play 3 card poker

How to play 3 Card Poker

3 Card Poker is a very simple game to play.  The object of the game is to bet on the outcome of the player hand being better than the dealers 3 card poker hand. The skill for the player is to identify those hands that are worth playing against the dealers face down cards and betting on the outcome.  The only decision the player needs to make is to Play or fold his hand.

Of course while the rules of the game are very simple you can get a great deal of pleasure from playing. I can honestly say that I get quite excited when I play in land based casinos when you do that “slow reveal” of your cards to see what hand you have.  I get a real kick if it’s a flush or a straight!

It’s possible to win but you need to play 3 card poker with some kind of strategy.  It’s not guaranteed to make you win, but it will maintain your bankroll for longer.  However it’s also possible to lose very quickly if you get a bad run of cards.  Trust me I know! it’s happened to me a few times.  So I’ve documented the optimal strategy for 3 card poker so you can make the best out of your bankroll.


Ante Bet – This is the initial bet you place before the cards are dealt. The minimum / maximum this can be will be displayed on the table.
Play Bet – This is a bet you make if you decide to play the cards you have been dealt. The Play bet is equal to the value of the Ante bet.
Dealer Qualifies – A minimum hand value is normally assigned to signify when the dealer will payout on the “play bet”. Normally the dealer has to have at least a Queen in his hand to qualify. If he doesn’t then the play bet is returned to the player and the Ante bet is paid at 1:1.
Ante Bonus – Is a special pay table for hands with a value of straight or above. It is paid to the player even if the players hand loses to the dealers hand.
Pairs Plus – An optional side bet that pays out on the value of your hand even if you fold or the dealer beats your hand.
6 Card Bonus – An optional side bet that pays out on a 5 card poker hand made up from your 3 cards combined with the dealers 3 cards.

Hand Values

Hands are valued the same as in normal poker, with the exception of the Flush and Straight. In 3 card poker a Straight beats a Flush. When hand values between the dealer and the player are the same, e.g both have a Flush or both have a Pair, the hand with the higher card is determined the winner. In a hand where there maybe two equal pairs, the value of the third card (the kicker) is used to determine the winning hand.

To play 3 card poker you’ll need one pack of 52 cards. The value of the cards are 2 through to King. Ace is counted high or low depending on how it is being used, for example it is used low in a straight Ace, Two, Three and high when it’s a single card or in a Pair, Flush, Straight, 3 Of a Kind or Royal Flush.

High Card

Ace of DiamondsThis is the lowest value hand. You obviously want a hand with an Ace and a high kicker card (like a King) for your Ace to be good against another Ace.


9 of clubs
9 of hearts

A pair are two identical value cards, in this example the 9 clubs and 9 hearts. If the dealer has a pair, the higher value pair wins and if they have the same pair the decisions is made on the value of the kicker card.


3 of hearts
5 of hearts
9 of hearts

Three cards that are all of the same suit but are not a straight. If there are two flushes the one with the highest card is determined the winner.


2 of spades
3 of hearts
4 of clubs

A run of 3 cards that are not of the same suit, like three, four, five or eight, nine, ten. If the dealer and player hands were both straights the higher run would win.

3 of a Kind

5 of hearts
5 of Clubs
5 of diamonds

Three cards of the same value e.g. three fives. Three sixes would beat three fives!

Straight Flush

4 of clubs
5 of Clubs
6 of clubs

Three cards of the same suit in a run, like the example 4,5 and 6 of Clubs.

Royal Flush

Ace of Diamonds
King of Diamonds
Queen of Diamonds

The Ace, King, Queen in the same suit is the best possible hand and is known as a Royal Flush or you’ll sometimes see it as Mini Royal Flush.

Playing the Game

  • The game starts with the player placing an Ante bet on the table and any side bets he wants to play.
  • The dealer then deals the player 3 cards face up and the dealers 3 cards face down.
  • The player then decides whether to play the hand. If he decides to play then he should place a bet equal to the initial Ante bet on the play position. If he doesn’t want to play then he selects fold and the hand is lost and he forfeits his initial ante bet.
  • The dealer then reveals his three card poker hand.
  • The side bets are then settled regardless of whether the player has folded or not.
  • If the dealers hand does not Qualify, i.e is lower than a queen then the Play bet is returned to the Player and the Ante Bet is paid at 1:1.
  • If the dealer qualifies and the player wins, the Play bet is paid at 1:1 and the Ante bet is paid 1:1. If the hand is equal to or greater than a straight then an additional Ante Bonus is paid.
  • If the dealer beats the player then all monies are forfeited.

Pay Tables

You’d think that the pay tables would be standard across all the 3 card poker games you play but they’re not.  There is a difference between Live 3 Card poker and RNG 3 Card poker.  I don’t know why it’s like that.  The only thing I can suggest is to view the pay tables before you play 3 card poker at a casino and make sure you’re happy with the payouts.  If you’re not, then move on as there are plenty of casinos with 3 card poker.

HandLive Pay TableRNG Pay Table
Ante / Play
HandLive Pay TableRNG Pay Table
Ante Bonus
Straight Flush5:15:1
3 of a Kind4:14:1
HandLive Pay TableRNG Pay Table
Pairs Plus
Mini Royal (AKQ)100:1200:1
Straight Flush40:140:1
3 of a Kind30:130:1
HandLive Pay TableRNG Pay Table
6 Card Bonus
Royal Flush1,000:11,000:1
Straight Flush200:1200:1
4 of a Kind100:150:1
Full House20:125:1
3 of a Kind7:15:1


In essence that’s the game.  The side bets and playing strategies need some further explaining, so before you dash off to one of the recommended casinos where you can play live 3 card poker you should take a minute to read my 3 card poker strategies and playing tips guide and information on side bets.