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 the return table.

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:

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.

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.


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 possible bonus wagering requirement.

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