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How to Play Three-Card Poker and a Hand Strategy You Need Know
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Three-card poker is a simple and fun poker game. Check out our guide on how to play and place bets, plus learn a winning strategy to use every game.
Three-card poker is a simple game that’s easy to learn and play online. While it’s largely a game of chance, players can use a proven strategy to help them decide when it’s best to place bets and when it’s the right time to fold. Take a look at our guide below to learn how to play and win three-card poker.
The Object of the Game
In three-card poker, it’s you against the dealer, also known as the “house.” Other players can play simultaneously at the same table, but their hands don’t relate to yours since they’re playing against the house, too. The object of the game is to have a three-card poker hand that’s better than the dealer’s hand.
Winning Hands in Three-Card Poker
Here are the possible winning poker hand combinations in three-card poker. We’ve ranked them from best to worst so you can determine how strong your hand is. Knowing the strength of your hand helps you to decide whether to bet or fold.
- Straight flush: Three consecutive cards of the same suit
- Three of a kind: Three cards of the same rank, also known as trips or triples
- Straight: Three consecutive cards of any suit
- Flush: Three nonconsecutive cards of the same suit
- Pair: Any two cards of the same rank
- High card: A single card with the highest rank of the three cards
If you don’t have at least a matching pair of cards, your hand is ranked according to its highest-value card. The remaining two cards are ranked below the high card in descending value order. These two side cards are known as “kickers” and are only used if your high card ties with the dealer. Your kickers are compared to the dealer’s; the hand with the highest-value kickers wins.
One variation you may see in some casinos is the addition of a mini royal flush. This winning hand consists of an ace, a king, and a queen of the same suit. It beats all other hands.
How to Play Three-Card Poker
A special three-card poker table, poker chips, and a standard 52-card deck are needed to play the game. Three-card poker tables only offer three ways to play the game, while others may include optional side bets. Check the betting rules of each game before you play to understand all bet options.
On a standard table, there will be three shapes in which to place your bets. One is labeled “pair plus.” Another is marked “ante,” and the last is labeled “play.” Each wager has a unique payout table, usually listed next to it.
Online three-card poker games vary depending on the casino or game creator. For example, it could be just you against a computer dealer, or you could play against a live dealer with other players present. However, the 52-card deck is always reshuffled for each hand.
Here’s how to play a regular game of three-card poker:
- Each player makes a bet. You place your bet only on the “ante,” only on the “pair plus,” or on both. The dealer then calls “no more bets.”
- The dealer deals the cards. Three cards are dealt face down in front of each player and the dealer. Players can look at their hands once all cards are dealt.
- If you’re betting ante or both ante and pair plus, decide whether to fold or call. To call or “raise,” you must place a bet equal to your ante bet in the “play” space on the table. Then, place the cards face down next to your bet. If folding, place your cards in front of your bets as a signal to the dealer that you’re out.
- If you’re only betting pair plus, no further bet is made. If you hold a winning pair-plus hand, place the cards face down next to your bet. If you don’t have a winner, place the cards in front of your bet to fold.
- The dealer takes the ante bets and clears the cards of all players who folded. Then, they turn their three cards face up for all to see. The dealer compares their hand to each remaining player and pays out all bets.
Three-Card Poker Payouts
There are a variety of ways to win a payout when playing three-card poker. First, let’s run through scenarios that happen at the end of the game. When the dealer compares their three-card hand to yours, there are a few ways it could play out:
- If the dealer’s hand has a queen or better as the high card, they are “open” to play the game. To beat them, your poker hand must outrank theirs. If you hold the winning hand, you’re paid even money on your ante and play bets. If the dealer holds the winning hand, you lose both bets.
- If the dealer’s high card is a jack or lower, the dealer can’t play. Your hand doesn’t have to outrank theirs. In this case, you’re paid out even money on your ante and your play bet is returned to you.
- If your hand ties the dealer’s hand, it’s called a “push.” The dealer makes no payouts and you keep both your ante and play bets.
Regardless of the dealer’s hand, you receive an ante bonus on your bet if you hold one of the following hands:
- Straight flush: 5 to 1
- Three of a kind: 4 to 1
- Straight: 1 to 1
If you made a pair-plus bet, you don’t have to beat the dealer to win a payout. Any time your hand has a set of pairs or better, you win this bonus. Pair-plus pay tables can vary among three-card poker games. Here’s a typical example:
- Straight flush: 40 to 1
- Three of a kind: 30 to 1
- Straight: 6 to 1
- Flush: 3 to 1
- Pair: 1 to 1
How to Win Three-Card Poker
There is a simple strategy to always use when playing three-card poker. If your hand is a queen, 6, and 4 or better, you should call and raise on your play bet. Fold every time your hand is lower than this three-card combination.
Three-Card Poker Variations
Now that we’ve discussed how basic three-card poker works, let’s get into some variations of the game. To change up the classic game and make it more exciting, casinos and online game creators have added different features.
Six-Card Bet Bonus
People flock to games with a six-card bet bonus because they provide opportunities to hit bigger jackpots. To play this version, you use your three cards and the dealer’s three cards to make the best five-card poker hand. Payouts are awarded according to the game’s six-card bet bonus pay table and can be as high as 2,000 to 1 for a royal flush.
When comparing six-card bet bonus games, compare pay tables and choose the ones that offer the best odds for three of a kind. Players will more frequently hit the three-of-a-kind bonus because this combination occurs more often than other winning hands.
Progressive Three-Card Poker
Progressive three-card poker is played like the original game, except that it offers a side bet option with a chance to hit a progressive jackpot with a winning hand. Bets are usually $1, and a part of each wager is added to the pot until someone wins. A player typically needs a mini royal flush in spades to win the full jackpot.
Smaller payouts are given for a mini royal flush in a suit other than spades, a straight flush, and three of a kind. This game version also includes an envy payout, so when one player strikes it big, other players receive a small bonus.
Three-Card Poker Prime
In this version, players can make a prime side bet. This bet is placed on all three cards in your hand or on six cards, which is your hand plus the dealer’s three. To win the prime bet payout, all three or all six cards must be the same color: either all red or all black. The suit doesn’t matter; it can be a mix.
Play Three-Card Poker Online Today
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