3 Card Poker Strategy: Mastering the Odds to Beat the House


Even though 3 Card Poker tends to be a simpler version of traditional poker, the game still poses its challenges. Mastering the odds and making the right call still requires skill and understanding just like it would in any regular game of poker. In our 3 Card Poker strategy, we will tell you more about the frequency of winning hands, help you come up with a working ante-play combination strategy and generally assist you with pay tables and odds.

The Pair Plus Odds and Payouts – Tell the Difference

Like with any strategy for poker variants, it is crucial to understand the math behind the game. The first step to devising any successful 3 Card Poker strategy is to familiarize yourself with the Pair Plus odds. There are 22,100 winning hands, or around 25.6% of the total possible combinations. In 3 Card Poker you win if you successfully produce a pair, flush, straight, three of a kind or straight flush. And of course, the payout will depend on the strength of your hand.

Some casinos get tempted to introduce another, conciliatory reward, which is actually pretty decent. Known as mini-royals, this hand consists of Queen, King and Ace of the same suit, but are only added to the gameplay at the discretion of the casino. 

Now, you may be wondering. Why would you play any game that only pays one in four times when there are others that arguably pay better? The key lies in the payout ratio. While most other games have a 1:1 payout for most bets, 3 Card Poker doesn’t mind offering you a bit more if you happen to be just a bit lucky. 

A straight flush will usually grant you 40:1 and mini-royals, if applicable, could distribute a 50:1, 100:1 or even a whopping 200:1 payout. Now, the chances of turning a mini-royal are 1 in 5,252 according to the hand frequency. Most pairs will start at a 1:1 payout, and then a flush will usually offer 4:1, and a straight 5:1.

If we had to sum up this chapter, we would mention that games that pay 5:4 on straights and 4:1 on flushes usually have a smaller house edge than games that offer 6:1 on straights and 3:1 on flushes. It’s a mild difference, but still one to help you make the correct choice for yourself. Naturally you want the more frequent payers and lower house edges as no matter how lucky or psychic you’re feeling on the night, house edges are real and built into every game.

The house edge will vary between 4.49% and 7.28% for most versions of 3 Card Poker, which definitely gives the house a pretty big advantage. 

Ante Play – Do or Do Not

Another 3 Card Poker strategy to look into is how you read and play the Ante Play odds and payouts. Each game begins with the ante, which you either bet to match up or fold if you don’t feel too sure. Now, remember that the dealer will only play if they are holding a Queen or better. If they don’t, they will fold, which will secure you a quick 1:1 payout on both your ante and bet pushes. 

The payout doesn’t depend on the strength of your hand, so long as the dealer has decided to fold. Now, if the dealer decides to play, you will have to beat him or her with a stronger hand, naturally. Remember that any ties are broken by the second highest card you both have. If all three cards are the same, all bets are off and you start from the beginning.

So, what 3 Card Poker strategy is there for ante-play? A popular community wisdom is to only bet when you have Queen-6-4 or better. Now, you will probably argue, that you sometimes get a Queen, but then again, your second and third cards aren’t really as good. 

Well, while this can be a reason for hesitation at first, most experienced players will know when to play and when to fold. Generally, Queen is a good start, but if your second card is 5, you should fold. The same goes if your second card is 6 but the third one is 2 or 3. 

The Ante Play Bonus – Way to Top Your Bankroll Up

Now, one thing that everyone factors in their 3 Card Poker strategy for ante play is the ante bonus, which will be paid to you every time you get three of a kind, a straight or a straight flush. The ante bonus will be paid out to you directly, no matter whether you end up beating the dealer or otherwise. 

Owing to the ante bonus the house edge will usually fall a little. It’s almost as thinking about the game as French Roulette. Thanks to the ante bonus, you can slash the house edge to 2.01% from 3.37% previously.

Before we move on to the final notes, if you already feel armed with the information and odds you need to practice a few hands of real money poker, we’ve recently come across MoneyPokerSites.com which actually have fairly good selection of poker sites to play on and they’re separated into poker for US players, Canadian, New Zealand, etc. so just make sure not to jump into a poker room that isn’t available in your country.

Is Ante Play and 3 Card Poker Really Worth It? 

Now, looking at the odds and payouts, one thing that stands out is that 3 Card Poker is definitely a bit more challenging than any of the other table games out there. Players who opt for popular gems as roulette or blackjack often have to deal with pretty small house edges, and a payout frequency that can be controlled with the help of a strategy, such as Martingale, Fibonacci or any of their variants.

However, in 3 Card Poker, the house edge is usually a bit steeper than, say, blackjack, and winning combinations happen 1 in 4 times. Yet, the game has its appeal and it’s definitely a worthwhile choice owing specifically to the big payouts you can turn off a single bet. The ante-play bonus makes it possible to hedge your bets a bit and offset any potential loss whereas a payout on anything bigger than a pair already offers a pretty good return.

If you are one of the lucky players to hit a mini-royal, assuming this type of bet is available, you will make up for your last 100 hands, especially if they turned out somewhat unsuccessful. It’s easy to stay on top of the game so long as you design and stick to the best 3 Card Poker strategy based on the odds and payout values.