How to Play 3 Card Poker

3 Card Poker, also known as Tri Card Poker, is an online casino game that has gained immense popularity due to its simplicity and exciting gameplay. The main objective of this poker variant is to make a better three-card hand than the dealer. In this article, you will discover more about how to play the game, poker hands rankings, payouts of different bets, and the optimal strategy to apply in the game.

What is Three Card Poker?

3 Card Poker is a video poker casino game played with a standard 52-card deck. The game was developed in 1994 by Derek Webb, and some online casinos refer to it as Tri Card Poker. Moreover, the game differs from other ordinary card games in that it is played against the dealer rather than against other players. This creates a less competitive environment as other players’ hands don’t matter to you. The game is also different from other variants in that Straights outrank Flushes.

3 Card Poker Rules

3 Card Poker

The three card game has cemented its place in online casinos due to its simplicity. The rules are simple, but they may vary from one casino site to another. For example, some gambling sites require you to place an Ante bet, but the Pair Plus bet remains optional. Other gaming sites will require you to make both the Ante and Pair Plus bets before you start playing. Another rule worth noting is that the dealer must have a qualifying hand (Queen High or better) in order to play.

Here is how a 3 Card Poker hand plays out:

  • All players at the table place their ante bets. They can also decide to place an optional Pair Plus bet.
  • After placing bets, each player is dealt three cards face down. The deal also receives three cards.
  • Players analyze their cards and decide whether they want to fold or place Play wagers.
  • Each player that folds loses their Ante and Pair Plus bets to the dealer.
  • The dealer turns their cards and compares them to those of players who didn’t fold. To qualify for the round, the dealer must have Queen High or better.
  • If the dealer doesn’t qualify for the round, the game is over. The Ante bet is paid even money, while the Play bet is returned.
  • If the dealer has Queen High or better, hands are compared to determine the winner.

Ante and Play Bets

When playing 3 Card Poker online, every player must place an Ante bet before the game begins. After that, players have the option to fold or place Play bets. Players fold when they have a weak hand and they don’t want to continue with that round. And when they fold, the dealer takes their Ante bets. But if they decide to continue with the game, they must place Play wagers, which must be equal to their Ante bets.

Once players have placed their Play wagers, the dealer turns their cards to see if they have a qualifying hand, which must be a Queen High or better. If the dealer qualifies and the player has a better hand than the dealer, both the Ante and Play wagers are paid even money. On the other hand, if the dealer has a better hand than the player, they collect both Ante and Play wagers.

Pair Plus Bet

The Pair Plus bet is one of the optional side bets where players aim to make a pair or better with their hands. As mentioned earlier, you can place this bet alongside the Ante bet. This type of bet is different from the Ante bet in that the dealer’s hand doesn’t determine whether you have won or not. Instead, the bet is rewarded depending on the hand quality. If you, for instance, make a Straight Flush or Three of a Kind, you will be paid 40:1 and 30:1, respectively.

Ante Bonus

The Ante Bonus bet is another optional side available in 3 Card Poker. This bet is part of the Ante bet portion, meaning you will win without making an additional bet. In order to win, you will need to use your three cards to make Straight Flush, Three of a Kind, and Straight. These three hands have different payouts, as we will see in the section below.

Six Card Bonus

The six card bonus is an optional side placed at the same time as the Ante bet. Unlike other bets in 3 Card Poker, players who place this bet aim to form the best five-card hand by combining their hand with the dealer’s hand. This bet will pay out regardless of whether the player has folded or not. Besides, rewards are awarded depending on the hand quality.

3 Card Poker Hand Rankings

The hand ranking of 3 Card Poker is slightly different from that of regular poker variants in that Straights outrank Flushes. This is because there are more chances of making Flushes than Straights in Three Card Poker. In other variants, there are more possible ways to make Straights than Flushes.

The hands ranked from strongest to weakest are as follows:

Hand Explanation Example
Straight Flush Three cards in sequence and of the same suit K♦-Q♦-J♦
Three-of-a-Kind Three cards of the same rank 7♠-7♣-7♦
Straight Three cards in sequence but of different suits 7♦-6♣-5♦
Flush Three cards of the same suit but no sequence A♦-9♦-3♦
Pair Two cards of the same value and another one Q♣-Q♦-4♣
High Card Non-paired cards with no suit and not in sequence Q♠-6♣-4♦

3 Card Poker Payouts

Different bets in 3 Card Poker have different payouts. However, the payouts are fairly typical, and are the standard used in the best US-based casinos we’ve reviewed. However, they can vary in different casinos and countries.

Ante and Play Payouts

If the player’s hand beats the dealer’s hand, their Ante and Play bets are paid even money or simply 1:1. For example, if you place an Ante bet of $10, you would receive a payout of $20. But if the dealer’s hand doesn’t qualify, the Ante bet is paid 1:1, while the play wager is returned.

Ante Bonus Payouts

Players win the Ante bonus bet when they make Straight Flush, Three of a Kind, and Straight. These hands have the following payouts:

Hand Payouts
Straight Flush 5:1
Three-of-a-Kind 4:1
Straight 1:1

Pair Plus Bonus Payouts

This bet wins if players make a pair or better with their hands. It is also paid depending on the quality of the hand, as shown below:

Hand Payout
Straight Flush 40:1
Three-of-a-Kind 30:1
Straight 6:1
Flush 3:1
Pair 1:1
High Card Player loses the entire bet

Six Card Bonus Payouts

To win this bet, the player must make the best possible 5-card hand by combining their hand with the dealer’s hand. The payouts for different hands are as follows:

Hand Payouts
Royal Flush 1000:1
Straight Flush 200:1
Four of a Kind 50:1
Full House 25:1
Flush 20:1
Straight 10:1
Three-of-a-Kind 5:1

3 Card Poker Odds

Like most poker variants, 3 Card Poker gives the house a slight advantage. However, the house advantage varies from one bet type to another, as shown in the following table:

Bet Type House Edge Explanation
Ante Bet Around 2.37% The Ante bet usually gives the house a slight advantage of around 2.37% over the long term. This edge assumes the player is using the optimal strategy.
Play Bet Around 2.37% The Ante and Play bets follow the same strategy, meaning they have the same house edge. The house will keep 2.37% of wagers over time.
Pair Plus Bet 2.32% -7.28% The house edge of Pair Plus bet depends on the paytable the casino uses. The low house advantage means that the casino is using a friendly paytable. On the other hand, the high house advantage means the casino uses a less friendly payout table.

It should be noted that a slight change in bonus payouts may change the house edge. For example, if the Ante bonus wager is paid 3:1 for Straight Flushes, 2:1 for Three of a Kind, and 1:1 for Straights, the house edge increases to around 4.3%. In Pair Plus, a small change makes a significant difference in the house edge. Most versions in the US have a house edge of 7.28%, but changing the payout of Flush from 3:1 to 4:1 reduces the house edge to 2.32%.

3 Card Poker Strategy

Online Three Card Poker and Live 3 Card Poker have simple gameplay, meaning you don’t need to worry much about strategies. Knowing when to fold or play is the only important thing you need to learn. The optimal strategy for the game is to play Q-6-4 and above and fold all worse hands. Q-6-4 is one of the minimum hands you need to make to win both the Ante and Play bets. So, if you play any hand worse than this, you will only reduce your chances of winning.

If you are a beginner, it is important you also learn the basics of the game, such as poker hands rankings. The best thing is that you can play free 3 Card Poker online and learn without incurring any cost. Lastly, bet an amount you can afford to lose.


Can you win money playing Three Card Poker?

Is Three Card Poker a game of skill or luck?

What is the biggest payout for Three Card Poker?

What is the house edge in Three Card Poker?

Should you bet Pair Plus in Three Card Poker?

More Poker Guides

If you want to learn more about other poker games, we’ve got guides for some of the most popular Three Card Poker alternatives. Click one of the links below to learn more: