How To Play Poker

How To Play 3 Card Poker: Your Simple Guide


Published: February 27, 2024
Written by Global Poker

Get fast and furious with this simple guide to playing 3 card poker 

There are many different games to play at the casino; some require luck while others are heavily reliant on strategy. Poker involves a mix of both, which is why it has grown into one of the most popular games at online and traditional establishments. Poker has evolved over the years and spawned many different variations; 3 Card Poker is one of the simpler and faster versions to play and is available at almost all casinos.

What is 3 Card Poker?

3 Card Poker can trace its origins back to 1994 when a man by the name of Derek Webb sought to create a version of poker that could match the speed and enjoyment of other table games. Patented in 1997, the game received mixed results when it was first unveiled to the public. Still, it has since gone in to be a beloved mainstay in most casinos. Unlike other forms of poker, the player is only dealt three cards and plays against the dealer. 

3 Card Poker Hand Rankings 

Unlike most other forms of poker, 3 Card Poker only has six possible hands.

From lowest to highest they are:

High Card:

No card combinations. The highest-ranked card determines the strength of the hand.


Ace High – 3, 4 Ace.


Two cards of the same denomination.


Pair of Queens – Queen, Queen, 9.


Three cards of the same suit, irrespective of sequential order.


Heart Flush – 9 of hearts, 3 of hearts, 7 of hearts.


Three cards in sequential order, suits don’t matter. Ace can be used as 1 in a low straight, and as the end of a high straight, it’s the only card that is used both high and low.


High Straight – Queen, King, Ace.

Three Of A Kind:

Three cards of the same rank, the suits don’t matter.


King, King, King.

Straight Flush:

Three cards in sequential order that are also the same suit.


Jack of clubs, Queen of clubs, King of clubs.

3 Card Poker Rules

To win 3 Card Poker, the player has to have a better three-card hand combination than the dealer. The cards are ranked from lowest starting at 2 and the highest ending with Ace. They are in order from lowest to highest 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace.

To initiate the game, players place an ante wager, receiving three face-down cards. At this point, there is an option to fold and restart the round, forfeiting the ante, or keep playing and call which requires another bet equal to the original ante. 

If play continues, the dealer and the player show their cards; whoever has the highest-ranked poker hand wins. The dealer automatically folds if their hand isn't a Queen High or better. Payouts are 1:1, meaning if you bet 50, you win another 50. In the event of a tie, then nothing happens and the game restarts.

Most casinos will also offer additional betting options other than the ante. The most common is wagering on having a pair or higher, known as the Pair Plus bet. The only requirement to win the wager is to have a pair or better; it doesn't matter if the dealer wins the overall game with a higher-ranked hand. There can also be a bonus ante payment if you achieve certain card combinations. However, keep in mind that if you make all available bets, and lose, your chip stack can disappear very quickly.

3 Card Poker Pay Table

Pair Plus Payouts

Straight Flush – 40 to 1

Three of a Kind – 30 to 1

Straight – 6 to 1

Flush – 3 to 1

Pair – 1 to 1

Ante Bonus Payouts

Straight Flush – 5 to 1

Three of a Kind – 4 to 1

Straight – 1 to 1

3 Card Poker Strategies

3 Card Poker doesn't have bluffing or other deception-based tactics common to many poker variations. However, there are still several strategies available to players that can increase the odds of coming out with more wins than losses.

Avoid Unnecessary Bets

The Pair Plus bet may seem like a good idea, and the payouts can be quite tempting, however it also increases the house edge by nearly 3 per cent. The house edge is the mathematical advantage the casino has over the player, which results in an assured percentage that the casino will win over time. 3 Card Poker has a relatively small house edge that starts at 3.3 percent, betting on a Pair Plus raises the house edge to almost 6 per cent. Ultimately, players are free to bet however they choose; if you are happy to weaken your odds to increase your possible payout, go right ahead, just be aware of the numbers.

Don't Play Weak Cards

Anything below a pair is not worth playing. As a minimum, only play hands higher than Queen, 6, 4 and fold everything else.

Learn the Rules

Understanding hand rankings, ante bets, and Pair Plus enhances your chances of success. Knowing the rules isn't essential to play, but it does increase the odds of success, and that’s what it’s all about!

Practice Online First

Most online casinos offer free to play 3 Card Poker providing chances to practice and enjoy the game without the pressure of wagering real funds.

Have a Fixed Betting Limit

Establish a fixed budget, and stick to it. If you start chasing losses or go over your set amount, walk away and come back another day.

Why Players Love 3 Card Poker

3 Card Poker had a bit of a rough start when it first debuted at a casino, the reception was lukewarm at best, but it has since gone on to be one of the most popular table games at gaming venues.

Everyone has their own reasons for enjoying the poker variant, the vast majority of people though can attribute their fondness for the game to one of the following.

Easy to Learn

Its simplicity allows players of all skill levels to enjoy the game without feeling overwhelmed.

Variety of Strategies

Strategy plays a more significant role in 3 Card Poker than most of its other counterparts which rely heavily on luck. A clever player can increase their chances of success with the right strategy and hand selection.

Variety of Betting Options

3 Card Poker offers a wide range of betting options. Depending on the version being played, nearly every game will have the standard Ante and Pair Plus bets, but some will offer extra side wagers with other stipulations.

Free to Play Options

There are options to play online for real or test out your skills and play for free. Keep in mind though that the free to play versions of the game are strictly for fun, no winnings can be redeemed.

Online Gameplay

Most online casinos offer 3 Card Poker games that can be played anywhere, at any time, if you have access to a reliable internet connection. It doesn't matter if you are in the middle of nowhere, or at a dinner with the in-laws, you can play. Many sites will also offer bonuses and incentives to play certain game types.

3 Card Poker Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is 3 card poker?

3 Card Poker is a casino table game that was introduced in 1994 by Derek Webb. It is a variant of poker designed to be faster and simpler than traditional poker games. In 3 Card Poker, each player is dealt only three cards and competes against the dealer to achieve the best three-card hand.

How to win at 3 card poker

To win at 3 Card Poker, players aim to have a better three-card hand than the dealer. The hands are ranked from lowest to highest, including high card, pair, flush, straight, three of a kind, and straight flush. Players place an ante wager, receive three cards, and decide whether to fold and forfeit the ante or continue by making a play bet equal to the original ante. The dealer must have a Queen High or better to compete, and the highest-ranked hand wins.

Is 3 card poker a good game to play
3 Card Poker is considered a good game to play for several reasons. It is easy to learn, accommodates players of different skill levels, and offers a variety of strategies that can enhance the player's chances of success. The game also provides diverse betting options, including the popular Pair Plus bet, and can be played online with free-to-play options available for practice.

Does 3 card poker have good odds

3 Card Poker generally has relatively good odds compared to some other casino games. The house edge for the standard game starts at 3.3%, making it favorable for players. However, the odds can be influenced by additional bets, such as the Pair Plus bet, which may increase the house edge. It's essential for players to be aware of the odds associated with different bets and make strategic decisions to maximize their chances of winning.

Should I Bet a Pair Plus in 3 Card Poker?

Betting Pair Plus in 3 Card Poker can be tempting, but it often increases the house edge, jeopardizing your odds of success. To maximize wins, avoid risky side plays and concentrate on beating the dealer through strategic gameplay and understanding the game's nuances.