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Have other poker players frustrated you to no end? If that question yields a positive answer, it might be time to give Three-card poker a try, where the dealer will be the only life form you see — save for the creepy-crawlies lurking under the table.

Well, that’s not entirely true. A Three-card poker table can seat multiple players, but they’ll all be playing exclusively against the dealer. That way, you can still have a chat with other players without having to make mental gymnastics in order to figure out what they’re holding.

In this post, we’ll cover everything there is to know about Three-card poker, including the basics, the bets, the hand rankings, the payouts and the optimal strategy.


Don’t worry; you won’t need to rack your brains to figure out how to play Three-card poker. The gameplay is pretty simple, and it will get even simpler once you’ve racked up some experience under your belt.

Here’s how Three-card poker is played.

  • The player’s ante bet kicks things off. The player can also choose to place a pair plus wager.
  • The dealer hands three cards dealt face down to both sides (the player and the dealer).
  • The player will then evaluate whether their hand is worth progressing with or not. The best strategy is to play all hands greater than Queen, six and four, whereas the rest of the hands should be folded. If the player wishes to play their hand, they must place the ‘play’ bet — which is of equal value to the player’s ante wager.
  • In the event that the player folds, the game will stop there and the dealer will collect the player’s ante wager and pair plus wager.
  • In the event that the player decides to place the play bet, the six cards (both the player’s hand and the dealer’s hand) will be flipped over to determine which hand wins.
  • If the dealer has a hand of Jack-high or worse, the play wager is returned to the player. If the dealer has a hand of Queen-high or better, both the play wager and the ante are paid out at 1 to 1 if the player has a better hand than the dealer.
  • However, should the dealer’s hand win, both the ante and the play bet are collected by the dealer. The fate of the pair plus wager is determined independently of the outcome of the hand.


Seeing as Three-card poker is a relatively simple game, there are very few rules that new players must learn. Rest assured that if you’ve played regular poker in the past, you won’t have any problem getting accustomed to this poker game.


The ante bet — also called the ‘ante-play‘ — is a forced bet that players must place to begin the round.

The play bet is an optional bet chosen by players who wish to go toe to toe with the dealer’s hand. This bet must be equal to the ante.

Apart from the ante and play bets is the pair plus wager: an optional wager chosen by players who hope to make a pair or better. This bet must be placed before any cards are dealt.


Once the ante (and optional pair plus wager) is placed, three cards are dealt to both the player and the dealer. The objective of the game is to make a higher-ranking hand than the dealer’s hand.


Once the player’s hand and the dealer’s hand have been dealt, the player must determine whether their hand is a worthy contender in the head-to-head encounter. This is where play wagers come in.

The player can decide to fold. If the player folds, the player’s hand is discarded and the game ends. All bets (except for the pair plus wager) will then be collected.

Alternatively, the player can decide to place the play wager if they deem their hand worthy of contending with the dealer’s. The play wager must be equal to the ante wager.


The game rules will vary greatly between all three-card poker variants, so take a moment and read through them before you throw down the chips.

You’ll find that tables may offer unique side bets, different winning combinations or even special cards, like jokers, that can help you win.

To see how each bet pays, players can give the paytable a gander by heading to the game rules under the ‘?’ tab. Bear in mind that all bonus bets are completely optional, so you can choose to opt out of these wagers if you don’t wish to risk extra chips.

That said, players looking to boost their payout might want to give side bets a try. The house edge might fluctuate depending on the bets placed.


The great thing about Three-card poker is that there aren’t too many bets to learn about. With three main bets (of which one is optional), Three-card poker becomes extremely straightforward to play after a round or two if you’re new to the game.


The ante wager is a forced bet that players must place to begin the round. Play cannot commence without the player’s ante wager.


The play wager is an optional bet chosen by players who wish to go toe to toe with the dealer’s hand. This bet must be equal to the ante.

If the player decides against placing the play bet, the game will come to an end. The ante bet will be taken, whereas the only active bet will be the pair plus wager, or any other special wagers specific to the table game being played.


The pair plus bet is an optional one, and it will pay if the player is dealt a pair, flush, straight, three of a kind or straight flush. The pair plus bet will remain active even if the player folds.


With so few bets, some players might grow bored of Three-card poker. This is why many online casinos try to offer Three-card poker games that include a number of special bets to add a twist to the action.


The play both bet is simply a combination of the ante wager and the pair plus wager. Should the player make a pair or better and beat the dealer, the bet will pay.


Players who make the ante and play wagers may qualify for a bonus payout even if the dealer doesn’t qualify, and even if the dealer’s hand is the winner.

To win the ante bonus wager, the player must hold a straight, three of a kind or straight flush.


The hand rankings of Three-card poker aren’t too different from Texas hold’em, only that there is no five-card poker hand. In this game, three cards are used to make a hand, and this is mirrored in the possible hand rankings.

Here are the hand rankings, starting from the strongest hand to the weakest:

  • Straight Flush: consisting of three consecutive cards of the same suit — is the best hand in the game. Straight flushes all the other hands except for a higher straight flush.
  • Three Of A Kind: three cards of the same rank are required to make a three of a kind, which beats all the other hands except for straight flushes.
  • Straight: consisting of three consecutive cards of different suits. For example, a 10-9-8 would make a straight. This hand is quite strong since it beats the rest of the hands except for the two stronger hands.
  • Flush: consisting of three cards of the same suit, but they must not be consecutive. For example, 10-8-5 would make a flush.
  • Pair: consisting of two cards of the same rank, such as two queens. A pair beats a high card and, at most, a pair of a lower rank.
  • High card: a high card is the worst hand possible. It is made up of three cards that don’t form any of the hands listed above. A high card won’t beat any made hands except for another high card of a lower rank.


Ties in this poker variant work just like any other game. Ties are settled by what are known as kickers or high cards.

The kicker refers to the cards in a poker hand that don’t contribute to the made hand.

For example, A-A-10 and A-A-9 feature one pair of aces.

The other card is the tie-breaker, that is, the kicker. In this case, the former hand is victorious since the kicker (10) outranks the latter hand’s kicker (9).


The payouts of Three-card poker are some of the easiest to remember of all casino games since every basic bet pays even money.

  • Dealer’s hand doesn’t qualify: ante wager 1:1, play wager PUSH
  • Dealer’s hand qualifies and is higher: ante wager PUSH, play wager PUSH
  • Dealer’s hand qualifies and is lower: ante wager 1:1, play wager 1:1


The Three-card poker pair plus payouts are understandably quite different, as they reward the rarest hands. You’ll need at least a pair to be paid even money.

  • Straight flush: 40:1
  • Three of a kind: 30:1
  • Straight: 6:1
  • Flush: 3:1
  • Pair: 1:1


In variants like Caribbean Stud, rare hands won’t be rewarded if the dealer’s hand doesn’t qualify. Three-card poker mitigates that through the ante bonus.

If a player has placed both the ante and play bets, and the dealer reveals a non-qualifying hand (meaning a hand that doesn’t include at least a Queen), your play wager is returned as a push.

However, if you hold a straight, three of a kind or straight flush, you’ll earn a special bonus payout, even though your other result was a push.

The ante bonus payouts are as follows:

  • Straight flush: 5:1 payout, odds of 1 in 453
  • Three of a kind: 4:1 payout, odds of 1 in 415
  • Straight: 1:1 payout, odds of 1 in 29.6


By placing an additional wager, equal to the ante, players can make their hands eligible for the six card bonus, which pays as follows.

  • Royal flush: 1,000:1
  • Straight flush: 200:1
  • Four of a kind: 100:1
  • Full house: 20:1
  • Flush: 15:1
  • Straight: 9:1
  • Three of a kind: 8:1


The progressive side bet isn’t found at every table game at present, but it definitely is growing in popularity, as seen from the many casinos that are incorporating it in their tables.

This side bet usually requires a bet equal to the ante and it pays depending on the best possible hand.

  • Ace/king/queen of spades: 100% of the progressive jackpot
  • Ace/king/queen in other suits: 500:1
  • Straight flush: 70:1
  • Three of a kind: 60:1
  • Straight: 6:1


As we’ve mentioned earlier, the best strategy to play Three-card poker is to only place the play bet when dealt a queen-six-four or better, including any time your high card is an ace or a king.

If your high card is a jack or lower, we recommend folding — no matter how high your other two cards are.

This is the most popular and basic Three-card poker strategy that has been formulated for Three-card poker.

Of course, we recommend practising and creating your own strategy. For all we know, there might be a better strategy out there, and you could be the one to find it!


This game is played with a 52-card deck and, like any online casino game, digital betting chips.
The rules and objectives in three-card poker are very simple: try and form the best three-card poker hand possible and beat the dealer.

The two most basic differences between the two games is that, in Three-card poker, three cards are dealt to the player instead of two.
Moreover, this variant is played exclusively against the dealer, whereas Texas hold'em is played against other players.

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