Learn to Play 3 Card Poker: Strategy, Rules, Tips

3 card poker
  • Learn to play 3 Card Poker - one of the most popular varieties of video poker games.
  • Master 3 Card Poker with our comprehensive guide to the best winning strategy.
  • Discover the best online casino to play 3 Card Poker for free or real money.

Like many video poker games, 3 Card Poker is fast, fun, and easy-to-learn, making it a bona fide favorite with players in online casino lobbies.

First created in 1994, 3 Card Poker offers the perfect blend of video poker strategy, skill, and chance with enticing payouts that have captured the imagination for decades. Today, 3 Card Poker is available at a whole host of brilliant online casinos in a casino game and live dealer lobby format.

A close relative of 3 Card Brag (which we'll discuss later), 3 Card Poker is similar to other exciting video poker games like Jacks or Better and Deuces Wild Poker as it is played against the House rather than other players.

In this article, you will find a complete guide to everything you need to know about 3 Card Poker, including:

What is 3 Card Poker?

At its core, 3 Card Poker is a game that sees players try to make the best possible poker hand from three cards in order to beat a dealer. In this regard, 3 Card Poker is similar to other casino poker games like Jacks or Better or Ultimate Texas Hold'em where you are not competing against fellow players.

However, where 3 Card Poker is unique is that it uses very few playing cards, as the name suggests. This also helps to keep the game simple and keeps the action ticking along at a nice speed.

3 Card Poker has a range of exciting betting options and the potential for huge payouts; continue reading as we discuss this in further detail in the next section.

How to Play 3 Card Poker

  1. Placing your bets - To start a 3 Card Poker hand, you must place an ante wager with a further opportunity to place an optional pairs plus wager. A pairs plus wager is a bet that you will be dealt at least a pair or better - with a pre-determined payout. An ante bet is what you stake against the dealer's hand.
  2. The cards are dealt - The dealer will then deal three cards face down to each player at the table and their own hand. Forget about the other players at the table, as they cannot affect the outcome in any way!
  3. Choosing to play - You will then look at your hand and decide whether you want to Fold or take on the dealer's cards. If you decide to play you'll need to place an additional play bet, which must be equal to your original ante wager. This is where video poker strategy will start to come into things - but we'll discuss that later!
  4. The cards are revealed - Say you decided to fold, the hand is dead, and the dealer will collect your ante wager and a pairs plus wager (if you placed one). Better luck next time. However, if you decide to play, now is the time to flip your cards and see if you beat the dealer's hand.
  5. Determining the winning hand - When the dealer has Jack-high or worse (J58, your play wager will be automatically returned to you. With Queen-high or better Q83, the play wager runs, and you are directly against the dealer. The following table explains the result of your bet according to the hand result:

    Hand OutcomeWager Outcome
    Dealer has Queen-high or lessAnte bet paid at odds of 1/1, play bet returned in full.
    Dealer & player have equal handsBoth Ante bet and play bet returned in full.
    Player hand beats dealerAnte bet and play bet both paid at odds of 1/1.
    Dealer hand beats playerDealer wins, ante and play bets lose.

But wait, there's more! Being a casino poker game means you can also get a bumper poker payout. Check out the next section below, where we show the 3-card poker card combos that can see you bag a bigger than-evens payout.

3 Card Poker Payouts and Odds

Unlike the rest of 3 Card Poker which is very simple, payouts can be slightly more complicated purely because there is both the Pair Plus Payout and Ante Bonus Payout to consider.

Pair Plus Payouts

As previously mentioned, a Pair Plus Wager is placed prior to the start of the hand and is paid out solely on the basis of the three cards you are dealt. These are the payouts from hitting a winning hand at this stage are as follows:

HandExample of Winning HandPayout Odds
Straight Flush910J40/1

Ante Bonus Payouts

The Ante Wager is paid out at the culmination of a 3 Card Poker hand, with payouts at the following odds:

HandExample of Winning HandPayout Odds
Straight Flush910J5/1

Now we've discussed how to play and the system of payouts involved in 3 Card Poker, let's move on and look at the correct basic strategy to employ in this video poker game.

3 Card Poker
A 3 Card Poker lobby.

The Best Basic 3 Card Poker Strategy

The best gamblers will always tell you the importance of strategy when playing any casino game, and using a video poker strategy in 3 Card Poker is no different. Luckily, a basic 3 Card Poker strategy is very easy to remember and can at least save you money in the long term and hopefully make some money, too.

These are the following circumstances in which you should make a Play Wager after seeing your cards:

  • Whenever you have a minimum of Queen Q, Six 6 & 4 4.
  • Whenever you have a minimum of Queen Q & Seven 7, irrespective of the value of the third card.
  • Any time you have an Ace A or a King K, regardless of the other two cards.
  • Any time you hit a winning hand from the off -a pair or better 6610.

The basic 3 Card Poker strategy dictates the following fold should be made:

  • When your highest card is a Jack or lower J510 (and you've not hit another winning combo), fold.

There we go! Now, that was nice and simple.

What is the House Edge in 3 Card Poker?

Naturally, 3 Card Poker has a house edge like any other casino game. However, as is common with video poker games, the house has less of an advantage than in many slot games, for example. Nevertheless, here are the following house edge statistics at different stages of a 3 Card Poker hand:

  • Ante bet: 3.37%
  • Play bet: 2.01% (assuming optimal strategy)
  • Pair Plus bet: 2.32%

The reality of a house edge means it's extra important to consider bankroll management as a key cornerstone of your video poker strategy. Always gamble responsibly - you can only win a hand if you're still in the game!

What is the Difference Between 3 Card Poker and 3 Card Brag?

3 Card Poker and 3 Card Brag are incredibly similar video poker variants that both use three cards to determine the winner.

However, despite some popular misconceptions, key differences do exist between the two games. Firstly, in 3 Card Brag, a three-of-a-kind is known as a "prial," ranking above a straight flush as the most powerful hand in the game.

Furthermore, betting structures differ between the two games. In 3 Card Poker, players place an ante bet and choose to play or fold after seeing their cards. In 3 Card Brag, players ante up and engage in a single round of betting.

There are other minor differences, including the optional Pair Plus side bet in 3 Card Poker, and there is the simple reality that 3 Card Poker is more widely available at online casinos.

Check out a simple table with the differences between 3 Card Poker and 3 Card Brag here:

Feature3 Card Poker3 Card Brag
Hand RankingsStraight Flush beats Three-of-a-KindThree-of-a-Kind (prial) beats Straight Flush
BettingAnte bet, then play bet or foldAnte bet & one round of betting
Other differencesOptional Pair Plus side betNo side bets

Where Can I Play 3 Card Poker?

Want to put your 3 Card Poker skills to the test?

Check out the section below where we will reveal the best online casinos to play 3 Card Poker for free or for real money in your location. Watch for a bonus or promotion (location-dependent), and start your casino poker journey today.

Play 3 Card Poker for Real Money

There are tons of epic real money casinos out there, and you can play at the best one for 3 Card Poker by clicking the link below. Be aware that the casino you are taken to will be tailored to your location, as will the bonuses on offer. Always gamble responsibly.

Play 3 Card Poker for Real Money

Play 3 Card Poker for Free

Playing 3 Card Poker at a social casino is an excellent way to get to grips with the game, testing out new strategies, practicing bankroll management, or enjoying casino poker in an area that doesn't allow real money gambling. Click the button to play free video poker at the best free-to-play site in your area.

Play 3 Card Poker for Free

3 Card Poker - FAQs

How do you play 3 Card Poker?

3 Card Poker is played against a dealer, with the winner holding the superior poker hand from three cards only. There are other side bets to be aware of that can also see you win which are discussed in the article.

What is the payout for 3 Card Poker?

3 Card Poker has a number of different payouts that will depend on stake size and whether you choose to play a side bet. Overall, a payout can range from anything between 1/1 returns and 40/1.

What is the best way to win at 3 Card Poker?

The best way to win at 3 Card Poker is to follow a strategy that ensures you are only choosing to wager a play bet at the correct while also knowing when to fold your hand. It is important to remember, though, that even when played with an optimum strategy, 3 Card Poker still has a house edge so you must always gamble responsibly.

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Casino Content Executive

Casino Content Executive