3 Card Poker Basics

Along with the meteoric rise of Texas hold’em came a wave of new poker-based table games. Today, the most popular among these is three card poker, which has now replaced Caribbean stud in a number of casinos. If you’ve ever played the game, this should come as no surprise, as three card poker is easy to learn and offers some impressive payouts.3 card poker.

A three card poker table is set up similarly to that of a blackjack table, with seats for several players positioned across from a single dealer. In front of each seat are three circles – one marked ‘Play’, one marked ‘Ante’, and a third, yellow one marked ‘Pair Plus.’ To begin a hand of three card poker, the player must post a bet in the Ante circle. He also has the option of placing a bet on the Pair Plus. Then, the dealer will distribute three cards to each player and to herself. Once the player has seen his cards, he may either fold or play. If he folds, the ante wager is forfeited and the hand is over for that player. If he wants to play his cards, he must place a bet equal to the ante on the Play circle.

Once all of the players have either called or folded their hands, all the cards are turned over. As in blackjack, the player need only defeat the dealer, not the other patrons at the table. Card rankings follow traditional poker rules, including pairs, straights, and flushes, though with three cards there can be no two pair or full house hands. The only catch is that the dealer must have at least a queen high for the hand to qualify. If all of his cards are below a queen and he doesn’t have a pair, three of a kind, a straight, or a flush, then the Play bet is a push (it gets returned to the player) and the Ante pays even money. If the dealer’s hand qualifies, then all winning players are paid even money on the Ante and Play bets while losing players lose both.

In addition to the even money payouts, three card poker offers the player extra odds on the Ante and Pair Plus circles. The Ante bet usually pays 1 to 1 on a straight, 3 or 4 to 1 on a three of a kind, and 4 or 5 to 1 on a straight flush. Payouts on the Pair Plus always pay even money for a pair but vary on other hands: flushes pay approximately 4 to 1, straights 6 to 1, three of a kinds 30 to 1, and straight flushes 40 to 1. This means that the minimum payout for a straight flush on a $5 table would be $200. As an added bonus, some casinos offer a ‘Mini Royal Flush’ – a suited A/K/Q – that pays 200-1!

Though simple in comparison to variants such as Texas hold’em or seven card stud, three card poker can still provide a fix for players hankering for a quick, easy game of poker. It can be learned in the course of a few hands and has an exciting pay structure that keeps the player interested. Better yet, the house edge is modest, ranging from about 3%-4.25% on the ante bet, depending on the specific casino rules. So next time you are thinking about trying a new and exciting table game, consider three card poker as your new form of gambling entertainment.

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