In 2015, the gaming industry in the United States raked in over $23 billion in gambling profits. For many years, table games have been a popular staple in casinos across the world. 3 card poker is one of the most popular variations of table gambling, for a few key reasons.
Three card poker, also called tri poker or casino brag, was invented in 1994 in the UK. In the years since, it has become one of the most popular games for both beginning and experienced gamblers.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at some of the reasons 3 card poker is so popular, explain its rules, and then go over some basic strategy.
A Brief History of 3 Card Poker
Three card poker was invented by Derek Webb. His aim was to create a game that players and dealers could easily learn and have fun playing. Casinos like having the game on their floor because there is a high “hold percentage,” meaning the house holds on to a high amount of the money players use to buy in.
Today, you can find a game of three card poker at almost every major gambling city in the world. It comes in both online and table versions. It’s popular because there is luck involved, but it also takes some skill to understand how to play your cards.
Before you jump in and start testing your luck and abilities, it’s important to get an understanding of the rules and gameplay.
If you’re familiar with other varieties of poker like Texas Hold ‘Em and Stud, you can probably skip this section. But new players will want to learn about these rules before going on to the specific rules of three card poker.
No matter what game you are playing, poker hands are pretty standard. Here is a listing of the names of hands (in bold) and the cards they consist of:
- Mini-royal flush – An Ace, King, and Queen of the same suit. This hand could also be viewed as the best possible straight flush.
- Straight flush – Three consecutive cards of the same suit. For example, a 4, 5, and 6 of clubs.
- Three of a kind – Three of the same card.
- Straight – Three consecutive cards in a row but not necessarily of the same suit. For example, 7, 8, and 9 of any suit is a straight.
- Flush – Any three cards of the same suit. For example, a 3, jack, and 9 of hearts is a hearts flush.
- One pair – Two of the same card. If players have the same pair, whoever’s third card (known as the kicker) is higher wins the hand.
- High card – Simply means you have one card ranked higher than another player’s. For example, an ace high means you have high card ace, and you would beat a player whose high card is a king.
Two other common poker hands are excluded from three card poker, since there aren’t enough cards – the full house and four of a kind (quads).
Rules and Gameplay of 3 Card Poker
Everyone at the table participating in the game places their initial ante bet. The size of this bet is determined by the table stakes. Once the antes have been placed, each player is dealt three cards, including the dealer.
From there, each player decides what they want to do next. There are two possible actions. If a player doesn’t like their hand, they can fold.
When you fold, you lose your ante bet and you are out of the hand until the next hand is dealt. If you do like your hand and want to play, you place a bet in front of your ante, known as the play wager. A play wager must be at least the same as the ante.
After all players have completed their betting or have folded, the dealer reveals his or her hand. The dealer must hold a queen high card or better in order to play.
If the dealer’s hand does not qualify, all players’ play bets are considered a push, and the bet is returned. Ante bets are paid out at even money, meaning you receive the same amount that you bet.
If the dealer’s hand does qualify, meaning the dealer has a queen high or better, all bets are in play. If a player’s hand beats the dealer’s hand, both the ante bet and the play bet are paid at even money.
If the player’s hand is equal to the dealer’s hand, all bets are returned. This is also called a push.
If your hand is worse than the dealer’s hand, you lose both your ante and play bets. You will also receive a bonus payout for having a strong hand: either a straight, three of a kind, or flush. These bonus payouts are different depending on where you are playing.
Besides the ante and play bet, there is another optional 3 card poker bet. This is called the pair plus bet. As the name implies, the pair plus bet pays out for hands that contain a pair or better.
If a player makes a pair plus bet and does not have at least a pair, they lose this bet whether their hand beats the dealer or not. Conversely, even if you lose the main hand and fold your cards, if you have at least a pair you still win your pair plus bet.
Pair plus bets are paid out like this:
- Pair – even money
- Flush – 4:1
- Straight – 6:1
- Three of a kind – 30:1
- Straight flush – 40:1
Strategy for 3 Card Poker
Because three card poker is relatively simple, its basic strategy is straightforward. Any time you have a hand with a queen and a second card higher than a six, you should play. If your high card is a jack or lower, fold.
You can get more in-depth than the above guidelines, but these initial rules are all you need to get started playing and winning.
The Last Word on 3 Card Poker
For beginning gamblers, 3 card poker is an ideal table game. It’s easy to learn, you don’t have to worry about losing everything on one hand, and allows you to socialize and have fun at a table.
For information about other popular casino games, browse the rest of our gaming articles.