3 Card Poker Strategy and Odds

This video is a must for anyone looking to learn 3 Card Poker strategies. Our casino expert details the optimal strategy of the game whilst playing a few hands. New players should get put off by the term optimal strategy as 3 Card Poker really is an easy game to play perfectly.

Develop a 3 Card Poker Strategy

3 Card Poker is one of the most popular table games. It is played in casinos around the world and also offered online at many cyber casinos. Learning how to play 3 Card Poker is fairly easy, but players can increase their chances of winning by understanding how the odds work for the house and how to follow the best strategy.

Unlike a hand of blackjack, where the player makes a single wager and only occasionally doubles down or splits with extra bets, 3 Card Poker play offers three bets on almost every hand. Because of this the overall house edge is much more significant – it’s like betting on three spots at a blackjack table every round.

Betting just the Ante Wager

If you wish, 3 Card Poker can be played by betting only on the Ante wager. To continue paying after obtaining your cards you must then place a similar wager on the Play or Raise spot when you think your hand is better than the dealers.

Remember, it’s really just three-card poker – your hand against the dealers. The Ante wager always pays even money (1 to 1) when the player wins. The overall house edge is built into the Ante bonus that is paid on a player straight, three of a kind, and straight flush.

This payoff is in addition to any win or loss on the Ante and Raise bets and is paid regardless of whether the player actually wins the hand. The following chart shows the most popular payoffs used for the Ante wager bonus, starting with table 1.

Hand Probability Table 1 Table 2 Table 3 Table 4
Straight Flush 0.002172 5 to 1 4 to 1 3 to 1 5 to 1
Three of a kind 0.002353 4 to 1 3 to 1 2 to 1 3 to 1
Straight 0.032579 1 to 1 1 to 1 1 to 1 1 to 1
House Edge 3.37% 3.83% 4.28% 3.61%
Ante Bonus Payoffs 0.037104

The player will win the Ante bet 44.91 per cent of the time. There are 22,100 possible three-card hands. The Ante bonus pays on 824 of those, for a total of just 3.73 per cent of the time. If you play on a table with six players, someone gets paid on the Ante bonus about every four rounds.

Strategy Know-Hows

Mini Royal Ante Bonus

Some casinos now offer a large Ante bonus for a Mini-Royal hand of suited Ace-King-Queen. Unfortunately, the house edge is actually higher on these games at land-based casinos with the exception of the Borgata in Atlantic City, New Jersey. At the Borgata, a straight pays 1 to 1, three-of-a-kind pays 4 to 1, a straight flush pays 5 to 1, and a Mini Royal pays 10 to 1. That reduces the house edge to just 3.28 per cent.

Pitfalls of Playing Every Hand

Like other casino table games, different betting systems have been devised to take advantage of winning streaks. However, the play strategy for when to back an Ante wager with an additional Play (sometimes marked Raise) wager is based only on the fact that the dealer only “qualifies” when their hand is at least Queen high. With this in mind, the player should always bet the Raise wager when they hold at least Queen – 6 – 4 or higher.

Players who like to play every hand to the max or in the “blind” and wager on the Raise every hand will find that the house edge rises from about 3.5 per cent to over 7.5 per cent – obviously a mistake to do.

The fact that the player always wins when the dealer does not quality (and is paid only the Ante, but not the Raise bet) does not make playing every hand with a raise a good idea.

Pair Plus Wager

The Pair Plus wager is what draws most players to 3 Card Poker, because it pays regularly and has payoffs as high as 40-1 (higher on some games, usually with worse odds for the player). As with most bonus-style bets, the house has a much higher edge than on the regular Ante wager. The following chart shows a standard payoff schedule for the Pair Plus.

Pair Plus Table 1 Without and Table 2 With Mini-Royal

Hand Probability Table 1 Table 2
Straight Flush 0.22 40 40 50 For Mini-Royal
Three of a Kind 0.24 30 30
Straight 3.26 5 6
Flush 4.96 4 3
Pair 16.94 1 1
Nothing 74.39 -1 -1
House edge – Percent 5.57 7.10

The Pair Plus wager gets paid on 25.21 percent of all hands, pretty often for a bonus wager. However, keep in mind that two-thirds of those payoffs will be even money (1 to 1) for a pair.

Effective Odds for Ante and Pair Plus

Many players find 3 Card Poker the most exciting when they are playing both the Ante bet and the Pair Plus bet.
Adding the house edge from the two most popular payoff schedules (Ante Table 1 3.37, Pair Plus Table 1 5.57) gives an overall edge of 8.94 divided by 2 wagers = 4.47 per cent for the house if the player only makes the Raise (Play) wager when they have at least Queen – 6 – 4.

If the player plays blind, or raises every hand, the effective house edge goes up to over 6.5 per cent against the player. Don’t do it.

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About the author:

Author Al W. Moe was eight years old when he first experienced the excitement of gambling after finding an old slot machine in his Uncle’s basement. The machine worked perfectly, taking the three nickels he had left from his allowance, but his imagination was set loose when he opened the back of the machine and found out just how the hundreds of moving parts made the slot work. Since that day, Moe has pulled the curtain back from hundreds of casino games to peek inside, and then offer his own views on their popularity, best features, and how to play each game like a pro. He has also played blackjack and poker for a living, while writing about his experiences. Moe is the author of several books on the history of gambling, including the Best Selling "Vegas and the Mob."