Three Card Poker is one of the oldest and most successful casino table games. The game hit live casinos decades ago and it still going strong in online casinos around the world. Players love Three Card Poker because of its simplicity and for the opportunity to win large payouts. It’s not uncommon to see a progressive jackpot running into the hundreds of thousands of dollars in this game.

British-born Derek Webb is the man who created Three Card Poker. Webb devised and patented the game all the way back in 1994. He created the game after a trip to Las Vegas where he found the poker-based games slow and boring. Webb combined Three Card Brag with poker and created Three Card Poker.

Casinos in the United Kingdom initially rejected Webb’s new game, but it was an immediate hit in the United States. The Vice President of the Grand Casino Gulfport in Mississippi loved the game and the rest is history.

How To Play Three Card Poker

The game is frighteningly simple yet still great fun to play. A round of Three Card Poker starts with each player making an Ante or Pair Plus bet. Everyone, including the dealer, receives three cards face down.

Players look at their cards and decide if they want to continue or fold. Folding forfeits the ante bet and the round is over for them. A Play bet, equal to the size of the ante bet, is made if the player likes their chances of winning. The dealer turns over their three cards once everyone has acted and the players do the same.

The dealer must hold at least queen-high to qualify. A push of the Play bet is declared if the dealer doesn’t qualify, but even money is paid on the Ante bet. Standard poker hand rankings determine the winner if the dealer qualifies. Even money on the Ante and Play bet is the reward if the player beats the dealer. Another push on both bets is declared if the player and dealer tie.

There are bonus payments on the ante bet if the player has a straight, three-of-a-kind, or a straight flush. A straight typically pays 1-to-1, three-of-a-kind pays 4-to-1, and a straight flush pays 5-to-1.

What Are The Probabilities of Making Three Card Poker Hands?

Hand Combinations Probability Percentage
Straight flush 48 0.002172 0.2172%
Three of a Kind 52 0.002353 0.2353%
Straight 720 0.032579 3.2579%
Flush 1,096 0.049593 4.9593%
Pair 3,744 0.169412 16.9412%
Ace High or Less 16,440 0.743891 74.3891%

What Is Pair Plus?

Pair Plus has been around almost as long as Three Card Poker and is an additional bet made by the player. You bet that your unseen three card holding has a pair, flush, straight, three-of-a-kind, or straight flush. The payout as follows:

  • Pair: 1 to 1
  • Flush: 4 to 1
  • Straight: 6 to 1
  • Three-of-a-kind: 30 to 1
  • Straight flush: 40 to 1

Placing a Pair Plus bet gives you the opportunity to boost profits, but it increases the house edge significantly. The most common paytable without Pair Plus gives Three Card Poker a 3.37% house edge. Adding Pair Plus increases this by 7.276% for a total house edge of 10.646%. This is huge and while it’s your choice to make, you should stay away from this additional bet.

Is There Any Viable Strategy?

Three Card Poker does have the tiniest element of skill involved, but it is limited. It’s a game almost purely of chance, your only input is whether to continue with the hand or not. This is why it’s important to play with the lowest house edge possible.

Increase your chances of winning by only playing with Queen-Six-Four or better. There is some bamboozling math behind this holding, you’ll just have to trust us. Play this hand or better, fold everything else and hope Lady Luck is shining down on you.