Of all the casino table games based on poker hand rankings, 3 Card Poker is the most popular. This game combines simple strategy with a shot at some big pay outs for the best poker hands.
If you live in a state with regulated online casinos, you’ll be able to play Three Card Poker via desktops and mobile casino apps. Live dealer online casinos let you play a dealt game online. Software-based games are also available where you can play 3 Card Poker for free or with real money.
The key to the popularity of 3 Card Poker is the ‘Pair Plus’ side bet. Most players bet on the main hand (a requirement) and one or more optional side bets. In live casinos, you might find a side bet includes a big progressive jackpot for players lucky enough to hit a 6 card ‘Super’ Royal Flush.
This page gives you all you need to get started with 3 Card Poker whether you play online or in a brick and mortar casino. The rules and order of events in a hand of the game are covered directly below. After this, you’ll find detailed information on the side bets, house edge, strategy and the options for online play.
How to play 3 Card Poker
Each hand starts with the players placing bets. The only mandatory bet is the Ante. The minimum and maximum bet will vary. Online this can be as little as 50c, in live casinos a $5 minimum is more common. Players often combine their ante bet with one or more side-bets – these are covered in the section below.
After all the players have bet, each player and the dealer are dealt 3 cards face down.
Players examine their cards individually (without sharing what they have with the other players). You then decide whether to fold, which forfeits the ante bet, or raise. To continue with the hand (raise), you place an additional bet equal to the ante on the table in the square marked ‘Play’. Strategy for which option to choose is covered below.
After all the players have either folded or raised, the dealer will reveal his/her cards.
This game includes a dealer qualification rule. If the dealer does not have at least Queen high, his/her has not qualified. When this happens, the ante is paid at 1-to-1 and the Play bet is a push (the stake is returned).
If the dealer has a qualifying hand, then the value of that hand is compared to the value of the players hand to determine the winner. Standard poker hand rankings are used, with bonus payouts paid for a straight or better. Note that with 3 cards, a flush is easier to get than a straight, and so considered below this in the poker rankings. In the rare event of a tie, both the Ante and Play bets are returned.
Payout on Ante Bets
Here are the additional Ante bet pay outs:
- Straight: 1-to-1
- 3 of a Kind: 5-to-1
- Straight Flush: 5-to-1
Simple 3 Card Poker strategy and casino house edge
The math shows that the optimal strategy in 3-Card Poker is to play when you have Queen/6/4 or better, and to fold anything below this. You might notice that this strategy is very close to the dealer’s play – qualifying with Queen high. Some players choose to further simplify their strategy by mimicking the dealer and raising with any Queen regardless of the side cards.
While close, this does give the house a slightly bigger advantage in the long run.
- House Edge for Q/6/4: 3.24%
- House Edge for any Queen: 3.37%
As the side bets are completely independent from the main game, the pay tables for these bets will never influence your strategy.
Popular side bets in Three Card Poker games
For many players, a hand of Three Card Poker would not be complete without a bet on the ‘Pair Plus’ side bet. This bet is optional. It is also independent of the main game.
Pair Plus works by looking at your own three cards. If you have less than 1 pair, the bet is lost.
Pairs Plus Payouts
With hands of 1 pair or better, you’ll be paid according to the table below:
- Mini Royal (Ace / King / Queen of the same suit): 80-to-1
- Straight Flush: 40-to-1
- 3 of a Kind: 25-to-1
- Straight: 6-to-1
- Flush: 3-to-1
- Pair: 1-to-1
Note that you can find casinos with minor variations of this pay table. Some casinos do not offer a boosted prize for a mini-royal, instead increasing the prize for the flush.
The other popular side bet involves all 6 cards in your hand and the dealer’s hand. The best possible 5-card poker hand using a combination of these cards will qualify for the bonus. There are several variations under the generic title of 6-card bonus.
Some of these may include progressive jackpots. For example, Caesars Entertainment casinos have a linked progressive which pays on a 6-card ‘Super Royal’ in diamonds only.
Payouts for 6-card bonus
Typical payouts for 6-card bonuses are as follows:
- Royal Flush: 1000-to-1
- Straight Flush: 200-to-1
- 4 of a Kind: 5-to-1
- Full House: 25-to-1
- Flush: 15-to-1
- Straight: 10-to-1
- 3 of a Kind: 5-to-1
Any hand below 3 of a kind results in a loss. There are many side-bet variations. Some casinos add a (smaller) progressive element to the 3 card hands of individual players. Note that the side bets have a much bigger house edge than the main game. This can be as high as 15.28% in some 6-card bonus variations.
How to Play 3 Card Poker online
You’ll be able to enjoy slots, video poker and table games via these casino apps. This includes 3-Card Poker, alongside blackjack, roulette, Ultimate Texas Hold’em and more.
There are two ways to enjoy 3 Card Poker online. First, you can play against casinos on software-based games. These are fast, include side-bets and can be enjoyed for micro-stakes starting at around 50c per hand.
You can also bet on the result of games streamed from a casino. Live dealer 3-Card Poker uses an overlay to bet, with a real dealer handling the cards in real time. Everyone bets on the same hand, with the hand being continued to its conclusion each time (for those people who did not fold).
This way of enjoying 3-Card Poker has social element. You can chat with the dealer and share messages with other players. Stakes are higher compared to the software-based games. You’ll have to stay focused on the game. If you time out (or disconnect) before making your decision, then your hand will be folded.
How to clear your bonus using 3 Card Poker
Most mobile casinos in the regulated states offer new players generous bonuses to sign up. These include no-deposit (free play) style bonuses, matched welcome bonus offers based on your first deposit – and many other promotions.
Keep in mind that you’ll need to play through your bonus a set number of times before any winnings can be withdrawn.
If you are playing slot machines, then all of your play counts towards ‘clearing’ your bonus. With table games including 3-Card Poker, the contribution towards bonus clearing is weighted. Some casinos will allow for 25% of your play to count, while others will offer 10% or under. Before you choose a casino bonus, checking the terms of each bonus for excluded games and weightings is always a sound strategy.
With free-play casino bonuses, you might find that only slots are permitted.
Other casino table games
|Ultimate Texas Hold'em||3 Card Poker||Let It Ride|
Pros and cons: Live vs Online 3-Card Texas Hold’em
While both online and live casino table games have their place, there are distinct advantages to each. If you are lucky enough to live in a state with legal online casinos, the pros and cons are outlined below:
The pros and cons of playing 3-Card Poker online are as follows:
- No need to travel to a casino to enjoy the game
- Stakes are lower
- Live dealer games include a social element
- Only available in a handful of regulated states
- Disconnections or time outs (live dealer) mean your hand will be folded
- Game is not fully weighted for clearing casino bonuses
Live 3-Card Poker Casinos
The pros and cons of playing Live 3-Card Poker online are as follows:
- Enjoyable social settings
- Casinos often have progressive jackpot side bets
- Loyalty schemes with free-play/resort benefits
- Stakes are generally higher than online ($5 minimum is typical)
- You’ll need to travel to a casino
- Naturally slower pace of play
Can you cheat at Three Card Poker?
While some forms of collusion are possible, these would be fraudulent and require marked cards or a casino dealer getting involved. Collusion among players would not result in a positive expectation for the game. If players developed a system to share their hands, several cards could be accounted for. This would increase or decrease the chances of the dealer having a good hand slightly – although not enough to win any money over time.
Marked cards or fraudulent collusion would be picked up by casino security as soon as losses from the table were significant. With the base strategy very simple, diversions from this would be very easy to spot.
How big a bankroll do I need for 3-Card Poker?
Compared to many casino table games (UTH, Mississippi Stud and Casino Hold’em for example) the natural variance of 3-Card poker is low. On most hands, you’ll be winning or losing single bets. There is also a low house edge, at least in the main game, of 3.27%.
20 times your ante bet is a common starting point for this game. This is enough to enjoy a session, with the possibility of upping your bets if you go on a hot streak.
Your total bankroll depends on how much you can afford to lose and how easily your gambling money can be topped up.
How does the house edge of 3 Card Poker compare?
Compared to other casino table games based on poker hand rankings, 3 Card Poker has a slightly higher house edge. This game has an easy strategy, which means new players can quickly realize the house edge. Compare this with blackjack, where small mistakes made by newer players can have large effect on the casino’s edge.
You should keep in mind that 3-Card Poker side bets have a big edge in favor of the house compared to the main game.
Three Card Poker House Edge vs. Other Table Games
Here is how 3-Card Poker’s house edge compares:
- 3 Card Poker: 3.27%
- Blackjack: 0.5% to 3% (depends on the rules)
- Baccarat: 1.06% (if you play the ‘Player’ bet)
- Ultimate Texas Hold’em: 2.2% + 0.5% of any play bets
- Roulette: 2.7% / 5.26% (European / US wheel)
- Casino Hold’em: 2.16%
Is it legal to play 3-Card Poker online?
States determine their own laws for online casinos. In each state where these are legal, the casinos will only work within their borders. So far, PA, NJ, MI and WV have legal online casinos. There are many more states in various stages of introducing gambling online.
Outside of these states, you can enjoy limited casino table games and slots at ‘Sweepstakes Casinos’. 3-Card poker has not yet made it to any of these brands.
Final thoughts on 3 Card poker
Of all the casino games based on poker hand ranks, 3-Card Poker is the most popular. This game combines a straightforward strategy (play Q-6-4+/fold otherwise), with the chance of boosted payouts for big poker hands. The house edge, at just 3.27%, is reasonably low. It is harder to make mistakes in this game which could boost this edge in favor of the casino. Optional side bets are available, many of them with big progressive jackpots.
If you live in one of the regulated states, you can now enjoy free and real money 3 Card online. This can be played against software, or at live dealer online casinos – where you’ll bet on a dealt game streamed from a studio.