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Three Card Poker

The casino version of Three Card Poker has become very popular in casinos world-wide, both online and in brick-and-mortar casinos. Just like other types of casino poker, you play against the dealer – not against your fellow players at the table.

The casino Three Card Poker is very easy to learn, so if you are new to casino poker, it is a great first choice and considerably less difficult to grasp than casino poker games such as Ultimate Texas Hold’em or Caribbean Stud Poker.

3 card poker

The deck

The standard casino version of Three Card Poker is played with a 52 card deck, using no jokers or other wildcards.

Communal cards

No communal cards are used in Three Card Poker. Each player, and the dealer, each get three cards. Also, there is no exchange of cards.

Three Card Poker Hand Rankings

Since you only have three cards, a special hand ranking system is used – one adapted to the three-card system. It is superficially similar to the standard five-card poker ranking system, but there are several notable differences and a common beginner mistake is to mixup the order. You might for instance erroneously believe that Three of a Kind ranks below a Straight, since it does in Texas Hold’em, but in Three Card Poker the Three of a Kind hand ranks just below a Straight Flush.

Rank Hand name Information
1Royal FlushA-K-Q of the same suit
2Straight FlushThree consecutive cards of the same suit (but not A-K-Q)
3Three of a KindThree cards of the same rank

Example: 8-8-8

4StraightThree cards of consecutive rank, but mixed suits


Example: 8 of spades – 9 of spades – 10 of hearts

5FlushThree cards of the same suit, but not consecutive rank

Example: 5-7-10 of spades

6PairTwo cards of matching rank


Example: The hand 5-5-7 of mixed suits.

7High cardIf the hand doesn’t fit any of the requirements listed above, it’s highest card will determine its rank


Example: The hand 2-5-Queen of mixed suits will beat the hand 8-9-Jack of mixed suits because Queen is higher than Jack.

Important: Always check the ranking system for the specific table you wish to play at, since some casinos invent their own ranking systems that deviates from the standard.

Gameplay procedure for Three Card Poker

This routine is employed in many, but not all, casinos that offer Three Card Poker.

Important: Some casinos let you do a pairplus wager in addition to the ante wager. You can read more about the pairplus bet below.

  1. You place your ante wager in the designated spot on the table.
  2. Each player, and the dealer, is dealt three cards each, face down.
  3. You get to look at your cards, but all other hands will be kept secret from you, and you will keep your hand secret.
  4. You fold or raise.
  • If you fold, you give up the hand, lose the ante, and the round is over for you.
  • If you raise, you place a second wager called the play bet on the table. The play bet must be of the same size as the ante.
  1. The dealer will turn over her cards and reveal her hand. Her hand will either qualify or not qualify. In most casinos, the dealer hand must be at least a high-card hand with Queen as the highest card to qualify. This means that for instance the hand 4-8-Q of mixed suits will qualify but the hand 4-8-J of mixed suits wont.

What happens next if the dealer’s hand doesn’t qualify?

Every player hand that hasn’t been folded gets paid 1:1 on the ante bet, and the play bet is returned to the player.

Example: Your ante bet is €50 and your play bet is €50. You get to keep both wagers, and get paid €50 on the ante. You now have €150 in front of you and have made a €50 profit.

What happens next if the dealer’s hand do qualify?

The dealer compares each player hand with her hand.

A player hand that is lower than the dealer hand loses both ante and play bet.

A player hand that is higher than the dealer hand gets paid 1:1 on the ante and 1:1 on the play bet.

In the case of a tie, the player keeps both wagers but doesn’t make a profit.

Ante Bonus payouts

If you get a great hand, i.e. straight or higher, you get a special Ante Bonus payout – regardless of if it is a winning hand or if the dealer even qualifies.

How large the Ante Bonus payouts are for Straight, Three of a Kind, Straight Flush, and Royal Flush will be announced on a sign at the table.

The rules for the Ante Bonus payout has a big impact on the overall house edge for Three Card Poker in casinos.

A common configuration is to pay 1x for a Straight, 4x for a Three of a Kind, and 5x for both the Straight Flush and the Royal Flush. A less common configuration is to pay 1x for a Straight, 8x for a Three of Kind, and 9x for both the Straight Flush and the Royal Flush. This paytable is of course much better for the player and reduces the house edge dramatically.

Three Card Poker

The pairplus bet

If you make the pairplus wager, you get a special pairplus payment if your hand is Pair or higher. (Hence the name pair-plus.)

  • The pairplus payment is awarded separately from any ante, play bet and ante bonus payments.
  • The pairplus payment is payed regardless of if the dealer qualifies or not.
  • The pairplus payment is payed regardless of if your hand is better than the dealer’s or not.

How much do I get paid?

The payment table can vary from one poker table to the next, so always check in advance.

Below you’ll see a commonly used paytable for the pairplus bet, but there is no guarantee that every Three Card Poker table will use it.

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

Please note, that since you don’t get paid for anything below a pair, the house has a pretty high edge on this specific bet. In other words, the casino really wants the players to do the pairplus bet, because it’s extra profitable to the house over time.

One example of a paytable that reduces the house edge a bit is this. Unsurprisingly, it is much more uncommon than the one above.

  • Straight flush pays 40x
  • Three of a kind pays 32x
  • Straight pays 6x
  • Flush pays 4x
  • Pair pays 1x

Strategy tips for casino Three Card Poker

Basic strategy

  • Always raise of you have Q-6-4 (mixed suits) or better.
  • Always fold if you have Q-6-3 (mixed suits) or worse.

To undertand how this strategy works, it is important to know that in a situation where both the dealer’s hand and your hand is a high-card hand, and you both have the same rank highest card, the second-highest card will be used to break the tie. If the second-highest cards are also of the same rank, the third card will be used to break the tie.

Example: You have Q-6-4 and the dealer has Q-6-3. You win, because Q & Q are identical, 6 & 6 are identical, and 4 is higher than 3.

What if I play at a table where the player always wins ties on the ante bet?

In an effort to attract players, some casinos employ a rule that says that a tie on the ante bet will be won by the player (instead of being a push). It’s a nice touch, but it doesn’t have a huge impact on the house edge since ties are fairly uncommon in Three Card Poker.

This rule does however change the recommended basic strategy a bit.

  • Raise of you have Q-6-4 (mixed suits) or better.
  • Raise if you have Q-6-3 and each card is of a different suit.
  • Fold all other hands.

Why stay in the game with Q-6-3 if each card is of a diferent suit? Because if you have a card from three different suits, it lowers the risk of the dealer getting a Flush.

Is Three Card Poker available online?

Yes, Three Card Poker is available online: both in animated casinos where a random number generator determines the outcome and in live-dealer casinos where a real deck of cards is used.

One of the most famous providers of Three Card Poker for live dealer casinos online is Evolution Gaming, who has spiced up the game by offering a Six Card Bonus Bet. To get paid on this sidebet, you need to create a given five-card poker hand using the six cards dealt to you and the dealer.

Relationship to Brag

Three Card Poker is believed to be an offshoot of Three Card Brag, a British card game played as early as the 16th century. Brag is still a popular game, especially in the UK and in certain parts of the world that used to be included in the British Empire.

  • In Three Card Brag, each player is dealt three cards. You look at your cards, but keep them hidden from the other players.
  • The betting system for Three Card Brag is similar to the one used for many modern fixed-limit five-card poker games.
  • The hand rankings are the same for Three Card Brag and Three Card Poker, but in brag you can lose or win a tie based on the betting order.