3 card poker is a relatively new variant of poker which has become very popular over the years. The game can turn out to be very fun and interesting thanks to the available multiple betting options. However, people new to the game have been asking me this burning question, “Does 3 card poker have good odds?”. I’ll be answering this question and more in this article.
3 card poker has good odds making it one of the most profitable table games ever created. While variants of the game and differences in payouts among casinos can vary the odds, the house advantage is usually very low (as low as 2.2%)
Your objective when playing 3 card poker is to come up with a three-hand that beats the dealer’s hands. There is also another betting option where you do not have to bet against the dealer. Instead, you wager that your hand will be at least a pair. If your hand ranks better than a pair, better.
You have to make up your mind about the type of bet you want to use before the cards are dealt. A single deck of cards is usually used. 3 card poker is good for people with a short attention span due to the fast pace of the game.
I’ll be talking a bit about the history and general overview of the 3 card poker below.
Best book on 3 card poker:
What is 3 card poker?
3 card poker is a variant of poker invented by a poker player, Derek Webb, in 1994. And the game’s popularity has increased massively since then. The main attractions to 3 card poker are the fast pace, good odds and the betting options.
You are probably familiar with traditional live poker games like Texas Hold’em cash games and tourneys. There are times when players find these variants of poker boring. You need to be at one table at a time and can only play about 15-20% of the hands you receive. This translates to a couple of hands per hour.
Now, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with games like Texas Hold’em. But which game should you play when you desire something faster? Which game should you play when you desire something that combines the elements of live poker and casino table games? The answer to those questions is 3 card poker.
Unlike several variants of poker where you have to play against opponents, you’ll be playing against the casino in 3 card poker.
You are bound to like this variant if you are a poker enthusiast. If you don’t like the game, you should still read this article? Why? This is because there’s nothing bad in knowing how to play more variants of poker. The knowledge could come in handy someday.
Does 3 card poker have good odds?
I’ve already answered this question in the introduction but I think I should elaborate more on the answer. As you already know, 3 card poker has good odds due to the low house advantage. There is also a bonus, which makes the game more appealing.
The house edge is as low as 2.2%, which is one of the lowest you’ll see in any other variant of poker. So assuming you play 3 card poker in a casino where the house advantage is 2.2%, it means that for every $100 you bet, you can expect to get back $97.80. The house advantage will be more accurately reflected after you play the game for a while as it’s possible you hit big wins/losses at the start of the game.
The fast pace of the game is also loved by many poker fans. Speed was one of the main factors that motivated Webb to create the game. The average number of hands you can play in one hour is about 70. Yeah, you read that right. That alone should tell you how incredibly fast the game is making it very exciting. Also, people with short attention span will love the game.
How to play 3 card poker?
A single 52-card deck is used for 3 card poker. The cards are shuffled after each hand. Your objective is to produce a hand that ranks higher than that of the dealer.
3 poker has two main types of bet in the main game. There are also additional bets you can make for the side bonus games. You’ll have to pay an ante, which is a forced bet before the game begins. It is after the ante has been paid that the betting round can now begin.
The amount of the ante will be decided by the casino. After paying the ante, you can also decide the optional “pairs plus” bet. The ante and the optional pairs plus bet are usually not equal, with the ante usually being the larger bet.
It’s common to see most 3 card games using a shuffler for the cards. The cards will then be automatically dealt to the player three cards at a time. Whether a dealer or shuffler is used, the cards will be dealt face down. The three cards are the only cards you will receive as you won’t be dealt any more cards.
You have the chance of looking at your cards after you receive them. After seeing your cards, you have to decide if your cards are strong enough to beat the dealer. The dealer’s card will still be face down so you’ll be making your decision without having any knowledge about the dealer’s hand.
If you think your hand isn’t strong enough to beat the dealer’s, you have to fold. And by folding, you lose the hand and won’t get the ante bet back. However, if you decide your hand is strong enough to beat your opponent, you’ll have to pay another bet which must match the ante bet.
The dealer will reveal his hand after you’ve made the second bet or folded. If the dealer has a better hand, you lose the hand (which comprises of the ante and the second bet). If your hand is better than that of the dealer, a number of things are considered to determine your payout.
As soon as it’s revealed that you have a better hand than your dealer, you can be certain of being paid the ante bet. However, the casino will only pay you for the play bet only if your dealer has a “qualifying hand.”
So what’s a qualifying hand? This is when the dealer has at least a Queen high hand or higher. So if the dealer has a qualifying hand and your own hand beats that of the dealer, you’ll be paid equal amounts on your ante and play bet (the second bet you make after the ante if you decide not to fold).
Let’s consider a scenario where you make a bet of $5 each for the ante and raise (play bet), and then your dealer has a qualifying hand. You’ll first receive the $10 you wagered, then another $10 for the dealer’s qualifying hand.
Non-qualifying hand and ties
A non-qualifying hand is a jack-high or other lower hands i.e hands lower than queen-high. If you have a non-qualifying hand, you’ll be paid for the ante bet will have to push on for the play bet. The example I’ll give below will help you understand things better.
Assuming you made a bet of $5 each on the ante and play bets and your dealer has a non-qualifying card, you’ll get the $10 you wagered on the ante and play bet back. You will then receive $5 for the play bet.
In situations when you and the dealer’s hand have the same ranking i.e a tie, then what will happen will depend on the casino.
Most casinos will consider a tie as a push for you and you get back the amount you wagered. Some casinos will consider you a winner when there is a tie while others will consider you as the loser. It all depends on your casino. Do your research before visiting a casino. Personally, I’ll prefer not to play 3 card poker in casinos where a tie is considered to be a loss for the player.
From what you’ve read so far, you should be able to see why 3 card poker is a fast-paced game. You also have to understand the hand ranking in 3 card poker as that’s what will determine the winner at the showdown. The hand rankings of 3 card poker are very similar to that of other variants of poker with just minor differences with the most significant being that straight ranks higher than a flush in 3 card poker. You’ll also find out that forming a 3 card straight is more difficult to achieve than a 3 card flush.
The fact that only three cards can be used in 3 card poker means some hands can’t be formed. Hands like two-pair, full house, and four-of-a-kind are not possible so they are not included in the hand ranking of the game.
Is pair plus a good bet?
Pair Plus is a special side bet that is available as part of 3 card poker. In pair plus bet, the three cards dealt to you will determine whether you win or lose. The hands of the dealer don’t matter here. Pair plus bet can be made as a side bet when making the ante bet or made as a separate bet entirely (there will be no ante bet). In this situation, you are bypassing the main game and playing only pair plus bets.
For you to receive a payout when you make this bet, you must have a pair or better. So you win anytime you have a pair, straight, flush, straight flush, or three of a kind. If you have any other hands, you lose as those hands will be of lower ranking than the ones I mentioned above.
Flushes tend to occur more frequently than straight. It is because of this reason that straights are made to be higher ranking than flushes. The big payouts come when you hit a straight flush or three of a kind.
Pair plus is a very good bet because the house edge here is only 2.2%. You’ll rarely see casino side bets having a house edge as low as this. And this is why a lot of poker players play pair plus bet alone.
3 card poker strategy
Like any other variant of poker, you need to have a strategy for 3 card poker. You can’t just go to the casino or log into your online poker account and play 3 card poker without any plan.
When playing the ante bet, your strategy should be to bet anytime you have a Queen-6-4 hand or better. You should also bet when your high card is a King or an Ace regardless of the ranking of the other two cards. Also, if you ever find yourself to have a Q-7 hand or better, place a bet, regardless of what the third card is.
It’s advisable for you to fold if your hand isn’t that strong. Whenever your high card is a Jack or lower, kindly fold regardless of the ranking of the other two cards.
In a situation where you do not have a pair or higher and your highest ranking card happens to be a queen, your action will be dependent on what your second card, and sometimes your third card is.
Bet on a Queen-high if:
Your second highest ranking card is 7 or higher. The ranking of the third card does not matter in this case.
Your second highest ranking card happens to be a 6 only and if the other card is a 4 or 5.
Fold a Queen-high if:
Your second highest ranking card is a 6 and the last card happens to be a 2 or 3.
Your second highest ranking card happens to be 5 or lower. The ranking of the third card does not matter.
The ante bonus and house edge
I’ve met some curious poker players who are curious about how to calculate the house advantage. In order for you to calculate the house edge/advantage correctly, you need to also put one more element of the game into consideration. And that’s the ante bonus. Before the game begins, it’s usual to put only the ante and play bets only Into consideration.
You win the ante bonus anytime you have a straight, three of a kind, or straight flush. It’s possible for 3 card players to win the ante bet even when they don’t beat the dealer. Their hands have to be strong enough though.
Tips for playing 3 card poker
One of the things I like about 3 card poker is that it’s fun and easy to learn and play. Also, it’s not based on luck as you need to have some elements based on hand selection. I’ll be giving you a few pointers below on how to go about 3 card poker.
Learn the rules
Whether you are playing poker, blackjack, or any other casino games, the first thing to do is to learn the rules of the game. And that’s exactly what you should do with 3 card poker. Know the betting options and side bets available to you. Learn the hand rankings which is slightly different from other variants of poker as only 3 cards are used.
Practice the game online
Thank God for the introduction of online poker. You can’t go to a casino and say you want to practice a game you’ve just learned about. Except you’ve set aside some money to play…and lose. Yes, you are most likely to lose since you are just a beginner in the game.
Thanks to online poker, you can easily find a poker site and practice the game in Play Mode, which doesn’t require real money. After getting comfortable with the game, you can then proceed to bet for real money.
Set your bankroll
You need to have a defined bankroll for playing. Then, make sure you stick to your bankroll. Manage your bankroll well and if you blow it, go home.
As a beginner, it’s in your best interest to bet with a lower denomination. You’ll easily find online poker sites offering bets of $1, $5, $25, and so on. Start with $1 and $5 bets and move to larger bets when you have more experience in the game.
Play two games at once
In 3 card poker, you have the option of playing the main bet alongside a side bet, or one of the two. I’ll advise you to play two games at once to keep your win/loss record relatively even. Do play the ante-play bet and the pair plus bet in the same hand.
In a game where you end up with a pair of sixes and the dealer has eights, you win if you’ve chosen the pair plus wager even though you lose the main bet as the dealer has a higher ranking hand.
So if you choose to play two games, you can either have win-win or win-lose results. It’s a way of boosting your chances of winning.
Find the best online casino
If you’ll be playing 3 card poker online, you have to do some research and find the best poker rooms.
Poker sites may offer different things when it comes to 3 card poker. Check the games out and review the payouts. Go for sites that offer the best payout so you’ll get the best value for your money.
3 card poker payouts
The odds of 3 card poker typically vary from casino to casino. However, the following odds below are considered the standard for pair plus payouts in the US.
Pair: 1 to 1
Flush: 3 to 1 (or 4 to 1)
Straight: 6 to 1 (or 5 to 1)
Three-of-a-Kind: 30 to 1 (or 25 to 1)
Straight Flush: 40 to 1
Remember the ante bonus I talked about earlier? It also has its own payout structure which may look like this:
Straight: 1 to 1
Three-of-a-Kind: 4 to 1 (or 2 to 1 or 3 to 1)
Straight Flush: 5 to 1 (or 3 to 1 or 4 to 1)
Hand rankings in 3 card poker from the highest to the lowest are
- Straight Flush
- High Card
Some variations of 3 card poker
Below are some of the examples of the variants of 3 card poker;
Macau Three Card Poker
3 card poker has a lot of variants. Some variants are referred to as Fortune Three Card Poker in Macau. There are also variants referred to as Q poker and is very similar to Three Card Poker. These variants of 3 card poker differ significantly in the options they offer when they want to fold or raise.
The rules of the Macau version of 3 Card poker is different from that of regular 3 card poker. The most significant difference in their rules is that Macau’s variant doesn’t have anything like a qualifying hand.
This means that your hand must always beat that of the dealer every time to win. Also, the house takes a 5% commission taken from each winning hand and the result of this is an increase in house advantage (about 2.5%).
Often times referred to as the “Millionaire Maker” because that’s what it does – it makes you a millionaire. And how do you become a millionaire? Simple. You just have to come up with a 6-card royal flush which is a lot easier said than done. If you can use any other royal flush in any other suit, you’ll get $100,000.
The bet for this game is $5. So $5 could make you a million but you need a lot of luck. Lady Luck herself has to descend themselves from the heavens to smile on you.
This variant of poker can be found on Caesars Entertainment casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. It’s also available online.
Ultimate Three Card Poker
This is one of the most popular variants of poker. It’s very similar to a regular 3 card poker. There are a few exceptions though. The most significant one is that you have the option to raise your ante bet up to about three times of your play bet. There is a condition for this though as you need to have a pair or a higher ranking hand to make this raise. If not, the play bet will be equal to the ante.
There is a second bet in Ultimate Three Card Poker called blind bet which is usually equal to the ante bet. The casino’s payout will be used to determine when you hit a pair or higher hand. If your hand ranks better than that of the dealer but is lower than a pair, the bet will push.
You’ll also lose the blind bet if you lose your hand to your dealer. Like Macau’s variant above, the ultimate three card poker too doesn’t have a qualifying hand. This variant of poker also has a pair plus bonus. Here, the mini royal is separated from the straight flush category.
California Three Card Poker/Face Up Three Card Poker
The name already tells you that this is a game popular in California. Walk into any California casino and you’ll see this variant of poker. The California Three Card Poker has its own set of rules that makes it quite unique. For one, there is no pair plus bonus bet or the ante bonus. Your payout will be paid at even money should you win a game.
The dealer will also deal with one of his/her own cards face up. This is an important piece of information you should include in your decision-making process. The casino knows you have a slight edge by seeing one of the dealer’s cards and as a result, put some measures to even things out.
The first one is that the California 3 card poker has another variance. Then the second one is that there is no qualifying hand. You have to beat the dealer to win. The house advantage here is a bit high, about 4.3%, which is higher than that of regular 3 card poker.