There are a lot of different versions of online poker. Of all these versions, 3 card poker is the most popular at online casinos.
In the United States, there are a few states with legal online casinos. In these states, players can access 3 card poker games via desktop computers and mobile devices. Almost all online casinos offer dedicated mobile apps. Additionally, online casinos websites are optimized for mobile play.
3 card poker works a bit differently than classic poker. In this variant, players can use the “Pair Plus” side bet to get a chance at a big progressive jackpot. Players are required to bet on their main hand, but this side bet is optional.
Overall, most 3 card poker players take advantage of this side bet very often. It’s a great way to get some extra winnings. Occasionally, the Pair Plus side bet can unlock a large progressive jackpot. The biggest jackpots come when players hit a 6 card “super” royal flush.
Below you will find everything you need to know about 3 card poker online. We cover all the game rules, 3 card poker strategy, and 3 card poker payouts. Additionally, you’ll find some options for free 3 card poker online.
How to Play Three Card Poker
Every 3 card poker hand starts just like a classic poker hand. Players begin the round by placing initial bets. The ante bet is required, anything additional is optional. However, it’s also common for players to place side bets at this point in the game.
Minimum and maximum bets will vary for every table. In 3 card poker online, the minimums can be as low as 50 cents. However, land-based casinos often required a $5 minimum bet in 3 card poker.
After the initial betting round, the dealer distributes 3 face-down cards to himself and other players. Players can then look at their cards. At that point, players decide to fold or bet. If you fold right away, you lose your ante bet. If you choose to bet, you must bet at least the same amount as the ante you placed. This is called the Play bet. There is some strategy involved with the choice of folding or betting.
Once every player has either folded or bet, the dealer reveals their cards. In 3card poker, players play against the dealer directly and not other players.
Dealer Disqualification Rule
In 3 card poker, there is a dealer disqualification rule. This means that if the dealer doesn’t have at least Queen high, they don’t qualify for the hand. If the dealer is disqualified, the ante is paid back at a 1:1 rate. That means players get back whatever ante they bet in the round. Any additional bets are pushed to the next round.
If the dealer’s hand does qualify, then players compare their hands to the dealer. Whoever has the highest ranking hand will win. Standard poker hands are used to determine the winner. Bonus payouts are only made if the player’s hand is a straight or better. It is possible for the dealer and player to tie in 3card poker. In this case, both the ante and Play bets are returned to the player.
Three Card Poker Payouts for Ante Bets
If you only bet with an ante, these are the payouts you can expect for certain hands:
- Straight: 1-to-1
- 3 of a Kind: 5-to-1
- Straight Flush: 5-to-1
3 Card Poker Strategy
Certainly, there is some strategy to 3card poker. The best strategy is to only play if you have a combination of Queen, 6 and 4 or better. The math says that if you have anything lower than this, it’s best to fold.
This strategy is slightly similar to the dealer’s qualification because of the Queen. Some players base their strategy entirely on the dealer. Consequently, they will raise whenever they get a Queen regardless of the side cards.
Here are the house advantages for these two Queen-based strategies:
- House Edge for Q/6/4: 3.24%
- House Edge for any Queen: 3.37%
Keep in mind that side bets are done separately from the main gameplay. That means side bets will never have any influence on your 3-card poker strategy.
Three Card Poker Side Bets
The “Pair Plus” side bet is big in 3 card poker. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons that the game is so popular.
The Pair Plus side bet is optional and takes place separately from the main game. To win this bet, you just need to have a pair of matching cards in your hand. If you don’t, you lose the bet. The key here is that the Pair Plus side bet must be made before you look at your own cards.
Pair Plus Side Bet Payouts
- Mini Royal (Ace / King / Queen of the same suit): 80:1
- Straight Flush: 40:1
- 3 of a Kind: 25:1
- Straight: 6:1
- Flush: 3:1
- Pair: 1:1
This is a common Pair Plus payout table. However, not all casinos follow this table. Some will not boost the mini-royal payout. Instead, some casinos give a payout bonus for a flush.
The other popular side bet in 3-card poker is the 6-card bonus. For this bet, you consider both your hand and the dealer’s hand. You bet on the best possible 5-card poker hand that can be made by combining both hands.
6-Card Bonus Side Bet Payouts
- Royal Flush: 1000:1
- Straight Flush: 200:1
- 4 of a Kind: 5:1
- Full House: 25:1
- Flush: 15:1
- Straight: 10:1
- 3 of a Kind: 5:1
For the 6-card bonus, you must have a three of a kind or better. Anything below this will result in a loss. However, be aware that 3 card poker side bets can have big house advantages. In some versions of the 6-card bonus, the house advantage is as high as 15.28 percent.
How to Play Three Card Poker Online
Most online casinos offer 3 card poker games. In the USA, only a few states offer legal online casino gambling. They are New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and West Virginia. In order to play in any of these states, you need to be within their state lines.
In most states, online casinos must partner with land-based casinos. There are some big brands in the market including 88 Casino, Golden Nugget, and SugarHouse.
Usually, online casinos will offer mobile apps. Players can use these apps to access most of the casino’s games. Casino mobile apps typically offer slots, video poker, and table games. 3card poker is a popular game so you’ll usually be able to find it.
To play 3 card poker online, you have a few choices. First, you can choose to play against the computer in software-based games. In these games, the dealer is a computer. Everything is decided using a random number generator for maximum fairness. The benefits of these games are the fast pace and small stakes.
Additionally, live dealer 3card poker is offered at many online casinos. In live dealer games, an actual human dealer controls the game from a remote location. The dealer is streamed via live video to player computers. Players can chat with the dealer and see everything happen in real time.
Live dealer 3 card poker is the most exciting version of this online game. It’s much more social since you can chat with the dealer and other players. You’re also right in the action and you see everything as it happens. However, stakes are usually higher in live dealer 3card poker. You also can’t leave your computer since turns are timed.
Clearing a Bonus Playing Poker
Casino bonuses are popular at every online casino. These special offers give players free cash and other perks for making new accounts and playing regularly.
However, all casino bonuses come with terms and conditions. These terms include specific rules for each bonus. One of the biggest restrictions in bonus terms is the wagering requirement. You’ll need to make a set amount of wagers before you can withdraw bonus cash.
If you play slots, then every dollar you bet goes directly towards clearing a bonus. However, this isn’t true for all casino games. Some casino games are weighted differently for bonus clearing.
Specifically for 3 card poker, the bonus weight is quite low. Usually, it’s between 10% and 25%. That means only 10 to 25 cents of every dollar you bet goes towards clearing a bonus.
Live vs Online 3 Card Poker
There are benefits to both live casino gaming and online casino gaming. For 3card poker, there are some advantages depending on how you play.
When you play 3 card poker online, there are a few pros and cons.
Online 3 Card Poker: Pros
- You can play from home
- No need to travel
- Minimum bets are lower
- Live dealer games still give you a social element
Online 3 Card Poker: Cons
- Only a few US states offer it
- If you lose your connection, you forfeit
- If your turn times out, you forfeit
- Games are weighted quite low for bonus clearing
When you play 3 card poker in a live casino, there are also some pros and cons.
Live 3 Card Poker: Pros
- Very social gaming experience
- Progressive jackpot side bets are offered
- Earn rewards via loyalty programs as you play
Live 3 Card Poker: Cons
- Stakes are higher than online games (usually a $5 minimum)
- You need to travel to a casino
- The game moves at a slower pace
Can You Cheat at 3 Card Poker?
Overall, it’s impossible to cheat at 3 card poker online. That said, you can possibly do it at a live casino. However, we strongly advise against it. It’s a big risk that really doesn’t bring you much gain.
In a live casino, it’s possible that marked cards could be used to give players an unfair advantage. However, this would require that the dealer be involved in the scheme. Players could also try to work together by sharing hands, but this would be difficult to do. It would give players more options to beat the dealer, but the advantage this creates is really not that big. Overall, it’s not worth the risk.
Keep in mind that casino security is always watching. Additionally, they will pounce as soon as they notice strange wins or losses. Any major deviation from standard 3 card poker play would set off alarms in the security office.
How Big Should My Bankroll Be for 3 Card Poker?
Overall, you don’t need a massive bankroll to play 3 card poker for real money. Compared to other common casino table games, the variance in 3 card poker is low. Usually, players win or lose on single bets. However, side bets can clean out your coffers quickly. Be careful with these bets.
Generally, a bankroll that’s 20 times greater than the ante is a good place to start. It allows you to play the game fully with some room for raises and side bets.
What is the House Advantage in 3 Card Poker?
There are a lot of casino table games that use poker hand rankings to determine winners. 3 card poker is one of the most popular. This game also has a slightly higher house edge than other poker-based table games.
However, 3 card poker is a simple game. That means new players can quickly learn the ropes and reduce the house advantage. This can’t be said for other table games like blackjack. In blackjack, the rules are a bit more complex. Any small mistake could drastically increase the house advantage.
Additionally, be aware that 3 card poker side bets always favor the house. These bets have large house advantages.
Here’s how the 3 card poker house advantage compares to other common table games:
- 3 Card Poker: 3.27%
- Blackjack: 0.5% to 3% (depends on the rules)
- Baccarat: 1.06% (if you play the ‘Player’ bet)
- Ultimate Texas Hold’em: 2.2% + 0.5% of any play bets
- Roulette: 2.7% / 5.26% (European / US wheel)
- Casino Hold’em: 2.16%
Can I Play 3 Card Poker Online Legally?
The short answer is yes, but it depends on your state. Every US state makes its own gambling laws. Many US states don’t allow online gambling. However, there are a few that do.
Today, legal online casinos operate in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and West Virginia. The largest markets can be found in NJ and PA. Both these states have tons of reputable online gambling options.
Additionally, plenty of US states are considering this decision. There are a few more states in the process of legalizing online casinos right now.
Outside of the few legal online gambling states, players do still have options. Sweepstakes casinos offer almost all the same types of games as other online casinos. However, you won’t find this game at any sweepstakes casinos.