What Is Three Card Poker and How Is It Different?

As previously mentioned, Three Card Poker was designed to be a fast pace casino poker game that is easy to pick up. It is quite similar to a lot of other variations. However, there is one main difference. Players will only receive three cards that will form their entire poker hands, as the name suggests. This changes everything – most other poker games form a hand out of five cards. As a result, it is way easier to get a flush or a straight, for example. But accordingly, the value of this type of hands is also lower. Another interesting feature of Three Card Poker is the possibility to participate in an interesting variety of side bets. 

How to Play – Three Card Poker Rules

Three Card Poker is played with a deck of 52 cards – without jokers. It was designed to be played against the bank. This means that you don’t have to compete against other players. You start each game by placing your bet. This bet is also called the 'ante'. In the next step, everyone at the table, including the dealer, receives three cards. After looking at your cards, you have the choice between passing or playing. If you fold, you lose your ante. If you want to keep going, you must bet an amount equal to the ante that is already in play.

The hand is only played out if the dealer receives at least queen high or better. If he doesn't, the ante remains for the next round or is returned to the player. You win if you have a better hand than the dealer. In the case of equal hand values, your ante carries over to the next round.

The value of the hands is slightly different compared to Texas Hold'em Poker, for example. That's because your hand is only made up of a combination of three cards instead of five. The hands in Three Card Poker in order of value are:

  • Straight Flush – Three cards of the same suit and of consecutive rank
  • Three of a Kind – Three cards of the same rank
  • Straight – Three cards of consecutive rank but different suit
  • Flush – Three cards of the same suit but not of consecutive rank
  • Pair – Two cards of the same rank
  • High Card – The highest card if you don't have any of the above hands


In case the bank is playing (queen high or better) and you hold the better hand, you’ll double up your ante. If the bank doesn’t play, your ante will be returned and can be used in the next round. Furthermore, there is a so-called ante bonus. You will win this bonus whenever you hit a Straight, Three of a Kind, or a Straight Flush. It doesn't matter what kind of cards the bank has and whether you can beat it or not. In almost every Three Card poker game, the payouts are:

  • 5:1 – Straight Flush
  • 4:1 – Three of a Kind
  • 1:1 – Straight

When playing Three Card poker online, oftentimes you’ll be offered the chance to put done an optional “Pair Plus Bonus Bet” before the hand is dealt. You basically bet on receiving a strong hand and can multiply your bonus bet in case you are successful. Here are the payouts:

  • 100:1 – Mini Royal
  • 40:1 – Straight Flush
  • 30:1 – Three of a Kind
  • 5:1 – Straight
  • 4:1 – Flush
  • 1:1 – Pair

Another popular side bet is the “6 Card Bonus Side Bet”. This is entirely optional as well. In this scenario, you can combine your own hand with the hand of the dealer to form the best possible five-card poker hand. This can be quite lucrative if you are lucky:

  • 1,000:1 – Royal Flush
  • 200:1 – Straight Flush
  • 100:1 – Four of a Kind
  • 20:1 – Full House
  • 15:1 – Flush
  • 10:1 – Straight
  • 7:1 – Three of a Kind

How to Play 3 Card Poker - Gameplay Overview

The action isn’t too har to understand. This is a basic overview of it.

  • Place your Ante bet.
  • You’ll be dealt three cards, and the dealer will get three cards.
  • Either fold or call.
  • All of the cards on the table will be revealed.
  • The dealer must see if they qualify for the game round or not.
  • If the dealer does not qualify, your ante will pay 1:1.
  • If the dealer does qualify, the hands are compared.
  • If you lose, you lose your bets, and if you win you’ll get paid 1:1 for both your ante and call bets.

Three Card Poker Strategies and Other Helpful Tips

The best Three Card poker strategy is to know everything about the house edge and how different types of bets are influenced by that. Other than that, you should always place a bet if your hand includes an ace or a king, or if your hand is better than Q7 (A queen + 7), regardless of your third card. 

GoodLuckMate’s best tips for playing Three Card Poker:

  • Avoid bonus bets due to the high house edge
  • Play all hands including an ace
  • Play all hands including a king
  • Play all hands better than Q7
  • Fold everything that is lower than Q7 high

House Edge – What Are Your Chances of Winning?

The house edge of Three Card poker is relatively low and comparable to the RTP (Return to Player) of a decent slot machine. But this is only true if you stick to the base game and stay away from any bonus wagers. In that case, the theoretical payout is around 96.63%. This results in a house edge of 3.37%

If you want to place side bets, your chances of coming out ahead drop significantly. The “Pair Plus Bonus But” only has a theoretical payout of 95.51% – and the “6 Card Bonus Bet” is even lower. On average, only 91.44% is returned to the players. If you are looking to score a big win, the bonus bets might sound tempting. Always keep in mind that they are not as lucrative as it seems in the long run. Note also that the exact values can vary slightly from game to game. 

Play Three Card Poker at Online Casinos

It is easy to find a Three Card poker casino online. Due to the increasing popularity of the format, many casino sites added this game to their portfolio recently. Probably the most famous version of the game is Live Three Card Poker designed by the industry giant Evolution. The game allows you to dive straight into the action via live stream where a dealer will present the cards in real-time. There are some other live dealer versions out there but none of them is as readily available as this one. Alternatively, you can play RNG games where a random number generator decides the fate of each hand. Unfortunately, these are not very common and most casinos don’t offer Three Card Poker outside their live casino roster.

Live dealer games vs RNG games

As previously mentioned, Three Card Poker is primarily a live dealer game. So, if you want to play for real money, Evolution’s Live Three Card Poker might oftentimes be your only viable option. Most of the above-mentioned rules, payouts, and strategies are, therefore, based on this specific game. There are a few RNG versions of this game around, too, but generally, they follow a similar structure. 

If you want to learn how to play Three Card poker without the risk of losing your hard-earned money, you can also make use of some interesting alternatives. A simple google search of “free Three Card poker online” will guide you to numerous sites where you can try a clone of the casino game with free credits. You can’t win anything this way, but the good part is that you can test out your strategy entirely for free without having to sign up to a casino site. There’s nothing to lose, so why don’t you give it a try.

Andreas Schmidt
Andreas Schmidt
Last Update: 13 Mar 2023
Andreas is our go-to guy for anything related to poker or in-depth guides. He's not only a former professional poker player, but he's also been working within the iGaming industry itself since 2014. Casino, Poker and Sports Betting are his main areas of expertise, in addition to anything and everything related to payment processes at online casinos.

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