How To Play 3 Card Poker

Three Card Poker is one of the easiest casino games to pick up and learn, and it’s also one of the most popular, both online and offline.

Indeed, head to pretty much any land-based casino or online casino, and you’ll find Three Card Poker offered in some variation or another. There are several reasons why many players like to play this popular table game, some of which we’ll be looking at on this page.

One of the main benefits of playing Three Card Poker is that the house edge can be pretty low when the right bets are placed. This puts it on the same pedestal as other popular casino table games like Roulette and Blackjack. However, it is important that you play according to the best strategy, again, details of which we’ll cover here on this page.

To kick off our Three Card Poker guide, we’re going to be taking a look at how to play Three Card Poker. Later on, we’ll take a look at some of the different bets and variations of the game you’ll come across.

See Related: How To Play 3 Card Rummy

How to Play 3 Card Poker

Three Card Poker is really easy to play, and the core aim of the game is to try and form a poker hand that beats the dealer’s hand. In Three Card Poker, despite there being multiple players at the table, it’s only you against the dealer. In a moment, we’ll cover the actual hands that you can be dealt, but first, let’s take a look at the gameplay and the game’s rules.

Once you place your play bet, the game begins, and you’ll then be dealt three cards. These cards are all dealt face up so you can see which hand you have immediately. In Three Card Poker, the goal is to make a good poker hand, and, in order of worst to best, the hand rankings are; high card, one pair, flush, straight, three of a kind, and straight flush.

Once the betting has taken place (and don’t worry, we’re going to show you how that works at online casinos in just a moment), your hand will be compared against the dealer’s hand, and whoever has the best hand wins; if your hand wins you get paid out, and if the dealer’s hand wins you lose your bet.

There are a couple of caveats to be aware of; the first is that the dealer needs to qualify to play their hand. For example, the dealer’s hand must be at least Q,7 to qualify; that means they need to hold a queen-high hand to qualify (at least a pair), and if they don’t, then the game is a push, and your main bet will be returned to you. Now, let’s take a look at how betting works in Three Card Poker and what the different bet options are.

Betting in 3 Card Poker

In Three Card Poker, there are several different bets, and there are also quite a few side bet variations; we’ll look at the side bets in just a moment, but first, we’re going to take a look at the way the main game is played. The first is called the ante bet — not to be confused with the ante bonus bet — which is a mandatory bet that essentially acts as your main bet. Once you place your ante wager, the game begins, and this ante wager is always in play.

Now, once you’ve been dealt your first three cards, you have the choice of either throwing your hand away or placing the play bet. If you choose the former option, then you’ll lose the ante bet. However, if you like your hand and want to place the play bet, you’ll need to place an amount that’s double your main ante bet to continue playing.

Once you do so, the dealer will show their hand, and this hand will then be compared against yours before the payouts are calculated accordingly. Thankfully, most online casinos provide pretty in-depth and easy-to-understand guidance when playing Three Card Poker. Remember, it’s always the straight flush you’re trying to get in Three Card Poker as this is the highest hand and will almost always beat the dealer’s hand.

Side Bets

While it’s the ante bet (not the ante bonus) and the play bet that is required to play this popular casino game, when you play 3 Card Poker, you’ll usually find some side bets offered. Below, we’re going to take a look at a couple of the most common types of side bets you’ll come across. These need to be played in addition to your ante and play wager. The first is called Pairs Plus. You’ll find this side bet offered on pretty much every Three Card Poker table, and while the house edge can be pretty high, it offers some big win-potential, so it’s often played by many.

This side bet must be placed before the game round begins, and it basically pays out if you manage to create a pair or better in your hand. What’s more, this bet is entirely independent of the dealer’s hand, so even if the dealer has a better hand than you and you lose the main bet, it’s possible for you to win from this bet.

While each online casino has a slightly different payout structure for the Pairs Plus bet, it tends to follow the below formula:

  • Pair – 1:1
  • Flush: 4:1
  • Straight – 6:1
  • Three of a kind – 30:1
  • Straight flush – 40:1

Now, the second type of side bet you’re likely to come across when you play 3 Card Poker is the Prime Bet, and this is, in a way, similar to the Pairs Plus bet in that it’s independent of the dealer’s hand, so it doesn’t matter whether your main hand loses or wins.

You also need to place an additional side wager before the main game begins, and the Prime Bet pays out when your cars match in colour or are the same suit. It’s a pretty simple bet, and there are only two different payouts. Firstly, if your three cards are the same colour, but the dealer’s hand doesn’t match yours, then you get paid out at 3 to 1. If, however, your three cards are the same colour (or the same suit) and the dealer’s hand is the same colour or same suit as your hand, you get paid out at 4/1.

Naturally, like all casino games, the house edge is higher when you play the side bets in 3 Card Poker. Still, they offer much bigger win-potential — especially when you form hands like a Straight Flush, for example — and it’s the main reason why so many players choose to play them when enjoying the casino table game.

Game Variations

Like pretty much every casino game, when you play 3 Card Poker, you’re going to come across different variations of the game. Below, we’re going to take a look at a few of the most common types on offer from some of the world’s most popular software providers and game developers.

Progressive Jackpot 3 Card Poker

Progressive Jackpot 3 Card Poker isn’t the most common variation of the game you’ll ever come across, and it’s actually more popular at land-based casinos than online casinos. However, it’s becoming more readily available at online sites, and it’s not hard to see why; there are huge amounts of win-potential in the game, and that’s because a progressive jackpot comes into play.

Each time you play Progressive Jackpot 3 Card Poker, the amount of the side bet you place is added to a progressive jackpot. This progressive jackpot continues to increase until a lucky player manages to hit the winning hand combo to scoop it. While each casino has slightly different rules on how to win the progressive jackpot, the vast majority of sites will award between 75% and 100% of the jackpot total when you hit a Straight Flush or Mini Royal Flush.

Some casinos also award a smaller portion of the progressive jackpot if you hit another premium hand; for example, you may get a fixed payout if you hit a 3-of-a-kind hand.

Ultimate 3 Card Poker

Ultimate 3 Card Poker is another variation of the game that’s much the same as regular 3 Card Poker. You still need to place your ante bonus bet, but here, the dealer only reveals one of his cards instead of all three. Consequently, if you choose to play your hand, you don’t need to match your bet amount by 2/1 and only need to match it by 1/1, so it’s slightly different.

Ultimate 3 Card Poker can often come with several side bets, although these side bets can differ quite a lot between game variations.

Three Card Poker Strategy

3 Card Poker, like virtually all casino games, has several strategies developed around it, and these strategies are designed to lower the house edge as much as possible in order to boost your chances of winning. Like the vast majority of casino table games, 3 Card Poker isn’t really a skill game. While there are parts of the game where you need to make a decision, most of the action is pretty self-explanatory, but there are some general rules you should follow, which we’ll look at below.

First and foremost, it’s recommended that you always fold hands that are lower than Q-6-4. This doesn’t apply if you’re playing the prime bet, as the bet will payout anyway, but if you’re not, and you’re playing straight up against the dealer, anything lower than this should be folded.

Other than that, there’s not much strategy when it comes to 3 Card Poker. Sometimes it may be tempting to play all hands and hope that your hand is worth more than the dealer’s, but in the long run, if you want to lower the house edge and have it play more into your hands, Q-6-4 is the lowest hand you should consider playing with.

Three Card Poker’s History

3 Card Poker is one of the most recent casino table games to be invented. Most games you’ll find in land-based casinos and online sites (except for video slots) have been around for hundreds of years in one form or another, but 3 Card Poker was created just a couple of decades ago in 1994.

The game was first developed by Derek Webb; he wanted to combine conventional Texas Hold ’em poker with a casino table game.

According to his own testimony, Webb spent many years developing the game. In fact, he claims that he created hundreds of variations of the game, all of which were scrapped until he finally settled on the format of 3 Card Poker that’s found today.

One of the big things that Webb wanted 3 Card Poker to achieve was being a poker-based game that was easy-to-play and easy-to-understand for players of all levels, and he managed to achieve just that. When he first launched 3 Card Poker, Webb released it under a company called Prime Table Games. He managed to get it into land-based casinos in the USA first before the UK land-based casinos started to pick it up.

One of the ways that Webb managed to get 3 Card Poker into land-based casinos is that he actually offered to train all the dealers and croupiers for free at initial land-based casinos that agreed to offer the game, and this was a clever ploy on his part as it was a win-win situation for all involved.

Since its creation, Three Card Poker has received critical acclaim from some of the world’s top gambling experts, and it’s one of the most-played casino table games in the world today.


Is 3 Card Poker a skill-based game?

No, it’s not. While there’s one skill-based element to the game, this is very simply a ‘play or fold’ decision. It’s not like blackjack, for example, where there are tons of different potential outcomes for each game. Provided you know the one strategy rule for 3 Card Poker (which we cover in the strategy section of this guide), you don’t need to make any more skill-based decisions as it’s all fully automated for you.

What are other casino table games similar to 3 Card Poker?

Due to the nature of the game, there isn’t anything too similar to 3 Card Poker; other casino table games like Blackjack and Baccarat aren’t designed around poker and subsequently are entirely different. Probably the most similar game to 3 Card Poker is Casino Hold ’em; this is another poker-based casino table game, and like 3 Card Poker the goal is to try and make the best poker hand possible.

However, unlike 3 Card Poker, Casino Hold ’em allows you to use five cards instead of three, so while it has its differences, it certainly shares some similarities.

What is the prime side bet?

The prime set bet is one of the most common side bets you’ll find when you play 3 Card Poker, regardless of whether it’s at land-based casinos or an online gambling site, and it’s also the easiest side bet to understand.

It’s a pretty simple bet, and there are only two different payouts; firstly, if your three cards are the same colour, but the dealer’s hand doesn’t match yours, then you get paid out at 3 to 1. If, however, your three cards are the same colour (or the same suit) and the dealer’s hand is the same colour or same suit as your hand, you get paid out at 4/1.

Can I play 3 Card Poker online?

Yes! Today, virtually all online gambling sites offer 3 Card Poker, and it’s one of the most popular games with players thanks to its easy concept and bit win-potential. Head to any of the casinos recommended here on Casinomeister, and there’s a strong chance you’ll find the game on offer!

Where can I find the best casinos that offer 3 Card Poker?

If you’re looking for the top online gambling sites that offer this unique poker-inspired game, then make sure to check out one of the casinos listed here on Casinomeister. All of the sites we recommend have been thoroughly tested by our team of online gambling experts, and if you see a site recommended on our site, it’s because we’re happy to get behind them. What’s more, many of the casinos you’ll see listed on our site have exclusive bonuses and promotions for our readers only, so it can be well worth checking out what’s currently being offered!

Are 3 Card Poker games fair?

Yes, to be offered at online gambling sites for real money, any casino table game must undergo thorough testing by an independent third-party testing house. This ensures that game developers and software providers aren’t offering rigged versions of their games — and it ensures that you, the player, can enjoy the games with complete peace of mind.