3-Card Poker

About 3-Card Poker

Three Card Poker (found under the name Poker Three in Playtech software) is a table poker game using 3-card poker hands. There is no replacement of cards. Some large wins can make the game interesting to play but it also results in high variance. The house edge of 3-card poker is medium. Three Card Poker is available at all major casino softwares.

3-Card Poker Rules

The basic bet in Three Card Poker is Ante & Play. After placing ante bet the player is dealt a 3-card poker hand. The hands are ranked in the following order:

  • Straight flush (three suited consecutive cards)
  • 3 of a kind
  • Straight (three unsuited consecutive cards)
  • Flush
  • One Pair
  • High card

Notice that in 3-card-poker the straight is ranked higher than flush and 3 of a kind is the second highest hand.

After getting the 3-card hand, the player must choose to either fold his hand, losing the ante bet, or raise the hand doubling his bet. If the player raises and chooses to play the hand, then dealer is dealt a 3-card poker hand as well. The dealer needs to “qualify” to play the hand. The dealer qualifies with queen high or better. If the dealer qualifies then player’s and dealer’s hands are compared according to the ranking above and if player’s hand is better, he will win 1:1 the full bet (Ante & Play bet). If dealer’s qualifies and his hand is better, then player loses the whole bet. If both hands tie then the bet is returned.

If the dealer doesn’t qualify (ie. doesn’t have at least queen high) then player wins 1:1 on the Ante bet and the raise bet is returned. In addition, if player gets a straight or higher hand, he will receive additional Ante Bonus payout on his Ante bet according to table below.

Three Card Poker Ante Bonus Return table

Hand Payout Odds
Straight flush 5:1 1 in 460
3 of a kind 4:1 1 in 425
Straight 1:1 1 in 30
Less than straight no bonus  

>The Ante Bonus is paid independent of Dealer’s hand, whether Dealer qualifies or not. It is possible that the player’s hand loses to Dealer’s hand (for example both get straights but dealer’s straight is ranked higher), and the player still receives the Ante bonus but loses the Ante & Play bets.

Pair Plus Bet

In addition to Ante & Play bet, there is a possibility to make Pair Plus bet. This bet pays simply on Player’s 3-card hand and the lowest paying hand is one pair. The bet is independent on Dealer’s hand. The standard paytable for Pair Plus bet is:

Three Card Poker Pair Plus bet paytable

Hand Payout Odds
Straight flush 40:1 1 in 460
3 of a kind 30:1 1 in 425
Straight 6:1 1 in 30
Flush 4:1 1 in 20
One pair 1:1 1 in 6
High card bet loses 3 in 4

The Player can make either Ante & Play bet or Pair Plus bet or both, and can bet any amount on either bet. So the player can bet on Pair Plus only without having to bet on Ante & Play bet.

Optimal Strategy

There is no strategy on the Pair Plus bet. On the Ante & Play bet the optimal strategy is to raise all hands that are Q/6/4 or better. So the player should fold on Q/6/3 but raise on Q/6/4. This strategy minimizes the expected loss per hand played.

3-Card Poker Introduction Video

House edge and Rule variations

The house edge of Pair Plus bet is 2.32% with standard paytable. The house edge of Ante & Play bet over certain amount of wagering is 2.01%. So the Ante & Play bet is a better choice when wagering through a bonus. However, since the Pair Plus bet has some large payouts, the player might prefer to bet on Pair Plus as well to increase the variance, with the cost of increasing the total house edge just a little bet.

Some casino softwares have different paytables than the standard ones listed above. Some Wagerworks casinos have 2.70% house edge for the Pair Plus bet and NetEnt casinos have 5.02% house edge for the Pair Plus bet. This bet is not recommended at these casinos. The Ante & Play paytable is usually the standard one.

Variance and Results Over Bonus Wagering Requirement

The standard deviation of Ante & Play bet is 1.27 (over bonus wagering). The standard deviation of Pair Plus bet 2.91. Therefore you might prefer to make Pair Plus bets for a chance of a large win and Ante & Play bet to complete the actual wagering requirement.

The following table shows Chance of Gain, Risk of Busting and the Bonus EV for different wagering requirements and Ante bet sizes when completing the wagering requirement by playing the Ante & Play bet only (no Pair Plus bet). See the return and variance calculator for other bet sizes and WRs.

Chance of Gain / Risk of busting

Bet size 10 x B 30 x B 60 x B
1 97% / 0% 70% / 5% 40% / 28%
2 93% / 0% 65% / 13% 39% / 44%
5 80% / 4% 63% / 24% 38% / 56%
20 60% / 29% 41% / 56% 29% / 70%
Bonus EV 79.9 39,7 -20.6

Choose the correct wagering requirement and your preferred bet size. The bet sizes
are relative to 100€ bonus. (ie. for 200€ bonus, multiply the bet size by two).

The table lists Chance of Gain and Risk of busting. The numbers are derived
by simulating 1000 sessions so they are not absolutely accurate.
Chance of Gain = Probability to end up with profit after completing the bonus wagering requirement
Risk of bust = Probability to lose the whole bankroll (deposit and bonus) before completing
the bonus wagering requirement.

The "Bonus EV" lists the expected value of the bonus. The values are relative to 100€ bonus
(ie. For 200€ bonus, multiply the EV by two).

The following image shows the probability distribution of the end result after completing 30xB wagering requirement with Ante bet size 5.