There are several varieties of the world-famous game of poker, and multiple editions of the 3 card poker subtype too. The main difference between 2 card, 3 card, 4 card and 5 card poker, as the names suggest, arises from the size of the winning hand a player has to make. 3 card poker itself has a rule variations that create few subspecies within it. The standard casino version of 3 card poker was only introduced in casinos in 1994. It’s inventor, Derek Webb, envisioned a poker that could match the speed of other casino games. More than that, a game simple enough for gamblers to grasp quickly, with attractive enough payouts, and a house edge that could allow casinos to profit. Achieving all this led to the birth of 3 card poker: to this moment the industry’s most successful proprietary game. The game is a fixture in practically all major casinos today.
3 Card Poker: The Very Basics
As with other forms of poker, the objective of 3 card poker is to make a better hand than the dealer. Since this is three-card, the player has to make a better hand using three cards only. Cards have different values (or ranks) in the game. Ace is the highest, followed by king, queen, jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, and 2. The highest ranked hand is a mini royal flush i.e. a combination of same-suit ace, king and queen (AKQ). Play flows as follows:
- Player must make an initial bet – the ante bet.
- The player optionally makes a bonus (for unique card combinations) bet, if they so wish.
- The dealer deals three cards each to himself and to the player. All are first dealt face-up before turning the bottom card face-up.
- The player now has the option to “fold” (discontinue) or place a “play” (continue) bet. “Fold” means forfeiting the ante bet.
- The dealer must have a hand of Queen high or better to continue play. If the dealer doesn’t have that, the player wins his ante bet and the play bet is neither lost not won. If the dealer does have a Queen high or better, the player wins if they can beat the dealer’s hand. In that case the player wins both ante and play bets, receiving an even money payout (1:1) for both.
Basic 3 Card Poker Play Strategies
All players must make an ante bet to play, so that’s that. But what every good poker player must know is when to “play” or concede.
1. When To Play
Once the cards are dealt, one must size up their hand. The most common tactic is to only Play when you receive a hand that is:
- Queen-6-4 or better.
- Queen-7, regardless of the third card.
- Any time the player’s high card is an Ace or King, no matter what the other two cards are.
Having a hand like above is not a guarantee of winning 3 card poker, no of course not. But it does improve the player’s chances of edging out the dealer. Even if that round is lost, there is a good probability of making more money that is lost by the end of the day, or in the long run.
2. When To Fold
Folding is by no means a coward’s gambit. It simply means retreating and living to fight another day. Based on the when-to-play criteria above, it makes sense for the player to fold when their hand is weaker than Queen-6-4. There’s always a good chance that the dealer beats out any hand lower than that, and that’s what we want to avoid. By folding, the player loses just the ante bet rather than ante+play bet. They can then wait for another round where the shuffle machine may bestow them a kinder hand.