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Three Card Poker was invented in 1994 and as such is one of the newer casino table games available. It has proved to be immensely popular, being played both online and in casinos around the world. The main attractions of the game are that it is quick and easy to learn, exciting to play and offers enticingly high returns for relatively small stakes. In common with better known games such as blackjack, the player plays against the dealer, not the other players.

When compared with its five card cousin, three card poker has a slightly different order when it comes to the ranking of hands. The ranking for three card poker, weakest to strongest is as follows; high card, pair, flush, straight, three of a kind, straight flush. The only differences are that with just three cards a full house is not possible and in this game a straight beats a flush.

How Three Card Poker Works

To receive cards at the start of a deal you must place a stake in the “ante” box. Once all players have placed their ante bets, three cards will be dealt to each of the players and the dealer. The player’s next step is to look at their hand and decide whether or not they would like to play it further. If they decide to play on, a further bet is placed in the “play” box. This second bet must be exactly equal to the initial ante stake. If however the player decides that the hand is not worth continuing with they may decide not to place this further bet and simply fold at this point. In this instance they will lose the ante but no more and can wait for the next hand.

In the event that the player wishes to pit their hand against the dealers, play runs as follows. With the player now having placed stakes in both the ante and play boxes, the dealer will now reveal his three card poker hand. If the dealer’s hand is worse than queen high he is said not to qualify and the player automatically wins his ante bet. This pays out at even money. However the play bet is deemed a push and this stake is returned to the player. If the dealer’s hand is queen high or better he is said to qualify and the hands of player and dealer are compared. If the player holds the best hand he is paid out at even money on both the ante and play bets. If the dealer holds the stronger hand the player loses both of these bets. In the event of a tie both “ante” and “play” stakes are returned to the player.

The basic game described above is spiced up by the inclusion of an ante bonus feature. This bonus is paid to the player regardless of whether the dealer qualifies and irrespective of whether the dealer or player wins the hand. The bonus is paid if the player is dealt one of the top three poker hands for the game i.e. a straight, three of a kind or a straight flush. The bonus payments are as follows:

  • Straight pays even money
  • Three of a kind pays 4/1
  • Straight flush pays 5/1

The Pair Plus Bet

In addition to the standard gameplay a side bet is also available, known as the pair plus bet. This option is very popular with gamblers due to the potential high returns on offer. The wager is a straight bet on the quality of the hand that will be dealt to the player. It must be placed at the same time as the ante, that is to say before any cards are dealt. Similarly to the ante bonus this bet is paid out even if the dealer happens to have a stronger hand than the player. If the player does not have at least a pair the stake is lost. When dealt a pair or better the pay outs are:

  • Pair - Two cards of the same rank. This pays out at even money.
  • Flush - All three cards are of the same suit. Pays 3/1.
  • Straight - Three cards of any suit in consecutive order e.g. 4-5-6. Pays 6/1.
  • Three of a Kind - Three cards of the same rank, for example three kings. Pays 30/1.
  • Straight Flush - Three cards in consecutive order, all of the same suit e.g. 10 of hearts, jack of hearts, queen of hearts. Pays 40/1.