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3 Card Poker

One very popular game and hidden gem across casinos is 3 card poker. Although this game is widely played, and brings great profits to both operators and players alike, it seems that it has never been a mainstream game. Nevertheless, if you try it, it will win you over with its simplicity, especially if you never fully learned to play poker. Well, this is the game for those that want something much simpler than that.

3 card poker is a very entertaining game. It’s been invented not long ago, but spread rapidly across Las Vegas. Today you can find it at the majority of casinos where you get to play against the computer with a poker hand consisted of only three cards.

However, despite the reduced number of cards for a hand this is a game of certain skill, so you still need to learn an optimal, but simple strategy, and to understand the odds.

Origins of 3 Card Poker

3 card poker is one of the more recent casino games. It was invented in 1994 by a British poker player called Derek Webb. By 1997 he decided to patent it, and thus officially marked the game as his own invention.

He invented 3 card poker during his time in Las Vegas, where he extensively played poker. However, while there at one point he felt that standard poker games are played at a bit boring tempo. So, he decided to create something that will have the speed of regular casino games, and still was as exciting as poker.

As a result, his new poker game was easy to play and understand, the payouts were juicy, the rules were not complicated at all, and it was a game that had a house edge favorable enough for US casino operators to adopt it officially. In the end, it was a win-win-win for everybody in the casino world.

Very quickly, 3 card poker gained popularity among the players in the USA. At first, Webb was rejected in Atlantic City, Las Vegas and Reno, but succeeded in Mississippi where the first casino to introduce it was Grand Casino Gulfport.

Being the first casino to adopt his game, Webb decided to devote hours and hours of daily work free of charge in order to oversee the implementation of the game and to train the dealers in the game and how it’s played. By 1999 the game started being advertised overseas, and in 2002 it was adopted in Great Britain after the gambling laws there were modified to allow a game like 3 card poker.

3 Card Poker Rules

Just like poker, 3 card poker is played with a standard deck of 52 cards. The game starts with the initial Ante wager. After each player has made a wager in the Ante spot, the dealer deals the players three cards each. He also deals three cards for himself.

At this point when all the players have seen their own cards, they can decide to fold, which means losing the Ante bet, but also avoiding a bigger subsequent loss due to the weak hand, or they can continue wagering by making the additional Play wager.

After that the dealer and the players show their cards, and if the dealer’s hand has at least a queen, he qualifies. The players that have a losing hand lose the Ante and Play wager. Those that have a winning hand are paid 1 to 1 for the Ante and Play wagers. If it’s a tie, nothing happens.

Hand Rankings

The lowest hand rank in 3 card poker is a high card hand, which can be any hand with random cards that don’t form any known poker hand. This hand is also called the nothing hand. The players that have a high card hand compare their hands by arranging the sequence of cards from the highest card to the lowest.

First the highest cards are compared, and the player that has a higher card, wins. For example, one player has a queen, while the other king. Naturally, the hand with the king wins. If both players had the same highest card, the second highest cards in their hands are compared to determine the winner.

The rest of the hands are probably known to you:

Ante Bonus

Players have an option for a bonus payout if they make the Ante Bonus wager. When you make an Ante bonus, you bet that your hand will be a straight or better. If you have a straight flush, the bonus pays 5 to 1, it’s 4 to 1 for three of a kind and 1 to 1 to straight.

Special Mini Royal Bonus

There is also the Special Mini Royal Bonus, where you are paid 50 to 1 in addition to the Ante wager. You win this bonus if your hand is a Mini Royal, which is a hand consisted of suited queen, king and ace. With the Special Mini Royal Bonus you win if your hand is a straight flush (8 to 1) and three of a kind (6 to 1).

Pair Plus

Another optional wager that can bring you bonus profit is the Pair Plus. This one pays regardless of whether the dealer qualifies or folds. Pair plus wagers are made by placing your wager in the circle named Pair Plus. To win the Pair plus wager you need to have at least a pair, or anything higher than a pair. So, the only time your lose the wager is if you don’t have a pair, and the house edge for that is 2.32%, which is considered very favorable for a bonus wager.

3 Card Poker Strategy

A simple game calls for a simple strategy. The only strategy you need in 3 card poker is to remember to always consider folding if your hand is weaker than queen-six-four, and always consider playing if your hand is higher. That’s all there is. The reason for such a simple strategy is because hands consist of only three cards, which significantly lowers your chances for losing and provides you with a bigger probability of winning.


Games like poker that require a lot of skills, probably the best skills of any gambling game, can be extremely intimidating for players that don’t have what it takes to learn them at a higher (amateur or pro) level. This is where 3 card poker comes in rescue. A smart, but simple game that borrows the basics of poker and makes it easier for players to win at much better odds. Even the strategies are simple enough to be applied effectively.

If you don’t have a land-based casino nearby that offers 3 card poker, you can always turn to online casinos where you can practice the game for free or decide to play it for real money and profit. It can also be your gateway to standard 5-card poker games.