How to Play 3 Card Poker

One of the newest casino games, 3 Card Poker has quickly become a firm favourite for novice players and experienced gamblers alike. Mixing the strategy and skill of Texas Holdem with the speed of Blackjack, 3 Card Poker is simple, versatile and, most importantly, it’s incredibly fun! 

In this concise guide, we’ll run you through basic 3 Card Poker rules, its short history, payouts, and strategies, so you’ll be in the know about the hottest game in town.


Invented in 1994 with the aim of combining the excitement of regular poker with the speed of other casino games, the game was first adopted by a casino in Mississippi after it was rejected by casinos in Las Vegas, Reno, and Atlantic City. Since then, its popularity has exploded across the world, becoming a mainstay on the casino floor and even breaking into the online world.

3 Card Poker Rules

Unlike traditional poker games, you don’t play against other players. Instead, you play against the dealer, attempting to beat their hand. One of the unique aspect of 3 Card Poker is that it’s actually two games in one. Depending on the house rules, you can choose to play either or both during the course of the game.

The table layout is similar to that of Blackjack, with the dealer on one side and the player on the other. In front of each player are three separate betting spots labeled ‘Play’, ‘Ante’, and ‘Pair Plus’, representing the different actions players can take in any given round. To get a basic understanding of how to play 3 Card Poker, let’s run through your average round – starting with Ante/Play:

As previously mentioned, players have the option of placing a bet in the ‘Pair Plus’ circle. This is usually a side wager played alongside the main game, in which the player automatically wins if they have a pair or better in their hand. The wager from Pair Plus is won regardless of whether the player loses their Ante or Play bets, with the payouts varying from table to table. This is the second game we mentioned earlier when stating that 3 Card Poker is actually two games in one.

In some cases, Pair Plus can be played separately to the Ante rounds, with bets being accepted on this without standing bets on the Ante or Play sections. Whether this is allowed or not varies according to the house’s 3 Card Poker rules. 

Hand Rankings

There is very little difference between the hand rankings for Texas Holdem and 3 Card Poker. However, due to 3 Card Poker odds, some combinations are ranked higher. In order from lowest to highest they are:

Ante Bonus Payouts

Unlike other forms of poker, each hand has a different additional payout associated with it. According to 3 Card Poker rules, if you have a Straight, Three of a Kind, or a Straight Flush, you will receive a bonus (you can find out how much by looking at the game’s paytable) – whether you beat the dealer or not! The specific payout for these hands usually are:

3 Card Poker Strategy

Due to the relative simplicity of the Ante portion of the game, there is really only one 3 Card Poker strategy. Common wisdom dictates that you should fold anything lower than a Queen and six-four, and you should play the hand if it’s anything higher. For example, if you are dealt a Queen, a five, and a two – you should fold the hand. However, you should still play the hand if the first card is a Queen and the second card is higher than six, regardless of the third card. The in-depth reason is fairly technically, but if you have a Queen six-three, you are expected to lose 1.00255 units, while if you play with a Queen six-four, you’re expected to lose 0.993378 units – less than the one unit of folding.

While there’s no concrete 3 Card Poker strategy for the Pair Plus portion of the game, there are steps you can take to improve your potential winnings. Realistically, as the only decision is whether to bet or not, it’s important to know the payouts for Pair Plus when considering a wager. Additionally, the house advantage is incredibly low – just 2.3% – for Pair Plus games, making 3 Card Poker odds very attractive to players with a bit of nerve.

The secret of 3 Card Poker’s success is undoubtedly its simplicity and speed, making it a great choice whether you play the regular game or just Pair Plus. Now that you’re an expert on 3 Card Poker rules, why not up the ante and give it a go?