The Ultimate Guide for 3-Card Poker

You may have heard of 3-card poker; but, if you’ve never played it before, you’re in the right place to learn.

This article will discuss 3-card poker, including its rules, strategies, ranking of 3-card poker hands, bankroll management, the Texas Hold’em variant, and much more. It will help you understand this easy and fun poker game better, so you can enjoy playing and winning online and live games. 

3-Card Poker Rules: Learning the Basics

The 3-card poker game is played with a standard deck of 52 playing cards and poker chips for betting. It’s a simple poker game that’s easy to learn and fun to play.

How to win at 3-card poker? That’s simple: make the best possible 3-card poker hand in a heads-up with the dealer.

The objective of the game is to have your hand beat the dealer’s hand. As the name suggests and 3-card poker rules dictate, the game is played with three cards, with no exchanges or drawing of additional cards. 

The wager in a 3-card poker game is divided into two betting options:

  • Ante: Before starting, each player needs to make a bet in the ante spot. It’s considered a bet against the dealer’s hand, and to win the ante, your cards need to beat the dealers.
  • Pair Plus: The pair plus is where you play your hand. To win this bet, the player’s hand must equal a pair, flush, straight, three of a kind, or straight flush. 

It’s important to note that there are variations of the 3-card poker game betting rules; usually, different casinos and online tables have different requirements. Typically, an ante is required to play a hand, whereas the play plus bet is optional.

Whereas others allow you to bet either the ante or the play plus, in which case you either play against the dealer (ante) or your hand (pair plus).

During each hand, each player and the dealer are dealt three facedown cards. As mentioned, the 3-card poker game is played against the dealer, and the other players’ cards have no relevance to your game.

3-Card Poker: How to Play

A hand begins with the player placing an ante and receiving three cards in exchange. Then, depending on the hand they are dealt, the player can either play their hand or fold it. 

If the player decides to:

  • Play: They continue the hand by matching their ante bet with a “play” bet of equal value.
  • Fold: They give up their hand, ante bet, and pair plus bet (if applicable) without risking any more wagers.

The final step is for players to reveal their cards while the dealer does the same. The hands are compared, and the wagers are collected or rewarded depending on the higher-ranking hand.

If the dealer has a J-high card hand or worse, they don’t qualify to play. Then, all remaining players win an equal amount of the ante bet, but their play bets are “pushed,” meaning players neither win nor lose their play bet wagers. If the dealer doesn’t qualify to play, the player will win the ante bet and push their play bet as long as they “played” the hand. It doesn’t matter if the player had a worse or better hand. 

If the dealer has a Q-high card hand or better, they qualify to play the 3-card poker game, and their hand is compared to the player’s hand. If the dealer’s hand is better, the player loses their ante and plays bets. If the player’s hand is better, they win an equal amount of their ante and play bets.

Since the pair plus bet is independent of the dealer’s hand, the player loses their pair plus wager if their hand doesn’t make a pair or better, or they get the corresponding winnings according to the payout of a pair or better hand.

Basic 3-Card Poker Strategy

As with any card game, there is a basic strategy involved that players use to overcome their odds and beat the house. For example, the most basic 3-card poker strategy is to typically “play” all Q-high card hands or better and “fold” all other hands.

Like any gambling game, the house always has a slight edge. In the case of a 3-card poker game, it’s typically around 2%. However, depending on the payouts, the ante bonus and pair plus edges are slightly different depending on the casino.

On average, a European casino may have a house edge of a little under 3%, whereas an American casino may have a house edge of a little over 7% for pair plus and ante bonuses. 

Modified Strategy When You Know One of the Dealer’s Cards

Some casinos reveal one dealer card to entice you to play; however, the house makes up for this lost edge in different ways, like lower payouts. Therefore, your 3-card poker strategy should be different from your basic strategy if you know one of the dealer’s cards.

If the revealed dealer card is a:

  • Jack or Lower: Always make a play bet because the odds that the dealer’s hand won’t qualify or will be lower than your hand are increased. 
  • Queen: Only play with Q, 9, 2, or better. You need a Queen to match the dealer’s high-card hand, and your second card has to be stronger and better than the average card value to beat out the dealer’s potential “kicker.”
  • King: Only play with a K, 9, 2 or better. The same “Queen” strategy applies here but with a King to match the dealer’s King.
  • Ace: Only Play with an A, 9, 2.

Being a much simpler poker game than Texas Hold’em poker, the strategies for 3-card poker are far easier to learn and implement. Thus, allowing you to play better and win more during any 3-card poker game.

3-Card Poker Hands

The basic poker hands ranking applies in 3-card poker hands ranking, except using only three cards and the straight being higher than the flush. So naturally, there is no 2-pair hand in a 3-card poker game because there is no fourth card to pair the kicker with.

Let’s discuss the basic card values, suits, and hands ranking of 3-card poker. 

3-Card Poker Card Values and Suit Ranking

The rank of each card used in 3-card poker when making a hand, in order of highest to lowest rank, are:
Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2. In addition, keep in mind that a 3-card poker suit ranking doesn’t exist because all suits are considered equal in rank. 

3-Card Poker Hands Ranking

Now that we understand the basic card values and suit rankings, let’s look at the 3-card poker hands ranking from best to worst.

  • Royal Flush: A 3-card royal flush is an A-K-Q in any matching suit.
  • Straight Flush: Three cards of consecutive value and in the same suit, like Qh-Jh-10h.
  • 3-of-a-Kind: Three cards of equal value, like 9-9-9.
  • Straight: Three cards of consecutive value, like 8-7-6.
  • Flush: Three cards of the same suit, like Kd-7d-4d.
  • One Pair: Two matching cards of equal value, plus a kicker, like Q-Q-7.
  • High-Card: The highest card between non-paired cards with no consecutive order or matching suit between them, like Ac-7s-3d.

When a high-card hand is tied with another high-card, the second card’s value will decide the win, and so on; this is similar to regular poker. So, for example, A-9-3 beats A-7-5, and K-9-5 beats K-9-3.

The royal flush, straight flush, and 3-of-a-kind are considered the best hands in 3-card poker, in that order. The hierarchy of 3-card poker hands ranking is the same for the dealer and player to maintain fair play.

However, as mentioned earlier, there is always a slight house edge. 3-card poker is a gambling game, and like any gambling game, there are odds to be considered. However, by using the strategies mentioned above, you are guaranteed to come out on top.

3-Card Poker Hands Odds

Here is a chart of the frequency and probability of 3-card poker hands ranking to help you understand the odds better:


Hand Rank (from high to low) Frequency Probability
Straight Flush 48 0.22%
3-of-a-Kind 52 0.24%
Straight 720 3.26%
Flush 1,096 4.96%
Pair 3,744 16.94%
High-Card 16,440 74.39%
Total 22,100 100


The average odds for a player to win a hand of 3-card poker is around 44.91% and 55.03% for the dealer. The remaining 0.06% are the odds for a tie.

Optional Bonus Wagers

One of the most exciting aspects of a 3-Card poker game is the opportunity to win big through optional bonus wagers. For example, casinos often make it so that you can win up to 1,000 times your wager on bonus bets in 3-card poker with a 6-card bonus.

The bonus bet payouts may vary between casinos; however, the payouts for bonus wagers like the ante bonus, pair plus bonus, and 6-card bonus are typical as follows:

Ante Bonus Payouts

While not always standard, many casinos offer ante bonuses as well:

  • Straight Flush: 5 to 1 (or 4 to 1, or 3 to 1)
  • 3-of-a-Kind: 4 to 1 (or 3 to 1, or 2 to 1) 
  • Straight: 1 to 1

Pair Plus Bonus Payouts

As mentioned earlier, pair plus pays out when your hand is a pair or higher. The bonus payouts depend on the rank of the players’ 3-card poker hands. 

  • Mini Royal: 50 to 1 (A, K, Q Suited)  
  • Straight Flush: 40 to 1
  • 3-of-a-Kind: 30 to 1 (or 25 to 1)
  • Straight: 6 to 1 (or 5 to 1) 
  • Flush: 4 to 1 (or 3 to 1)
  • Pair: 1 to 1

6-Card Bonus Payouts

In a 3-card poker game with a 6-card bonus, your hand and the dealer’s hands are considered together, hence “6-card.” If the six cards combined can make a 3-of-a-kind or better poker hand, you win a 6-card bonus. The value of this bonus will depend on the rank of the 6-card poker hand. 

Money Management in 3-Card Poker

Much like poker bankroll management, there’s an aspect of money management in 3-card poker too. Therefore, punters should gamble responsibly and think about managing their money conscientiously. 

3-card poker money management is not as tricky as live poker or online poker bankroll management. However, the latter can get very complex depending on big blinds per 100 (BB/100), multiple tables, etc. 

The financial parameters of 3-card poker are much simpler, and you only need a bankroll you can afford, a loss limit, a win limit, and a bet limit. So, for example, if you have a bankroll of £500, you should set your betting limit between £10–£30 per hand to make it last and get the most “play” opportunities.

Similarly, you should set a loss limit of 50% at £250 and a win limit of the same at £750, after which you can’t bet anymore.

Of course, to make it easier for yourself, there are plenty of modern poker bankroll management apps and live poker bankroll management tools you can use to help with your 3-card poker money management.

How Big of a Bankroll Do I Need for 3-Card Poker? 

The size of your 3-card poker bankroll depends on the size of the ante you’re playing. A good rule of thumb is to have a big enough bankroll to afford at least 50 antes. Thus, if the ante is £5, your bankroll should be at least £250.

How to Play 3-Card Poker Online

It’s very convenient for punters in the UK to play 3-card poker online with real money. Fortunately, there are many big-name online casinos like PokerStars, 888, etc., with various real-money 3-card poker games to choose from.

Playing 3-card poker online or at any live casino is legal in the UK as long as the UK Gambling Commission regulates the establishment. Therefore, you can play 3-card poker at any big-name online casino or almost all the 150 live casinos in the UK.

3-Card Texas Hold’Em and Other Variants

While the difference between 3-card poker and Texas Hold’em poker is quite significant, there has been a successful attempt to merge the two.

Sometime around 2012, a hybrid version of 3-card poker was first introduced in a Las Vegas casino. It was a blend of famous Texas Hold’em Poker and 3-card poker.

The result was called 3-Card Hold’em, also known as 3-Card Texas Hold’em, which brings a unique twist by incorporating the Texas Hold’em “community cards” aspect with live 3-card poker.

The 3-card poker table layout remains the same, and the players still play against the dealer.

However, there are only two cards dealt with each player and the dealer. At the end of the deal, three community cards are introduced to the table. Each player and the dealer can use any one of these community cards to make their best possible 3-card poker hand.  

The popularity of this game is rising, and many live casinos have started introducing 3-Card Texas Hold’em. 

In Conclusion

Poker games are casino favourites around the world, in both live and online casinos. While 3-card poker is not as popular as Texas Hold’em poker, it’s still a very enjoyable game, and its recent popularity has it trending in casinos worldwide. 

Popular variants like 3-card Texas Hold’em and Ultimate Texas Hold’em have also helped promote 3-card poker. The game is easy to learn, and the strategies are pretty straightforward.

The best part is that players compete against the dealer instead of each other, which adds an exciting aspect. In addition, the bankroll is easy to manage, and the advantageous bonuses make playing 3-card poker hands extremely compelling to any punter.

Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of 3-card poker and will enjoy playing and winning big at any casino you go to.

Keep reading our blog to learn more about 3-card poker or other poker games and online poker sites. 


How is 3-card poker played?

A basic hand of 3-card poker is played by wagering an ante and dealing three cards to each player and the dealer. The players fold or wager bets, and everyone reveals their cards. Then, depending on the dealer’s cards, players either win or lose their ante and play bets. 

Often pair play bets are wagered for bonus payouts, and other bonuses like ante bonus and 6-card bonus are also awarded depending on the cards and payout structure of the casino. 

What are the odds of winning in 3-card poker?

The odds of winning a hand of 3-card poker are typically 44.91%. As for the dealer to win, it’s 55.03%. The remaining 0.06% are odds for a tie. 

Is there any skill to 3-card poker?

Yes, there are some skills involved in 3-card poker because the player has to decide whether they will wager a pair bet, continue with a play bet, or fold their hand. These decisions are made by applying basic strategy and therefore require skills.

However, the skills and strategies required for 3-card poker are straightforward and nowhere near as complex as those for poker games like Texas Hold’em. 

What’s the best hand in 3-card poker?

A royal flush (Ad-Kd-Qd) hand is the best hand in 3-card poker, followed by a straight flush (Qh-Jh-10h) hand and then a 3-of-a-kind (9-9-9) hand.

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