's hand is the only concern when it comes to the Ante bonus; it doesn't matter what the dealer has.
  • Ante wager: A wager players are required to make before seeing their cards.
  • Fold: After seeing his cards, the player can choose to surrender his Ante and end the hand.
  • Hand: The three cards the dealer gives to each player and himself.
  • Play Wager: An optional wager that a player must make if he wishes to play his hand after viewing his cards. A player is required to place a Play wager equal in value to his Ante wager.
  • Pair Plus Bet: An optional side bet that you win if you have at least a pair regardless of the dealer's hand. Unlike the main hand, you don’t have to win to qualify for a Pair Plus payout. You win the Pair Plus bet any time your three cards form a pair or better, meaning it also includes a flush, straight, three-of-a-kind, straight flush, and, in certain games, a mini royal flush. If the player makes a Pair Plus side bet, the payouts are based on the value of his hand.
  • Six Card Bonus Bet: An optional side bet players make before viewing their cards. Players combine their three-card hands with the three cards in the dealer's hand to make the best five-card poker hand possible. You need a three-of-a-kind or better to win the Six Card Bonus bet. Note that you can get a payout on the Six Card Bonus bet regardless of the dealer's hand. Additionally, you can win even if you fold your three-card poker hand and choose not to make Play bets.

THREE CARD POKER STRATEGIES

Now that you've learned how to play, your inquiry may be, "How do I win?" 3 Card Poker strategy is straightforward as players face just one decision: play or fold. By integrating the following recommendations into your technique, you can improve your chance of success.

Don't overestimate the value of the dealer’s hand. The dealer won't even qualify to play without a queen or higher, so try not to fold too soon.

The optimal strategy says to make a Play bet when you’re dealt Q-6-4 or better. You can only make a play wager equal to your ante bet. Make a play bet on a queen-high hand if your second-highest card is a 6 and your third card is a 4 or a 5.

Bet on a queen-high hand if your second-highest card is a 7 or higher, regardless of your third card.

Fold on a queen high hand if your second-highest card is a 6 and your third card is a 2 or 3. Fold on a queen high hand when your second-highest card is five or below.

Additionally, we recommend that you avoid side bets. The house edge is 3.37% on the Ante wager and 7.28% on the Pair Plus bet, so consider avoiding side bets altogether.

WHERE TO PLAY 3 CARD POKER ONLINE

Poker enthusiasts can enjoy 3 Card Poker online on many reputable sites. Here are our top picks for the best online casinos offering this thrilling card game:

CAESARS PALACE ONLINE CASINO

Updated on 04/13/2024
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Caesars Palace Online Casino offers 10 poker variants including two versions of 3 Card Poker. Evolution partnered with Scientific Games to create a Live Dealer version of the game, complete with various side bets. Additionally, IGT developed the computer version of the game that's available at nearly every online casino offering the game.

The site showcases 650+ games, some with minimum bets as low as a penny. 3 Card Poker online has a $0.10 minimum bet and the Live Dealer version has a $0.50 minimum. The $20,000 maximum should satisfy players with an appetite for risk.

Players earn points in the casino's prestigious rewards program for every bet they place on Caesars Palace Online Casino browser and standalone casino app. Points can be used at any Caesar's property for free rooms, food credits, and much more.

Players at the top of the tier-based loyalty program enjoy enviable benefits such as free upgrades, airfare credits, limo service, early check-in and late check-out, and cruises.

BETMGM CASINO

Updated on 04/13/2024
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Poker players are drawn to BetMGM due to its diverse options. Among its 60+ table games, 11 are poker variants. The site offers popular poker games including Ultimate Texas Hold 'em, Pai Gow Poker, Four Card Poker, Texas Hold 'em Plus, and 3 Card Poker.

The Live Dealer casino sets itself apart from its competitors by offering a diverse array of poker variants. The Live Dealer games on BetMGM are a combination of classic table games with newer variants and game shows.

Players can choose from a selection of more than 1,500 games at BetMGM, with the majority being slots. More than 100 exclusive slots are featured, including an in-house progressive jackpot network with games such as MGM Grand Millions and Bison Fury.

The highest payout on the network to date is more than $4 million.

FANATICS CASINO

Updated on 04/13/2024
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Fanatics has rapidly launched new online casinos in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia since its debut in 2021. While its online betting platform continues to expand, real growth will occur as more states embrace legal online gambling.

Players in the states where Fanatics Casino operates have access to a variety of poker games including, 3 Card Poker, Ultimate Texas Hold ’em, Caribbean Stud, Pai Gow Poker, and Five Card Draw.

This extensive selection allows players to explore different formats to find the game that suits their preferences.

BET365 CASINO

Updated on 04/13/2024
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Like most online casinos, bet365 primarily focuses on slots, but it also allocates a significant portion of its resources to table games.

Remarkably, despite having just over 300 games, Bet365 offers seven poker variants. Players can choose from Three Card Poker, Mississippi Stud, Four Card Poker, Heads-Up Hold'em, Casino Hold 'em, and Ultimate Texas Hold 'em.

When you select the information icon (i) on your screen, a pop-up will appear, showing your game’s Return to Player (RTP) which you can compare to other exciting poker variants.

IGT's version of the game on bet365 offers a 97.99% RTP.

FANDUEL CASINO

Updated on 04/13/2024
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An imitation of Three Card Poker online, 3 Card Stud by IGT is new on FanDuel Casino. Betting limits range from $0.10 to $5,000, ensuring accessibility for players with modest bankrolls.

Another option available is Casino Hold ’em Poker, where the minimum bet is only one penny. This game is one of the eight poker variants offered on FanDuel.

While 3 Card Stud is primarily a game of chance, there is a small element of skill involved related to hand selection. Your winnings depend on knowing the optimal moments to play and when to fold. When engaging in FanDuel’s recently released 3 Card Stud game, employ the standard Three Card Poker strategy.

Players are drawn to FanDuel's extensive game library, featuring over 1,200 games by leading software providers including NetEnt, Aristocrat, and Light and Wonder. FanDuel's live casino, powered by Evolution, provides an immersive experience that is accessible 24/7.

GOLDEN NUGGET CASINO

Updated on 04/13/2024
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Golden Nugget Casino offers an array of 10 poker variants including Three Card Poker by Light and Wonder. While it closely resembles the IGT version of the game, Three Card Poker by Light and Wonder offers a lower RTP. Its RTP stands at 96.63% compared to IGT's 97.99% RTP.

The Three Card Poker game on Golden Nugget offers a side bet not available on the IGT version.

The 6 Card Bonus side bet is based on the best five-card poker hand you can make when you combine the player's hand and the dealer's hand. The 6 Card Bonus bet pays on a three-of-a-kind or better based on the paytable.

You can play 3 Card Poker with a 6 Card Bonus and other games for free in demo mode on Golden Nugget Casino. Demo mode is an invaluable resource that allows players to practice risk-free.

3 CARD POKER FAQS

To learn more about 3 Card Poker, read some related questions and answers we've provided below.

CAN YOU PLAY 3 CARD POKER ONLINE FOR REAL MONEY?

Yes! You can play 3 Card Poker online for real money at various sites such as BetMGM, Caesars Palace Online Casino, Golden Nugget, and more. Internet gambling sites often offer lower betting limits than land-based casinos, allowing players to find stakes that meet their bankroll needs.

HOW DO YOU PLAY 3 CARD POKER?

Here's a summary of how the game is played: Before viewing their cards, players make mandatory Ante Bets and an optional Pair Plus bet/6 Card Bonus bet. Once the cards are dealt, players can either make Play bets or choose to fold. Players that continue go to showdown against the dealer to determine who has the highest ranking hand.

IS THERE ANY STRATEGY TO 3 CARD POKER?

Yes. The optimal strategy says to make a Play wager when you’re dealt Q-6-4 or better. You'll also save money if you skip the Pair Plus bet due to its 7.28% RTP. Additionally, you shouldn't overestimate the value of the dealer's hand as they need at least a queen high or better to even qualify to play.

WHAT IS THE BEST HAND IN 3 CARD POKER?

A straight flush represents the best 3 Card Poker hand. It occupies the top position on the paytable because a five-card poker hand is required to form a royal flush, the top-ranking hand in traditional poker. In 3 Card Poker, a straight flush consists of three cards of the same rank and suit. Additionally, some sites acknowledge another hand called a mini royal flush, which outranks the straight flush. A mini royal flush consists of an ace, a king, and a queen of the same suit and same rank.

IS IT WORTH IT TO PLAY 3 CARD POKER ONLINE?

Yes! 3 Card Poker online provides a wider range of betting limits compared to land-based venues, making it accessible to a wider audience. You'll also have access to side bets like Pair Plus and 6 Card Bonus.

IS BLACKJACK OR 3 CARD POKER BETTER?

While 3 Card Poker holds its own with blackjack in terms of entertainment value, the odds are significantly worse. IGT's Three Card Poker features an impressive 97.99% RTP, but it can't compete with the remarkably low 0.05% house edge blackjack offers.