Three Card Poker : How To Play : Cards

Three Card Poker, one of the many 'table poker' games that have sprung forth in the last ten years is quickly growing in popularity in Casinos worldwide. Here's a short look at the history and origins of Three Card Poker, how it is played, and best practices betting strategies for successful gaming.

Originally developed by British poker champ Derek Webb, Three Card Poker finds its origins in the English poker game 'Brag' which traveled to India as 'Flush' and to America as 'Brag'. Webb installed Three Card Poker at a Dublin casino in 1995 where it experienced some success, and the game spread to a handful of Las Vegas and Atlantic City Casinos. In 1999 he sold the game to card shuffling machine manufacturer Shuffle Master (inventors of Let It Ride) who license the game to casinos worldwide. These games all used fewer cards than standard 5 or 7 card stud poker and in these days of casino metrics, more hands means more hands per hour (requiring a new Shuffle Master Deck Mate Card Shuffler) and opportunity for the house to pull in its 2-3% advantage from inexperienced players. But we're about to change all that... ;)

How To Play

Three Card Poker is essentially two games rolled into one, Pair Plus and Ante and Play, each with different betting circles for the same three cards. The player chooses to bet on either or both, in whatever amounts they choose. Payouts for Pair Plus and Ante and Play are independent of each other (unless you fold - more on that later.)

Pair Plus

The player is dealt three cards and are paid according to whether or not they achieve a "pair plus" hand. Pair plus hands include: any pair, three card flush, three card straight, three of a kind, or a three card straight flush. Due to the dealing of only three cards, full house and royal flush are impossible to achieve, and omitted from payout.

The standard payout table for Pair Plus hands is:

Straight Flush40 to 1
Three of a Kind30 to 1
Straight6 to 1
Flush4 to 1
Pair1 to 1

Ante and Play

The game begins with a bet in the Ante circle. After the player views their cards, they may elect to raise by putting a bet equal to the ante in the Play circle. The player may also elect to fold in which case you lose the original Ante bet plus their Pair Plus bet, if any. If you have squat for a Pair Plus hand, don't feel bad about mucking your hand and losing that bet, you woulda lost anyway, right? If your Pair Plus hand pays anything... don't fold. Raising and folding are the only decisions the player makes after the original bets have been placed.

If you elect to raise, your hand goes up against the dealer's hand. The dealer must have a Queen high to qualify for the raise stage. The possible outcomes are:

Dealer does not qualify : Ante wins 1-1, Play bet is returned to the player

Dealer qualifies and player beats dealer: Ante and Play bets win and are paid 1-1

Dealer qualifies and dealer beats player: Ante and Play lose

Dealer qualifies and dealer ties player: Ante and Play push

Ante Extra Bonus

There is also a guaranteed Extra Bonus payout on the Ante bet that pays independently of what happens with the dealers hand. By guarantee the mean, that if your hand meets the Bonus criteria you will get paid accordingly, even if the dealer beats you.

Straight Flush5 to 1
Three of a Kind4 to 1
Straight1 to 1

How To Win

Unlike BlackJack, Craps or real poker, Three Card Poker is a somewhat automatic game. The only decisions the player makes are:

1. Decide to play
2. Bet Ante and/or Pair Plus and how much
3. Raise Play bet or not
4. Fold
5. Decide to continue or stop playing

Based on computer calculations the house edge for ante bets is 2-3.3% and 2.3% for Pair Plus bets (depending on who's calculations you look at.) The house edge is the difference between the true odds and the odds that the casino pays you when you win. Other people define house edge as the average loss to the original amount bet.

So what can you do to decrease the house advantage (other than cheating) at Three Card Poker?

Three Card Poker Ante-Play player strategy should mirror the dealer qualifying rules (play with a Queen High or better in your hand) this puts you in the playing action 70% of the time with a 50% chance of a dealer showdown. The player will lose these showdowns an average of 5.7% of the time, but the Bonus Award Ante bet will win about half of those times, trimming the house advantage to 2.14% [ These figures based on 1,000,000 sample hands generated by gambling analyst and mathematician Lenny Fromme - Ed. ] Further analysis says that the player should raise their Play bet when they are holding Q | 6 | 4 or better.

As with all gambling, your best bets are to: know the game you are playing, wager within your means, and know when to walk away.

Good Luck!!!