How to Play 3 Card Poker – Rules and Tips

3 Card Poker is a fairly simple casino game to learn. ‘Play’ or ‘fold’ are the only options you need to know. However, for added action, you can play the ‘Pair Plus’ bet and win big.

3 Card Poker Rules, Payouts and How to Bet

After an ante bet is placed, the cards are dealt to the players and the dealer. The dealer starts the deal to their immediate left and cards are dealt until everyone has 3 cards.

  • Each player looks at their 3 cards and decides if they want to fold or bet.
  • If a player decides to fold, the ante bet is lost and the hand is over. If a player decides to bet, a value equal to the ante bet is placed on the “play” bet.
  • The player and the dealer then turn their hands over.

Dealer Qualification

This is important: The dealer must have at least queen high in order to “qualify”. If the dealer does not qualify, the player wins even money on the ante bet unless the player holds a straight or better. The play bet is considered a push and is returned.

If the dealer qualifies, the player must beat the dealer in order to be paid even money on the play bet.

If the player beats the dealer, the ante bet is paid at even money unless the player’s hand is a straight or higher. If the player loses the hand but still has a straight or higher, the player will be paid on the ante bet.

Ante Bonus
Hand Payout
Straight Flush 5-1
3 of a Kind 4-1
Straight 1-1

Pair Plus Bet

The pair plus bet can be played in addition to the ante bet or by itself. The bet is paid solely on the strength of the player hand. If the player has at least 1 pair, the player wins. Payouts are based on the strength of the hand.

Pair Plus
Hand Payout
Straight Flush 40
3 of a Kind 30
Straight 6
Flush 3
Pair 1

3 Card Poker Odds

Below is a listing of the probabilities of each hand you can make in 3 Card Poker and the return on investment for the Ante bet and the Pair Plus bet.

Ante Bet Odds and ROI
Hand Win Probalility ROI
Straight Flush 7 0.15% 1.06%
Straight Flush (No Qualify)/3 of a Kind 6 0.23% 1.37%
3 of a Kind (No Qualify) 5 0.07% 0.36%
Straight 3 2.20% 6.61%
Straight (No Qualify)/Flush or Worse 2 22.37% 44.75%
Flush or Worse (No Qualify) 1 19.88% 19.88%
Push 0 0.06% 0.00%
Fold -1 32.65% -32.65%
Losing Hand (Flush or Worse) -2 22.38% -44.76%
Totals / House Advantage   100.00% -3.37%
Pair Plus Odds and ROI
Hand Win Probalility ROI
Straight Flush 40 0.22% 8.69%
3 of a Kind 30 0.24% 7.06%
Straight 6 3.26% 19.55%
Flush 3 4.96% 14.88%
Pair 1 16.94% 16.94%
No Pair -1 74.39% -74.39%
Totals / House Advantage   100.00% -7.28%

3 Card Poker Strategy

Optimal 3 Card Poker strategy dictates you should play Queen/6/4 or better and fold all worse hands. Playing worse hands shows a negative expected value.

Playing just the ante bet lowers the house edge (3.37%) when compared to just the pair plus bet (7.28%) or playing both bets (10.65%).

Sample 3 Card Poker Hands

Following are a few sample 3 Card Poker hands. In each sample hand below, the player is betting 1 unit on the Ante, Play and Pair Plus bets.

SAMPLE WINNING HAND (dealer qualifies)

Dealer: K♦ 4♠ 2♥

Player: 7♦ 7♥ 9♠

Players wins 1 each on the Pair Plus, Play and Ante Bets for a 3 bet win.

SAMPLE WINNING HAND (dealer doesn’t qualify)

Dealer: J♦ 4♠ 2♥

Player: A♦ 9♥ 7♠

Players loses 1 on the Ante Bet, pushes the Play bet and loses 1 on the Pair Plus bet for a break even (0) hand.


Dealer: J♦ J♠ 2♥

Player: A♦ 9♥ 7♠

Players loses 1 each on the Pair Plus, Play and Ante Bets for a 3 bet loss.

3 Card Poker in Action

3 Card Poker Variations

There are several different betting variations that are sometimes offered at live and online casinos.

Progressive 3 Card Poker – Additional bonus bet that pays a jackpot if a Mini-Royal Flush in Spades (A-K-Q) is hit.

Prime – 3 Card Poker variant with a bonus bet wherein the player can bet if the color of their cards will all be the same, which pays 3-1. If the player’s and dealer’s cards are all the same color, the payoff is 4-1.

6 Card Bonus – Bonus bet that uses the player’s 3 cards and the dealer’s 3 cards to make a 5 card hand. Payouts start at 3 of a kind.

History of 3 Card Poker

3 Card Poker was created by Derek Webb in the mid-1990s, Mr. Webb patented the name under his company Prime Table Games. He subsequently sold the game to ShuffleMaster in 1999 who still hold the exclusive rights to the game.

3 Card Poker in Pop Culture

Since 3 Card Poker has been around for a relatively short period, it has not found its way into movies in its current form. A variation of 3 Card Poker can be seen in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels however.