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Three Card Poker Hand Basics


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A Brief History

Originally called Casino Brag, the game of Three Card Poker was conceived in 1994 by a man named Derek Webb based on the classic Three Card Brag. The game was designed to strike the perfect balance between the excitement associated with traditional poker games and the quick pace casino games are known for. Of course, it also had all the elements successful casino games share: simple rules, large enough payouts (so it is attractive to players) and a significant house advantage (so casino owners would actually be willing to adopt it).

Please note the following card references:

(h) Hearts (d) Diamonds (c) Clubs (s) Spades

Basic Gameplay

A Three Card Poker game is played with a standard 52-card deck. It starts with the players placing an Ante bet and an optional Pair Plus bet equal or more than the table minimum before everyone on the table – dealer included – gets dealt three cards each. The players cannot inspect anyone else’s hand save for their own.

Each player then decides to either fold – in which case, they lose their Ante bets – or play by placing a Play bet equal to their Ante bet. Playing could result in any of the following scenarios:

  1. If the dealer’s hand has a queen or higher, all players with hands that beat that of the dealer’s get paid even money for both their Ante and Play bets, and all players with hands that the dealer’s beat lose both their Ante and Play bets. If any player ends up with a hand that is tied with the dealer’s, then that player gets paid.
  2. If the dealer’s hand is lower than a queen, then they are disqualified and all active players on the table are paid even money for their Ante bets and have their Play bets returned.

Regardless of whether the players win or lose in the Ante/Play part of the game, if they’ve made a Pair Plus bet, then they win as long as their respective hands contain a pair or higher. The payouts in this case are based on whatever pay scale the casino has in place.

There’s also this thing called Ante bonus. Simply put, it is money that the house pays players, regardless of the hand of the dealer, for having a straight flush, a three of a kind or a straight – which brings us to the next section:

Three Card Poker Hands

The hands in this game are pretty similar to those used in traditional poker games. Check them out below (arranged in order of descending value):

  1. Straight Flush – a hand with three consecutive cards of the same suit as in 6d 5d 4d.
  1. Three of a Kind – a hand with three cards of equal value as in 10d 10h 10s.
  1. Straight – a hand with three consecutive cards regardless of suit as in Kd Qc Js.
  1. Flush – a hand with three cards of the same suit regardless of the order as in 7d 5d 2d.
  1. Pair – a hand with two cards of the same value plus a random side card as in 9d 9c 3s.
  1. High Card – a hand consisting of random cards as in Kd 6s 4c. In this case, the highest card is considered (or the next ones in case there’s a tie).

Noticed how a straight is considered more valuable than a flush in Three Card Poker? Well, that has something to do with the odds of getting a straight dropping the fewer the cards you use.

Some Strategies

While any poker game (or any form of gambling for that matter) relies heavily on luck, there are a few strategies seasoned players employ. In Three Card Poker, a common strategy is to fold if you have a hand that’s lower than a Q-6-4. This means that if your highest card is higher than a queen, then you could play regardless of the value of the other two cards. Of course, if you have a strong hand like a straight flush, then your odds of winning are pretty good as well.

Now, if your highest card is a queen, then your second card should at least be higher than a 6. If not, then the odds are against you and you should fold.

As for placing a Pair Plus bet, on the other hand, the odds that you’ll be dealt a pair are about 25% per game. So, it’s really up to you whether you’ll take that chance or not.

Check out this video to see these strategies in action.

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