Rules and Strategy

# The Rules of Three-Card Poker

Three-card poker is starting to become a very popular variant amongst table and card game players in casinos. This is due to its ease of play and high entertainment associated in particular with online three-card poker.

Three-card poker is played with a total of 52 cards and it combines two games into one. Firstly you have three-card poker Play/Ante where you confront the dealer to see who has the strongest hand. The second game is called Pair Plus and this is where you place a bet on whether you receive a pair or better combination of cards. Be aware that in some casinos the rules will differ but more often than not you will be asked to first place the Play/Ante bet in order to be able to place a bet on Pair Plus.

## Three-Card Poker Gameplay

Once at the table you will notice that there are three betting circles in front of each seated position. At the top you have a circle for ‘Pair Plus’, in the middle is the betting circle for ‘Play’ and the circle nearest to your seated position is the circle for ‘Ante’. The game begins when a player places a bet on the Ante circle, which must be equal to the minimum amount indicated for that particular table.

Once all the players have finished placing their bets, the dealer distributes three cards to each of the player. The player to the left of the dealer is in the first position and the direction of play runs clockwise around the table.

## The Ranking of Hands in Three-Card Poker

Given that in three-card poker you only receive 3 cards with which to make your hand, the ranking of hands is different from that in traditional poker. This is due in particular to the mathematical probabilities associated with different hands. They are ranked from strongest to weakest hand in the following order.

Hand RankDescription
Straight FlushThree cards of the same suit in numerical sequence e.g. 6♣, 7♣, 8♣
3 of a KindThree cards of equal rank e.g. 6♣, 6♠, 6
StraightThree cards of any suit in sequential order e.g. 2, 3, 4♠
FlushThree cards of the same suit e.g. 3, 7, J
PairTwo cards of equal rank e.g. 7♠, 7
High HandA hand without a pair but with a high card

Some casinos have introduced a further three-card combination called a ‘Mini Royal’ which is a three-card version of a royal flush. It’s comprised of a suited A, K, Q combination and some casinos even give a better payout if it lands and it’s a particular pre chosen suit like the ’Super Mini Royal’ which is an A, K, Q. This is totally dependent on the casino you play at and is not part of the original games ranking of hands.

## Ante/Play in Three-Card Poker

If a player bets on the Ante, the rest of the players have to decide whether to call or to fold. If a player folds, he loses all the money from his wager. If the players wish to continue playing then they must make an additional bet which is equal to the Ante bet. This is placed in the betting circle marked ‘Play’.

Once all players have made their decisions, the dealer turns three cards face up. At this point for the dealer to stay in the competition they must be holding a least a pair of Queens or better. If this isn’t the case then all remaining players will receive money as a result of their bet on the Ante and whatever bets are in the Play circle will be returned.

If the dealer has a higher hand than yours, you lose all the money that you’ve wagered. If your hand is stronger than the dealers hand then you win money for the both the Ante and Play bets. If the dealer can’t play, then the strongest hand between competing players wins. In the case of a tie between the player and the dealer, then the player wins.

## Pair Plus in Three-Card Poker

The Pair Plus bet is made solely when your three card hand is composed of a pair or better. In this situation it doesn’t matter whether the dealer wins the round or not, as having a pair or greater will suffice for you to win this bet. In general you will be dealt a pair or a stronger combination of cards around 25% of the time.

If you play both types of bet then you must wait for the Ante/Play bet to be resolved. When making both bets you have to make the Play bet to get the payoff from the Pair Plus. This shouldn’t be an issue because you should always make the Play bet when holding a pair or higher. Many casinos use slightly different pay tables to increase the house edge on this type of bet. In general it’s usually around 2.3%.