How to Play 3 Card Poker: Rules, Strategies, and Tips

Three Card Poker is an exciting, fast-paced casino table game that has become incredibly popular since its creation in 1994. In this article, we’ll dive into the world of 3 Card Poker, teaching you the rules, looking at strategies, and sharing tips to maximize your chances of winning.
Whether you’re a beginner looking to learn how to play 3 Card Poker online or an experienced player determined to refine your skills, this guide will help you navigate the game and increase your odds of success at the tables.
3 card poker wsop

Understanding 3 Card Poker

Three Card Poker is a unique variation of casino poker played with a standard 52-card deck. However, unlike classic poker games like Texas Hold ’em or Omaha, 3 Card Poker is played against the dealer rather than other players.

One of the key differences between 3 Card Poker and other poker variants is the use of just three cards per hand. This simple format allows for quicker rounds, making it attractive for players wanting a fast-paced casino table game with larger payouts than traditional table games like blackjack or baccarat.

You’ll usually find two bets when you play 3 Card Poker: Ante and Pairs Plus. The Ante bet is the main bet, which pays out if your hand beats the dealer’s. The Pairs Plus bet is a side bet that pays out based on the strength of your hand, regardless of the dealer’s cards.

Three Card Poker can be enjoyed in various settings, including:

  • Land-based casinos: Many brick-and-mortar casinos offer 3 Card Poker tables, and some have incorporated progressive jackpots into the game.
  • Online casinos: Several online casinos offer at least one variation of the game, and here at PlayWSOP, you can play a free version of the game – once you’ve worked your way through the previous levels.

Despite being a relatively new casino game, the widespread availability of 3 Card Poker has allowed it to grow exponentially in popularity, and it’s now rare to find casinos that don’t offer at least one table.

How Do You Play Three Card Poker?

Playing 3 Card Poker online is incredibly simple. Below, we’ll look at 3 Card Poker rules.

Step 1: Place Your Bets

To begin, you must place your initial bet. In 3 Card Poker, there are two main betting options:

  • Ante bet: This is the main bet you must place to play Three Card Poker. This bet is a player-versus-dealer bet: if your hand beats the dealer’s and the dealer’s hand qualifies, this bet wins. More on qualifying hands later.
  • Pairs Plus side bet: This optional side bet is based solely on the strength of your three-card hand and pays out according to a predetermined paytable, regardless of the dealer’s hand.

For example, if you sit at a 3 Card Poker table, you might place a $10 Ante bet and a $5 Pairs Plus bet.


Step 2: Receive Your Cards

After placing your bets, the dealer will distribute three cards to each player and themselves.

Step 3: Decide to Play or Fold

After looking at your cards, you must choose to play or fold.

If you choose to play, you must place an additional bet equal to your Ante bet. If you choose to fold, you forfeit your Ante bet.

For example, if you’re dealt a strong hand (Ace, King, Queen of the same suit), you would choose to play. If your initial wager was $10, you must place an additional $10 bet to continue the hand.

After all players have made their decisions, the dealer reveals their three cards.

Step 4: Determine the Winner

To qualify, the dealer’s hand must be Queen-high or better. If the dealer does not qualify, players who did not fold win even money on their Ante bet, and their Play bet is returned.

If the dealer qualifies, the player’s hand is compared to the dealer’s. The hand rankings in 3 Card Poker, from highest to lowest, are:

  • Straight flush
  • Three-of-a-kind
  • Straight
  • Flush
  • Pair
  • High card

If your hand beats the dealer’s qualified hand, you win even money on both the Ante and Play bets. If the dealer’s hand beats your hand, you lose both bets. In the event of a tie, both bets push.

Step 5: Payout on Pairs Plus Bet

If you placed a Pairs Plus bet, it is resolved independently of the main game – if you lost the main game, you can still win the Pairs Plus wager. Pairs Plus payouts are based on a set paytable, which can vary slightly between casinos. A standard paytable looks like this:

Hand Payout
Straight Flush 40:1
Three-Of-A-Kind 30:1
Straight 6:1
Flush 3:1
Pair 1:1

Once all payouts have been calculated, the round ends and a new game begins. As you can see, it’s straightforward to play, so if you’d like to try it for yourself, you can play 3 Card Poker today at PlayWSOP!

Understanding 3-Card Poker Hand Rankings and Payouts

In 3 Card Poker, the strength of your hand determines your chances of beating the dealer. As a result, familiarizing yourself with the hand rankings and payouts is something we’d strongly recommend, as it will enable you to have a much better understanding of what’s going on in the game. Firstly, let’s look at the hand rankings in Three Card Poker.

Hand Rankings

In 3 Card Poker, hands are ranked from highest to lowest, and they’re similar to the hand rankings you’d see in conventional poker games like Texas Hold ’em. The only real difference is that some hands - a Royal Flush, four of a kind, and a Full House - don’t appear in 3 Card Poker, because you only receive three cards in your hand.

Below, we’ll share the hand rankings used in 3 Card Poker:

  • Straight Flush: A straight flush is the best hand in 3 Card Poker. It consists of three cards of the same suit in order. For example, the 6, 7, and 8 of clubs.
  • Three-of-a-Kind: Also known as “trips,” three-of-a-kind is a hand that contains three cards of the same rank. For instance, a hand with the King of diamonds, clubs, and spades is a three-of-a-kind.
  • Straight: A straight is a hand with three cards of consecutive value but not of the same suit. For example: 5, 6, 7, with two diamonds and a club.
  • Flush: A flush is a hand where all three cards are of the same suit but not in sequential order. For example, Ace, Jack, and 7 of hearts.
  • Pair: A pair is a hand that contains two cards of the same rank, with the third card being different. For instance, a hand with two Queens and a 9 is a pair.
  • High Card: If your hand doesn’t fall into the above categories, it is considered a “high card” hand. In this case, the highest-ranking card determines the strength of your hand. For example, a hand with an Ace, King, and 4 (different suits) would be an Ace-high hand.

3 Card Poker Payouts

3 Card Poker payouts depend on the type of bet and the strength of your hand. Some casinos may offer slightly different payout structures, so keep this in mind. Let’s take a closer look at the typical payouts for each bet type:

Ante Bet Payouts

If the dealer’s hand does not qualify (i.e., is not Queen-high or better), you win even money on your Ante bet, and your Play bet is returned. If the dealer’s hand qualifies and your hand beats the dealer’s, you win even money on both your Ante and Play bets.

If the dealer’s hand qualifies and beats your hand, you lose both your Ante and Play bets. If the dealer’s hand qualifies and ties your hand, both bets push.

Ante Bonus Payouts

Some casinos offer an Ante Bonus, which pays out on top of your Ante bet winnings if you’ve been dealt a strong hand. The 3 Card Poker payouts for the Ante Bonus are typically as follows:

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

Pairs Plus Bet Payouts

The Pairs Plus bet is a side bet that pays out based on the strength of your hand alone, regardless of the dealer’s hand. The payouts for the Pairs Plus bet can vary slightly between casinos but are generally close to the following:

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

3 Card Poker Strategy

While 3 Card Poker is primarily a game of chance, using the right strategies can help minimize the house edge and increase your chances of winning. Below, we’ll share basic and advanced 3 Card Poker strategy, plus common mistakes to avoid.

Basic 3 Card Poker Strategy

The most important 3 Card Poker strategy is knowing when to play and when to fold, which should be determined based on your hand strength. The optimal approach is to play when your hand is Queen-6-4 or better and to fold when your hand is worse.

For example: If you are dealt a hand consisting of a Queen, 7, and 3 (Q-7-3), you should play because your hand is better than Q-6-4. If your hand contained 2, 5, and 7 off-suit, you should fold, as the only non-losing scenario is if the dealer fails to qualify.

If you consistently follow this strategy, you can effectively lower the house edge on the Ante bet to around 3.37%, which is relatively low compared to many other casino games.

Advanced 3 Card Poker Strategies

While understanding basic 3 Card Poker strategy is essential, several advanced strategies can further improve your odds.

Avoid the Pairs Plus bet: The Pairs Plus bet has a higher house edge (around 7.28%) than the Ante bet. Stick to the Ante bet for better long-term returns.

Manage your bankroll: Set a budget for your 3 Card Poker sessions and stick to it. Divide your bankroll into smaller portions and only ever risk one portion per session, to ensure you can play longer without risking too much. Never bet more than you’re comfortable losing.

Understand the impact of the Ante Bonus: Some casinos offer an Ante Bonus, which pays out on hands of a straight or better, regardless of whether the dealer qualifies. While this bonus slightly reduces the house edge, it doesn’t change the optimal playing strategy, so keep this in mind.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

To play 3 Card Poker effectively, you must avoid these common mistakes:

Playing hunches or gut feelings: Always stick to the optimal Q-6-4 strategy, regardless of your previous hand or what you think will happen next. This ensures you enjoy the lowest possible house edge.

Chasing losses: If you find yourself on a losing streak, avoid the temptation to increase your bets to try and recoup your losses. Instead, take a break; step away from the table (or your screen) and continue playing when you’ve had time away from the game.

Playing under the influence: Avoid playing 3 Card Poker (or any casino game) while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, as this can impair your judgment, leading to poor decision-making.

By understanding and implementing these strategies and being aware of common mistakes, you can enjoy playing 3 Card Poker while giving yourself the best chances of winning.

Tips and Tricks at 3 Card Poker

If you’re looking for Three Card Poker tips and tricks, check out the recommendations from our gambling experts below:

Always play the optimal strategy: Remembering to play on Q-6-4 or better and fold on worse hands is the key to a solid 3 Card Poker strategy. Failing to follow this strategy will increase the house edge, which, in turn, decreases the odds of you winning in both the long and short term.

Avoid side bets: When you play Three Card Poker, you may find game variations with unique side bets. While these might offer high potential payouts, side bets almost always have a much higher house edge than the Ante bet. Generally, they should be avoided.

Understand the impact of the house edge: Recognize that 3 Card Poker, like all casino games, has a built-in house edge. While you can win in the short term, the house edge ensures that the casino will always come out ahead in the long run.

By incorporating these tips and tricks into your gambling sessions, you can enhance your 3 Card Poker online experience and make more informed decisions at the table.

Remember, however, that while these strategies can help you minimize the house edge, they cannot beat it entirely. Always view 3 Card Poker (and any other casino table games you play) as entertainment only.

If you want to get a feel for the game without risking any of your money, you can enjoy Three Card Poker free here at PlayWSOP.

Playing Free Three Card Poker on WSOP

At WSOP, we offer 3 Card Poker with a difference. Called Trinity Poker, you’ll join the feisty Laila at the table – a dealer determined to live life to the full. She doesn’t care about winning or losing. Instead, she’s in it simply for the rush of the game. And when it comes to getting that rush, there’s no game better than 3 Card Poker.

Trinity Poker follows the basic rules of 3 Card Poker, explained further up this page. But there’s a slight twist. The Ante Bonus is different to the usual offering, with straights beating flushes, and three-of-a-kind beating straights. When making hands, an Ace is always considered high, except in a A-2-3 straight.

Along with the main game and the Ante Bonus, you’ll also have the chance to wager on the 6-Card Bonus – yet another way to win big while playing. Hit a qualifying 6-card hand using both your cards and Laila’s, and you could scoop a giant prize – the biggest is a stunning 1000:1, won if you hit a royal flush!

As usual, you’ll earn Momentum Points while playing, plus you can complete Season and Special Quests. We’ve not quite rolled out a Beat the House Bracelet yet, but keep your eyes open – one could be coming soon, along with plenty of other exciting new features.

Are you ready to take on Laila at the table? If so, place your bets today and see if you can master Trinity Poker at WSOP!


By understanding the rules of 3 Card Poker, as well as the payouts and optimal playing strategies, you can maximize your chances of success while minimizing the house edge.

So, whether you play Three Card Poker free here at PlayWSOP or at a live casino table, embracing everything we’ve shared on this page will boost your chances of winning.

If you’ve found yourself in the wrong place and want to learn how to play Texas Hold’em poker instead, we’ve got you covered, too. Consider checking out our

how to play poker guide, which offers tons of tips and tricks for taking on other players and winning!