3 Card Poker: What is it and How to Play it

3 card poker3 card poker is your classic who-has-the-best-hand poker. But with a twist, it is an exciting variation played between the dealer’s and the player’s hands. At the 3-card poker table, you are playing against the dealer, unlike other poker variants. As much as the game is exciting, there are still rules, payouts, and strategies you should know about. It’s one of the most entertaining poker variants and perhaps the easiest one to learn. So let’s take a look at how to play 3 card poker.

how to play 3 card poker


How to Play 3-Card poker

Origins of 3 card poker are assigned to Derek Webb, created for UK players to grab the attention of casino visitors. Many believe it originates from the renaissance when people in Italy played Primero, and it later evolved into the game of Bragg in Britain. In the end, 3 card poker was popularized during the 90s and among casino owners.


3 Card Poker Rules

At the 3 card poker table, there can be a maximum of seven players, and the dealer counts as eight. Unlike other poker games, in 3-card poker, the players are not playing against each other but against the dealer. The game’s goal is to beat the dealer’s hand and bet against it.


In some ways, 3 card poker is similar to blackjack, perhaps because the table reminds people of the game. However, the rules are more similar to other poker variants in everything except the betting and the fact that it is played with only three cards.



When the game begins, the dealer will ask for an Ante bet. It’s the first bet you make, equivalent to saying, “I am betting that my hand will beat the dealer’s hand.” If you win, the dealer pays out an amount equal to your Ante bet.


The second type of bet, equal to the Ante amount, is optional and called Pair Plus. In essence, you are wagering whether your hand will have a better pair. It has nothing to do with the dealer’s hand. It’s independent of the game. You can win even if you lose to a dealer and have a pair. In other words, you are betting on your hand.


Once you receive three cards dealt by the dealer face down, you must choose to continue playing or fold. If you decide to continue, you must place a third bet called the Play bet. It’s a bet you place over the cards and is equal to an Ante bet. That way, you are telling the dealer you are playing the hand.


Hand Rankings

Hand rankings in 3-card poker are slightly different from any other poker variant. The goal is to play the best hand rankings with the three cards you have. So let’s look at the rankings and their probability of getting them.


3 card poker hand rankings

The Dealer

After every player receives three cards, the dealer turns over their hand and plays the best hand out of three cards. The dealer must have at least a queen or higher to play the current hand. All players get paid 1:1 on their Ante bet if the dealer does not qualify. That also means that Play bets are returned to players.


However, if the dealer qualifies for the hand and holds better cards than the player, then that player loses the Ante and Play bets. On the other hand, if the player has better cards than the dealer, then the Ante and Play bets are paid to them at 1:1.


3 Card Poker Payouts

Simply put, the payouts in 3 card poker come from beating the dealer. But there are also the hand rankings. In 3 card poker, statistically, it’s much more likely to get a pair than receive three of a kind. So, accordingly, the payouts on Pair plus bet are as follows:


  • Straight Flush – 40:1
  • Three of a Kind – 30:1
  • Straight – 6:1
  • Flush – 4:1
  • One Pair – 1:1


However, should it happen that you don’t make at least one Pair, even if you have a winning hand against the dealer, you will lose the money placed in the Pair Plus wager.


3 Card Poker Strategy

When you look at it, the game is pretty self-explanatory, and everything revolves around the bet. You only need to decide which cards to use and whether to play bet or fold and lose Ante bet. On top of it, all the player chooses before the dealer plays. That makes it much harder to decide whether to play or fold.


So, in the end, one thing is for sure, and that’s the fact that dealers can only play with high queen hands. As a result, it stands to reason that if you hold a higher card and two other cards, you stand a good chance of winning. In other words, the dealer now has less chance of winning, even if he holds the queen.


However, not all other cards are excluded; for instance, holding Q, J, and six is not the same as holding Q, 4, and 3. Hence, here’s a general rule of thumb: players should play the hand only if they have Q, 6, and 4 or higher hands.



Three-card poker is a hugely enjoyable game, and it is also among the easiest of modern casino games to learn. It’s an excellent choice for players looking for an alternative to more time-intensive card games. Plus, if you let your competitive streak show (and why not?), you can find yourself in the middle of an exciting game, and who knows, you might even get lucky enough to take home a huge pot!


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