3-card poker is a fun casino game with simple rules and similarities to other types of poker. The game is played against the dealer, not against other players. Derek Webb patented the game in the late 90s, hoping to bring a quicker poker game to casinos. Popularity skyrocketed and 3-card poker tables became a common sight in major casinos.

Learning the game won’t take you long if you already enjoy poker. Let’s talk about how to play 3-card poker, reliable strategies to use, and where to find some tables.

The game uses poker chips and a standard deck of 52 cards without the jokers, just like Texas hold ‘em.

Poker formats like hold ‘em and Omaha use 5 cards, but we need the strongest 3-card combination we can get. That means flushes and straights are far shorter, requiring only 3 matching or sequential cards. There is not a full house in classic 3-card poker, but the hand hierarchy is otherwise the same as hold ‘em.

A classic 3-card poker game, with payouts listed on the side

3 Card Poker Step-By-Step Rules

When you arrive at the table, you have to make an ante or bet to see your cards. These bets will decide how much you win if you make a hand.

  1. Ante: When you bet the ante spot, you are betting against the dealer. If your three-card combination is better than the dealer’s, you win. At casinos, this is usually a minimum of $5, but online casinos have low minimums.
  2. Pair Plus: Betting on Pair Plus means that you need a pair or better in your hand for a payout. This is considered betting on yourself since the dealer’s hand is irrelevant to this bet.
  3. Play Ante and Pair Plus: Playing both bets will payout if you make a pair or better and also beat the dealer’s hand combination.
  4. 6 Card Bonus: If you make three-of-a-kind or better using your 3 cards, plus the dealer’s 3 cards, you can win a bonus payout.
Ante, Pair Plus, 6 Card Bonus, or all of them?

After ‌choosing ante, pair plus, or both, it’s time to see some cards. Your cards will be dealt face-up, while the dealer’s cards will be dealt face-down.

You now have a choice to make. Is your 3-card combination strong, or is it unlikely to win?

Pairs are a strong hand in 3-card poker

Choose to Play or Fold the hand. If you choose to Play, you must make a bet equal to the size of the ante. If you fold, the action ends and the dealer collects the pot. There is only one betting opportunity, unlike the four betting rounds of hold ‘em poker.

The dealer turns their cards up, and it’s time to see the results. They need to have a queen in their hand to continue. If they hold worse than a queen, players receive their ante bets back. If the dealer wins, the player’s bets are forfeited.

The dealer’s hand does not qualify

If you bet Ante only: you can win with any hand that beats the dealer’s hand, which must contain a queen or higher.

If you bet Pair Plus: you must make a pair or higher to win the hand. If the dealer makes a pair, yours must be higher to win.

If you bet 6 Card Bonus: you must make a three-of-a-kind of better to be paid out.

Flushes payout 4 to 1 in 3-card poker

There’s always a simple payout table for you to read anytime you play 3-card poker. Let’s look at a classic one with Ante and Pair Plus payouts.

Classic 3-card poker doesn’t always have a 6-card bonus bet option

It’s easy to calculate your winnings based on this table. You can see that a pair pays one-to-one, so a $5 ante bet wins you $5 (if you make a pair).

6 card bonus payouts apply if you manage to make a three-of-a-kind or better:

  • Three of a Kind 5:1
  • Straight 10:1
  • Flush 20:1
  • Full House 25:1
  • Four of a Kind 50:1
  • Straight Flush 200:1
  • Royal Flush 1000:1

Here are a few widely adopted strategies for 3-card poker:

  • Play your hand when you have a queen-six-four or better.
  • If you are dealt an ace or a king, Play your hand (regardless of your other two cards)
  • If your highest card is a jack or lower, you should always fold (unless you have a pair)

Bet sizes should suit your bankroll. Maximize the opportunities you have to win by betting a small size compared to your bankroll. If your bankroll is $100, you should probably only make bets of $1-$5 per hand.

Play within your limits.

As fun as 3-card poker is, it’s nothing compared to Texas hold ‘em. You should play a game against other players, not against a dealer. Unlike casino games, classic poker is a game of skill and strategy.

Playing on PokerStars is free unless you want to use real money

To play free or real money poker with friends, PokerStars has you covered. Not only are they one of the biggest poker sites in the world, they recently made it possible to organize private Home Games. If you’d rather compete against their worldwide player base, head to the cash game tables or enter the superb range of tournaments. Our guide will tell you everything you need to know about their bonuses and games.

TigerGaming has a large selection of cash game tables

For Texas hold ‘em and other classic formats, check out TigerGaming. They have freerolls for new players and bonuses of up to $2500. They have decent software and a wide selection of games to play. Since they are one of the biggest poker sites, they attract a large number of recreational players. Play tournaments and cash games anywhere, on any device.

Check out poker club mobile apps, where you are in control of who you play against. Create clubs, find new ones to join, and play hold ‘em, Omaha, short deck, and other formats.