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A Three Card Poker Expert Strategy

What is Three Card Poker?

Three Card Poker is a very popular variant of poker in land based casinos and online casinos. The game is easy to learn, whether you have played other variants of poker or if you are entirely new to the game, it is also incredibly fast and offers the chance to make huge winnings. You can play the game by instinct, but there are also some strategies you can employ to reduce the house edge and help you form higher paying winning hands.

Getting Started

When you start a round, you need to place an Ante bet, and then you will receive three cards face up and the dealer will receive three cards face down. You will then have to decide whether you want to play with the hand you receive or want to fold. To play you have to match the Ante bet and then you continue, but if you feel the hand is not favourable, you can fold the hand and not risk any more money.

If you choose to continue then you must place your "Play bet". If the Ante bet was €2 then you will need to put in a Play bet of €2 to make the total bet €4.

The dealer will then reveal their hand, and the two hands will be compared. To qualify, the dealer needs a queen high hand or better, if they do not qualify, the Ante bet is paid back and the Play bets are returned.

If the dealer qualifies and has a stronger hand, then the Ante bet and Play bet are lost.

If the dealer qualifies but you have a stronger hand, then the Ante bet and Play bet are both paid at 1:1

If the dealer qualifies but the hands are tied, then the bets are pushed.

There are additional bonus payouts for certain poker hands such as 4:1 for Three of a Kind and 5:1 for a Straight Flush.

Poker Hands

If you play other variants of poker, then the different hands in Three Card Poker should be relatively straightforward, but if you have not then do not worry, the hands are pretty easy to learn. Here we will list the different hands that can be dealt in order of strongest to weakest.

Straight Flush

A Straight Flush in Three Card Poker is when the hand that is dealt has 3 cards of the same suit that are sequential. An example of this can be 7, 8 and 9 of Clubs. The Straight Flush also pays a bonus 5:1 payout on the Ante bet.

Three of a Kind

As suggested by the name, if you have three matching cards, then you will have a Three of a Kind. This can be any card that comes in three different suits, such as 5 of Clubs, Spades and Diamonds. If you are dealt Three of a Kind, you are payed an additional bonus on your Ante bet at 4:1


A Straight is when you have sequential cards, irrelevant of the suit, this can be J, Q and K of different suits. The hand has no additional bonus payout.


This hand has three cards that have the same suit, for example 3, 8 and J of Hearts. The hand has no additional bonus payout.


If you have two matching cards in the hand of three that you were dealt, you have a pair, the hand can be 7 of Diamonds, 7 of Hearts and a K of Clubs. The hand has no additional bonus payout.

High Card

If your hand has none of the above, then the strength of the hand comes down to the highest card

If both player and dealer have the same winning hand, then the hands will be compared by highest value straight. For example a Straight of 9, 10 and J will beat a Straight of 5, 6 and 7, a Three of a Kind of three 10s will beat a Three of a Kind of 6s, and so on.

If both the player and the dealer have a Flush, then the highest value card will determine the winner, but if they are equal, then the round is tied. An example of this would be a hand of 5, 6 and 10 of Hearts against a hand of 2, 8 and 10 of Diamonds.

If the dealer qualifies, but neither hand has any Straight, Flush, matching cards or Pair, then they are compared by highest valued card. If both hands have the same highest value card, then the round ends in a tie.

Side Bets

On the table you will notice that there will be an Ante bet spot as well as a spot for the Play bet, but there is an additional designated spot for side bets. These are bonus bets that you can place before the cards are dealt, and they have much higher payouts.

Pair Plus Side Bet

The Pair plus is the most common side bet. This is a wager where you can bet on your hand regardless of whether the dealer qualifies or not. The payouts are much higher than what you can receive with you Ante bet, with payouts of 1:1 for a Pair, 4:1 for a Flush, 5:1 for a Straight, 30:1 for Three of a Kind, 40:1 for a Straight Flush, and 200:1 for a mini Royal Flush (this is Q, K and A of the same suit).

6 Card Bonus Side Bet

The 6 card Bonus is a wager where you bet on your cards and the dealer’s to form a strong 6 card poker hand. The payouts can vary from game to game, but generally you can expect a game to have a payout of 7:1 for Three of a Kind, 10:1 for a Straight, 15:1 for a Flush, 20:1 for a Full House, 100:1 for Four of a Kind, 200:1 for a Straight Flush and 1000:1 for a Royal Flush. The Straight Flush and Royal Flush in this context will not be of 3 cards but for 6 card hands. There are some games that have payouts of 2000:1 for the 6 card Royal Flush.

Progressive Jackpot

This requires you to place a side bet of €1 (this amount may vary depending on the game) which will be added to a jackpot pool that is accumulated with every player who plays that same game, and it can easily grow to a vast amount of money. If you have a mini Royal Flush of Spades you can receive the entire jackpot, any other mini Royal Flushes can receive payouts of 500:1. A Straight Flush will receive a payout of 100:1 and a Three of a Kind receives a payout of 90:1.

Expert Strategy

In other variants of poker there are usually extended strategy guides that you need to learn which can take a longer time to master, however, in Three Card Poker the expert guide is much shorter and easier to pick up. Playing with a strategy can reduce the house edge by ensuring you are playing your hand in the mathematically optimal way.

As a rule of thumb, if you receive a hand that has a Q, a 6 and a 4, or anything higher, then you should continue playing. If the hand is weaker, then you should discard them.

If your hand is Queen high and the second highest card is 7, then you should keep playing, no matter what the third card is.

If your hand is Queen high and your second highest card is 6, only continue if your third card is 4 or 5, if the third card is anything below, then you should fold.

If your hand is Queen high but your second highest card is 5 or lower, then you should fold.

If you play with this strategy, then you can reduce the house edge from 3.7% to 2%. If you play with Pair Plus bets, then this adds a small advantage to the house as the bet favours the house slightly, but this will only increase the edge from 2% to 2.3%.


Three Card Poker is popular in online casinos because it is easy to learn and the rounds are incredibly quick. The side bets are also an attractive prospect for players because they are straightforward and can offer huge payouts if they win. They are always good to boost your potential payouts, but the game is still enjoyable without playing side bets.


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