OBJECTIVE OF THREE CARD POKER: Beat the dealer and get paid, or have a strong hand to receive a payout.

NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 2 to 8 players

MATERIALS OF THREE CARD POKER: Standard 52-card deck




Looking for a variation of traditional poker to play at home or at the casino? You should check out Three Card Poker! Unlike standard poker games, you play against the dealer instead of playing against other players. Think: Blackjack. However, unlike Blackjack, you do not exchange or draw more cards, making this poker variation a stud poker game (rather than draw). In order to play this game, all you need is a standard 52-card deck and some chips or another item to bet with.

The basic objective of this game is to beat the dealer and have a better poker hand. Since this poker variation utilizes a hand of three instead of the traditional five, there are some key differences when it comes to hand rankings. Now, let’s get to know this game and learn the rules for Three Card Poker!


how to play three card poker

First things first, let’s get to know the poker hands in Three Card Poker, as they differ from your usual five card poker hands. Don’t worry; the hand rankings are pretty simple – especially if you already know how to play a version of poker. Probably the most jarring difference you’ll notice is that in Three Card Poker, straights are better than flushes, whereas the opposite is true for regular five-card poker games. Furthermore, as expected, there are no hands where five cards are required, such as Full House or 4 of a Kind.

So, here are the poker hands in Three Card Poker, ranked from best to worst:

  • Straight Flush: 3 consecutive cards in the same suit, such as Queen of Hearts, Jack of Hearts, and 10 of Hearts.
  • 3 of a Kind: 3 cards of the same face value, such as 9 of Hearts, 9 of Clubs, and 9 of Diamonds.
  • Straight: 3 consecutive cards in any suit, such as Queen of Hearts, Jack of Clubs, and 10 of Clovers.
  • Flush: 3 cards of the same suit, such as King of Hearts, 10 of Hearts, and 4 of Hearts.
  • Pair: 2 cards of the same face value, such as 9 of Hearts and 9 of Clubs.
  • High Card: The highest card value in your hand.


Before you start the game, you need to place a bet. After all, there is no poker game without betting! There are usually two bets you can make in Three Card Poker.

  1. Ante: You play against the dealer and try to make the highest-ranking hand. This is generally obligatory.
  2. Pair Plus: You simply try to get a hand that is a Pair or better. The dealer’s hand is not relevant here. This bet is optional.
  3. Six Card Bonus: Consists of the player’s three-card hand and the dealer’s three-card hand to make the best five-card poker hand. This bet is optional.

Keep in mind that different casinos have different rules when it comes to betting. For example, in some casinos, they may give you an option between ante or pair plus, or they may have the pair plus bet obligatory as well as the ante. So, always check the rules before you begin play. The six card bonus is always optional.


Once all players have made their bet, it’s time to deal the cards! Each player receives three cards face-down – including the dealer. Note that in ante, since you play against the dealer only, you do not have to worry about the other players’ cards.


three card poker rules

After dealing three cards to each player, players may look at their three card hand. At this point, players may decide whether they want to fold or play. If you fold, you lose your ante and pair plus bets, if applicable.

However, if you do not fold, you must place a play bet. The play bet is equal to the ante.

The dealer then turns over all the cards. The dealer will reveal the players’ cards first before their own.

In order to qualify, the dealer must at least have Queen high card. If the dealer does not qualify, all players who did not fold are paid out 1:1 on their ante. On the other hand, the play bet is a push, meaning players get back the chips they played for the play bet.

On the flip side, if the dealer qualifies, one of the three scenarios below occur:

  1. If a player has the better hand (against the dealer only!), that player wins 1:1 on ante and play bets.
  2. If the dealer has the better hand, the dealer collects the player’s ante and play bets.
  3. If the dealer and player are tied, both bets are returned.


Some casinos offer ante bonus payouts if you have a particularly strong hand. These pay out if you have a straight or better and don’t require any additional bets.

Ante bonus payouts differ by casinos, but they may look something like this:

  • Straight: 1:1
  • Three of a Kind: 4:1
  • Straight Flush: 5:1


If you placed a pair plus bet, this is separate from the main ante and play bets. This (generally optional) side bet pays out even if a player folds in the very beginning. This bet is not affected by the dealer’s hand either. It only matters what your hand is.

Pair plus payouts also differ in each casino, but they may look something like this:

  • Pair: 1:1
  • Flush: 3:1
  • Straight: 6:1
  • Three of a Kind: 30:1
  • Straight Flush: 40:1

Some casinos may even offer a payout for a Mini Royal Flush (Ace, King, and Queen in the same suit), which may be paid out at 50:1 or even 100:1 and 200:1!


Another optional three card poker side bet is the six card bonus. Players must make this side bet at the same time as the ante.

This bonus takes the player’s three card hand and the dealer’s three card hand to create a six card hand. With these six cards, they must make the best traditional five-card poker hand. This side bet pays out even if the player folds their hand.

Six card bonuses can differ, but they may look something like this:

  • Three of a Kind: 8:1
  • Straight: 9:1
  • Flush: 15:1
  • Full House: 20:1
  • Four of a Kind: 100:1
  • Straight Flush: 200:1
  • Royal Flush: 1,000:1

Check out our article on poker hand rankings for more on standard five-card poker hands.


Of course, as with other poker games, there is some strategy involved when it comes to Three Card Poker. However, before you try to implement these strategies right away, we highly recommend getting super familiar with the rules for Three Card Poker above, so that you are comfortable with it.

In order to improve your chances of winning (and winning big), here are some of our top strategies to keep in mind when playing:

  • Play all hands equal to or better than Q, 6, 4. Fold all other hands.
  • Play any time you have a high card of K or A in your hand.
  • Don’t skip out on the pair plus bonus! A single win can easily cover your next few games.
  • If you know one of your dealer’s cards (in some variations), always make a play bet if the card is a J or lower.


Poker is one of the most interesting and entertaining card games out there. There have been many, many variations of poker that have emerged over the years, some more popular than others. While most poker games follow a basic structure, the rules slightly differ from game to game. Here’s are some of the more popular poker games, and how their rules differ from Three Card Poker:

  • Texas Hold’Em: Players are dealt two private cards and share five community cards. The goal is to make the best five-card hand using any combination of the seven cards available
  • Poker Dice: This is a dice game where players roll five dice and aim to achieve the best poker hand. It relies entirely on chance and dice rolls rather than traditional card-based poker strategy.
  • Let It Ride: This is a variation of poker where players receive three cards and can choose to withdraw one-third of their bet or “let it ride” based on the strength of their hand.
  • Horse: H.O.R.S.E. is not a single poker game but a combination of multiple variants (Hold’em, Omaha, Razz, Seven Card Stud, and Eight or Better). The game rotates between these variants, adding variety.
  • Omaha: Omaha gives players four private cards instead of two. However, they must use two of their hole cards and three of the five community cards to form the best hand. 
  • Strip Poker: This is not a specific poker variant but a playful or adult-oriented adaptation where players wager items of clothing instead of chips. The rules can be based on any traditional poker game.
  • 2-7 Triple Draw: In 2-7 Triple Draw, the goal is to make the lowest possible hand with five cards.
  • 5 Card Draw: In 5 Card Draw, each player receives five private cards, and they have the opportunity to exchange some or all of them for new cards.
  • Seven Card Stud: Players receive seven cards (three face-down and four face-up), and they must form the best five-card hand. There are no community cards.
  • Five Card Stud: Similar to Seven Card Stud, this variation involves players receiving five cards, with no community cards.


What Is the Best Hand in 3 Card Poker?

The best hand in Three Card Poker is a Straight Flush, which consists of three cards of consecutive value and in the same suit.

How Many Decks Are Used in Three Card Poker?

In a casino, there are generally two alternating decks. However, only one deck is used at a time.

Mia Kim

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