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A Beginner’s Guide to Three Card Poker

An Introduction to Three Card Poker 

Three Card Poker is a hugely popular form of Casino Poker that is offered both online and in land-based casinos. The game is incredibly easy to learn, it offers a very fast pace of play, and there is the chance of huge winnings. Furthermore, while luck is important, there is a small amount of skill involved, which means that players can utilise strategies to try to improve their winnings.  

If you have never played Three Card Poker then do not worry. In this guide, you will find all that you need to get started, from the basic rules to strategy tips. Hopefully, you will soon be enjoying the game and on your way to forming your first winning hands.  

How to Play Three Card Poker  

As the name tells you, Three Card Poker is played with just three cards. To start a round, you need to place the Ante bet in the designated box. You will then receive three cards face up and the dealer receives three cards face down. You then have just two options to choose from: 

  • Play – Continue the hand by matching the Ante bet 
  • Fold – Give up the hand without risking any more money 

If you choose to Play, it will place a second bet equal to the Ante, i.e. if you start with a bet of €5, then you will have to place a second bet of €5, for a total of €10.  

At this point, the dealer reveals their hand and the two are compared. If your hand beats the dealer’s, then you are paid at 1:1 for your Ante bet and if the dealer qualifies, which means they hold a Queen high card or better, then you are also paid at 1:1 for your Play bet. If the dealer does not qualify, then the Play bet is returned to you. 

It is also possible to win bonus payouts on your Ante bet for particularly strong hands. You will be paid 4:1 for a Three of a Kind and 4:1 for a Straight Flush.  

Three Card Poker Hands 

It should now be clear that this is a very simple game that takes no time to learn. However, it is very important that you understand the different kinds of poker hands possible. This is because you have to assess quickly what chance your hand has of winning. As the game is played with just three cards, there are fewer types of poker hand than in other forms of poker, which again means that there is less for you to learn. In fact, there are just six different hands that you need to be aware of and from strongest to weakest they are: 

  • Straight Flush – This is three cards from the same suit in numerical order; for example, 3, 4, 5 of Hearts. 
  • Three of a Kind – This is a hand that contains three cards with same value, such as 2 Clubs, 2 Spades and 2 Hearts.  
  • Straight – This is a hand containing three cards in numerical order but from different suits; for example, 3 Spades, 4 Hearts, 5 Diamonds. 
  • Flush – This is a hand of three cards from the same suit, for example, 4, 8, and Queen of Diamonds. 
  • Pair – This is a hand that contains two matching cards and one unrelated card. For example, Queen Spades, Queen Hearts, 4 Diamonds.  
  • High Card – If a hand does not contain any of the above, then it is judged according to the highest value card in it. 

If both the player and the dealer have a hand of the same type, then the hand with the highest ranking card will win. For example, a hand of 7, 8, 9 (which is a Straight), will beat a 5, 6, 7 Straight. Similarly, a King-high flush will beat a Queen-high flush. Another advantage of Three Card Poker is that suits never factor into a hand strength.  

Three Card Poker Side Bets 

Many versions of Three Card Poker will offer at least one side bet. Side bets are optional bets that give players more chances to win. As a result, as long as you can afford to place them, they can be a lot of fun. 

A very common side bet is the Pair Plus. This is simply a bet that your hand will contain a pair or better. With the side bet, it does not matter if the dealer qualifies or not, you are paid for the bet according to a separate paytable. The paytable may vary slightly from casino to casino, but generally, it will play 1:1 for a Pair, 4:1 for a Flush, 5:1 for a Straight, 30:1 for Trips, 40:1 for Any Straight Flush, and 200:1 for a Mini Royal Flush (Ace, King, Queen of the same suit). As you can see, the side bets offers significantly larger payouts than the regular bets, which is why they are very popular. The bet is placed at the start of a round, and it can’t be changed once a round begins. 

Another common side bet in Three Card Poker is the 6-Card Bonus. This is a side bet that involves all six cards that are dealt, the player’s three and the dealer’s three. It will usually payout for a Three of a Kind or better and once again, the paytable will vary from casino to casino. However, a typical game may offer 7:1 for Three of a Kind, 10:1 for a Straight, 15:1 for a Flush, 20:1 for a Full House, 100:1 for Four of a Kind, 200:1 for a Straight Flush, and 1000:1 or a Royal Flush. You can even find games that offer payouts of 2000:1 for the cards 9, 10, J, Q, K and A from the same suit.  

The third most common side bet is for a progressive jackpot. Usually the side bet is just €1 with a portion of each bet added to the jackpot pool. The progressive jackpot will be won with a Mini Royal Flush of Spades, with a payout of 500:1 offered for a Mini Royal Flush in any other suit, 100:1 for a Straight Flush, and 90:1 for Three of a Kind. When playing at a land casino, in some versions of this game, if a player wins big with a Mini Royal Flush, then there are bonus payouts for other players.  

Three Card Poker Strategy 

If you have ever looked into optimal strategies for casino games, then you have probably seen a number of complicated looking charts that will take a very long time to memorise. Luckily, the optimal strategy for Three Card Poker is very easy to learn as all you need to remember is whether or not your hand is strong enough to make it worth playing.  

In short, you should always continue playing and stick with a hand if it contains a Queen, 6, 4 or better. If the hand is weaker than that, then you should discard it and wait for the next hand.  

Essentially, this means that you bet on any pair or better and if you do not have a pair or better, you should place the Play bet if your high card is an Ace or a King, regardless of the other two cards. If your high card is a Queen, then these are the only four things you need to know: 

  • Bet on a Queen-high hand if your second highest card is a 7 or higher, no matter what your third card is. 
  • Bet on a Queen-high hand if your second-highest card is a 6 only if your third card is a 4 or a 5. 
  • Fold a Queen-high hand if your second-highest card is a 6 if your third card is a 2 or a 3. 
  • Fold a Queen-high hand if your second-highest card is a 5 or lower, no matter what your third card is. 

When Three Card Poker is played without the above strategy, it has a house edge of around 3.7%, which is not too high, but not ideal. When you stick to the above strategy, the house edge is reduced to 2%, which is far better. It is worth noting that the Pair Plus side bet also favours the house, so if you are playing with the optimal strategy and have placed the side bet, then the house edge increases slightly to 2.3%. However, this is still very low.  

To Conclude 

Having read the above, you will realise just how simple Three Card Poker really is. In fact, all you really need to remember to play the game is that you should place the second Play bet if your hand contains Q, 6, 4 or better. When it comes to side bets, it is entirely up to you when you use them. You can research the bets’ house edges, but ultimately, if you can afford them then they can be great fun and if you can’t afford them, then you can still enjoy the basic game. Three Card Poker has a very low house edge and it can provide you with hours of fun, so why not give it a try and see if you can beat the dealer.  

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