3 Card Poker Strategy and Mistakes To Avoid

If you’re looking to up your game and win more at 3 card poker, then look no further than our foolproof 3 card poker strategy guide. In just a few minutes, you’ll be armed with all the knowledge you need to start raking in the wins!

3 Card Poker: How to Play

This section will provide all the information you need to play 3 Card Poker in a casino.


This casino game uses a 52-card playing deck of cards and betting chips. Automated shuffle machines will be used to shuffle additional cards during the current hand. This allows for faster gameplay.


You want a 3 Card Poker strategy to win. You don’t need to exchange or draw more cards, like in Blackjack. It’s all about the cards you are dealt initially.

Depending on the way you choose to place your bets, you will either (1) try to make a pair or higher; or (2) have your hand rank higher than that of the dealer.


The 3 Card Poker hand rankings are very simple: To win, you want to have the highest poker ranked cards in your hand. The rankings in 3-card poker may be slightly different from regular poker.

These are the rankings from best to worst.

  • Straight Flush: Three cards of the same value and in the same suit (i.e. Kc-Qc-Jc).
  • 3 of a kind: 3 cards of equal value (i.e. 8-8-8).
  • Straight: 3 cards of the same value (i.e. 6-7-8).
  • Flush: Three cards of the same suit (i.e. Ad-9d-3d).
  • Pair: Two matching cards of equal value.
  • Value plus one “kicker”, i.e. A-A-4).
  • High Card: Cards that are not paired and have no suit or order matching between them (i.e. Qc-6s-4d).

This means that any hand of A-XX-X cards will beat a hand of K-XX-X cards. In other words, even if your hand contains A-3-4, you can still beat a hand of K-Q-9 even though its average value might be higher. Also, if the first high-card hand is tied, the second card will determine who the winner.

You should also be aware that even if two players have the same poker hand order (i.e. If a pair is played, the player with the highest value hand will win (i.e. A-A-2 defeats 2-2-A as the one has a pair or Aces while the other has a pair or 2’s).

3 Card Poker Rules

  1. Betting : Three Card Poker offers two betting options:
    • Ante This is where you will play your hand against the dealer and try to get the highest rank poker hand.
    • Pair Plus In which you will aim to make a pair with your hand. This bet does not take into account the dealer’s hand.
      • NOTE: Different betting requirements apply to different casinos. Some casinos require you to place an ante to play a hand. The optional Pair Plus bet is not required. Some casinos offer the option to choose whether you want to play with the Ante, or the Pair Plus.
  2. Dealing : Each player receives three cards face-down. The dealer also receives three cards. Similar to Blackjack, you are only trying to beat your dealer (i.e. If you used the “ante”, betting option, you are only trying to beat the dealer) 
  3. Playing Action Once the player has received their cards, it’s their turn to act. They have the option to “play” or discard their hand.
    • If the player discards their hand the dealer wins the initial ante as well as any Pair Plus bets if applicable.
    • If the player wishes to continue playing, they must place a “Play” bet. The play bet amount must be equal to the initial ante.
  4. Winning and winning payouts The next step in the hand is for the player, who will reveal his cards. The dealer will then do the same. The hands are then compared and any monies are collected.
    • If the dealer has a J high High Card hand or worse, they will not be allowed to “play.” Instead, all players will win the amount equal to the “ante” wager but will push with their play bet. This means they will simply collect back the chips they originally played but they won’t win any additional money for this wager (but they can lose it). The player will still win the amount of their ante chip if the dealer’s hand beats the player’s. They’ll also “push” their Play wager and be able to recollect it after each hand. (If the dealer has J-4-3, and the player has T-9-7, the player would win the amount of their ante for that hand.

High Hand 3 Card poker Rules: Poker Payouts

These High Hand 3 Card poker Rules can vary from casino to casino and place-to–place. Here are the “Pair Plus” wager payouts in America.

  • Pair: 1 to 1.
  • Flush: 3-1 (or 4-1).
  • Straight: 6 to 1 or 5 to 1.
  • Three-of-a Kind: 30 to 1, or 25 to 1.
  • Straight Flush: 40 to 1.

If you have the strongest hands, the casino may also offer Ante Bonus payouts. These payouts do not require a wager as with the Pair Plus bet.

The Ante Bonus payouts might look something like the above, but they are subject to different payout structures.

  • Straight: 1 to 1.
  • Three-of-a Kind: 4 to 1, 2 to 1, or 3 to 1.
  • Straight Flush: 5-1 (or 3-1 or 4-1).

The Main 3 Card Poker Strategy

There is one 3 Card Poker strategy that all players use. The queen-6-4 strategy is it. It is simple to remember and easy to use.

You raise if you have hands that contain cards higher than a queen-6-4. You fold in all other cases. If you have a hand that has lower card values than a queen-6-4, do not place a play bet.

Why? This is the point at which your win probability jumps to above 51%. This is the hand that gives you the advantage.

Some players will also play the bet with a queen-7 hand or higher, regardless of which card they have.

You can use progressive betting systems for 3 Card Poker, as you can with all other gambling card games. Positive progression is when your stake increases after a win and decreases after a loss. A negative progression is the opposite.

After a loss, you increase your wager and decrease it after a successful round. The Paroli strategy is a well-known positive progression system, while the Martingale is the most well-known negative. You should be extra cautious when using progressive betting patterns.

Each one is worth researching and you should have a budget to support them.

3 Card Poker: Etiquette

Three things are important to remember about 3 Card Poker etiquette

  • Playing your hand To ante up and also play your hand, arrange the cards horizontally, place them in the “play box”, then place your Play wager on top.
  • Folding your Hand: If your anted-up, but you don’t want “play”, you can throw your cards towards the dealer. Slide your cards under your bet chips (in the “ante”, “Pair Plus” areas) and push the chips and cards towards the dealer.
  • Tipping: It is customary to tip dealers when they win. You can tip as much or as little as you like, but 10% is a good size. If you have $5 chips, this can be done with $1 chips. After you have played a hand, tip your dealer by placing your tip to the right in any of the betting circles: Ante, Pair Plus, or Play.

House Rules

It is important to highlight the differences between casinos in terms of house rules.

  • Maximum number of simultaneous hands for one player: Some casinos limit players to playing one hand at a given time. Other casinos allow multiple players to play simultaneously (across different sections of the betting area at the same table).
  • Sharing your hole cards: There is a one-per-hand policy in some card rooms. Some places allow players to share their hole cards and help one another make decisions about how to play their hand.
  • What Bet MUST Be Placed? Some places require you to place an ante chip in order to get a hand of 3 Card Poker. The Pair Plus is the optional wager category. Other casinos offer the option to play the ante chip, the Pair Plus wager, or both.

How to Cheat at 3 Card Poker?

3 Card Poker is not a game where you can cheat. Nevertheless, 3 Card Poker has only one deck, which is different from most Blackjack card games. This means that counting cards to gain an advantage is not possible.

If they are allowed by the casino, players can look at the hands of each other to see if they have any other cards in play.

If you have a lot of Aces, Kings, or Queens in play, it might be a good idea to place a Play chip. You might win an ante wager if the dealer has a Jack High or lower hand.

3 Card Poker Online

3 Card Poker is a live table game. Online casinos offer virtual table games and live streams of table game to make it easier for players to enjoy an online experience.

Check with your preferred online casino to find out if 3 Card Poker is available.

Three Card Poker Mistakes To Avoid

1. Overcomplicating Three Card Poker Strategy (or Not Using Strategy)

I have seen gambling authors recommend different Three Card Poker strategies to get the maximum return.

These tips include not playing below king-high or only playing with Q-10-x.

It is admirable to try and reduce the house edge by a few hundred of a percent. There is only one Three Card Poker strategy you need to know about the ante bet: raise using Q-6-4.

You can make the “ante” wager (a.k.a. Ante & play is where you want to only keep hands that are at least Q-6-4.

This gives you a 3.37% advantage on the ante wager. However, this is only the house advantage after taking into account element of risk.

You should fold any hand other than Q-6-3 because they offer lower expected value (EV). This is more than if your ante bet was just folded and you would lose it. You’ll also lose more money if you play Q-6-3.

Q-6-4, on the other hand, gives you a strong high and two kickers that make adding play bets +EV.

Another thing: Never play blindly with your hands!

Some people play blind where they raise all the cards and never look at their cards. This logic suggests that you might as easily enjoy every hand if it’s your turn to sit at the table.

However, I find it difficult to lose far more often. Blind play leads to a 7.6% house advantage, which is worse than nearly every other casino game.

You might be surprised at how easy Three Card Poker strategy can be. This is why you might want to look at your cards and make fold/raise choices based on it.

2. Making the Pair Plus Bet Over Ante Bet

Three Card Poker hands start with you having the choice to place a Pair Plus or Ante bet. Either wager equals half the minimum bet at the table.

Pair Plus is a bonus wager which allows you to bypass the main game. This bonus wager has one objective: to get dealt a pair or higher.

You will receive a bonus payout if you are dealt at least one pair. Any lower results in a loss.

The ante wager is part the main game. If you like your hand you can place the “play” wager to see if the dealer has a better hand.

There is another difference between Pair Plus and Ante: the pay schedule for bonus payouts. These are the common bonus prizes that each wager can win:

  • Straight = 1:1.
  • Three of a type = 4:1.
  • Straight flush = 5 :1.
  • Pair = 1:1.
  • Flush = 4.
  • Straight = 6:1.
  • Three of a type = 30:1.
  • Straight flush = 40/1.

Pair Plus appears to be the superior bet because the house edge is only 2.3%.

This low house advantage is offered by very few casino side bets. It is not uncommon for Three Card Poker players to only make the Pair Plus wager.

Pair Plus has a house edge that is 3.37%, so the ante bet seems worse than Pair Plus. However, ante is actually a better bet when you consider its “element risk.”

Many players are familiarized with the term “house edge”, which refers to the amount of money that the casino wins over time.

As an example, we can see that Pair Plus makes a profit of $2.32 for every $100 bet.

The house’s average winning percentage is called element of risk. The element of risk, also known as the initial bet, is not just for the winning wager, but also any subsequent wagers.

  • Every time, I bet $5 on the Ante.
  • I still wager $5 on the play bet (an average of $7.50) 50% of the times.
  • The casinos’ take should therefore be calculated based on my $7.50 average wager.

The strategy described above is the most common for players to place play bets. This strategy reduces the house advantage as these players only place play bets when they have a strong hand.

When you consider strategy and total wagers, the ante bet actually has a 2.1% house edge. This 2.01% house edge is higher than the 2.32% figure of Pair Plus.

This doesn’t mean you can’t place the Pair Plus bet. It still offers a strong chance of winning in the long-term.

However, don’t assume that ante’s 3.37% House Advantage is worse than Pair Plus.

3. Side bets that could pay big in the hope of big payouts

Some Three Card Poker games allow you to place side bets that go beyond Pair Plus. If you love to chase big payouts, this makes for an exciting adventure.

However, I warn you that side bets can be risky if your primary concern is winning.

Pair Plus is the only Three Card Poker side wager that has a reasonable house edge.

These side bets are still available if you’re interested. Here are some more in Three Card Poker.

3 Card Poker Strategy Summary

We hope this guide helped you learn about 3 card poker strategy. It’s a simple table game to learn, and incredibly enjoyable to play. Keep in mind all the betting options you have and do your research to learn about the house rules for the 3 card poker game that you are playing.