Three Card Poker

Since its introduction in the 1990s Three Card Poker has become the most popular proprietary card game in casinos. Three Card Poker actually offers two games for the player, one against the dealer and one against a paytable, plus bonuses that can bring rewards without wagers.

The game is easy to learn, fast-paced, optimum strategy is as simple as any game in the casino and the potential for handsome wins are present. On average a player will be dealt a winning hand at least every four times. All these factors translate readily to the online platform that makes Three Card Poker one of the favourite games for punters with an internet connection.

Three Card Poker History

"If you're a serious gambler play poker. Three card poker is for people who want to relax. Most people who come to a casino aren't trying to change their life. They're trying to spend a few hassle free hours." Those are the words of Englishman Derek Webb who invented the game of Three Card Poker as it is played in land-based and online casinos around the world. Not that Webb had an easy go of it convincing the gambling universe that his game possessed the ease of play and speed to attract punters and the house edge to build the banks of casino operators.

Poker with three cards has been dealt since the Middle Ages. Webb brought his variation to the British Casino Association in 1994 but was told he needed to provide performance statistics from overseas before he could sell the game to casinos in the United Kingdom. So Webb packed up his cards and made the rounds in Las Vegas and Reno and Atlantic City to meet with casino management. He demonstrated how his game was easy for players and dealers to learn, how the gameplay was quick and showed operators how the game featured a high hold percentage of player buy-in money that resulted in a house advantage of 3.5%.

Webb found no takers. Finally on the Mississippi Gulf Coast Barry Morris, a Vice-President at the Grand Casino in Gulfport, Mississippi, agreed to give the game a three-week trial provided that Webb trained his dealers for free. During the trial Webb stood by the tables like a pitchman promoting Three Card Poker to gamblers by explaining the rules and making sure dealers delivered cards correctly. Punters were happy, the casino counted its money and Webb sold the rights to Shuffle Master to license the game outside of the United Kingdom. In 2002 the UK allowed Three Card Poker and it has become the most popular proprietary games in casino history.

How To Play 3 Card Poker

Three Card Poker is actually two games - one played against a dealer and one played against a paytable. Before beginning the player should know that Three Card Poker alters the ranking of hands from traditional poker. In the three-card version a straight beats a flush and the highest possible hand is a straight flush.

When taking a seat at a Three Card Poker table the player is confronted with three betting spots - an Ante betting spot in the middle with a Play section beneath and a Pair Plus betting spot on top. Before the cards are dealt the player decides to wager against the dealer hand (the Ante) or bet on receiving a hand of a pair or better (the Pair Plus). In most casinos both choices are optional but some games may require an Ante bet.

Three cards are then dealt to the players and the dealer. After inspecting their hands players have the choice to fold or continue in the game. To stay alive in the hand a bet at least the equal of the Ante must be placed in the Play spot. After all player decisions have been made the dealer's hand is exposed. If the dealer hand is not at least Queen High all players still in the game are paid even money on the ante and the Play wager is refunded. If the dealer's hand qualifies for play all hands are resolved. If the player has the higher hand both the Ante and Play bets are won; it the dealer prevails both bets are lost.

The Pair Plus wager is not dependent on the dealer's hand in any way. If the player is dealt a pair or better the bet is won, if not the Pair Plus wager is lost. The odds of being dealt a pair or better on three cards are 4-1 and the payout table at the casino will reflect this constant. Another payout to the player in Three Card Poker regardless of the dealer hand is an Ante Bonus for hands of a straight, three of a kind or straight flush. These rewards, which vary from house to house, do not require an additional wager.

Game Variations

In the United Kingdom a third betting option is offered called Prime that is based on the colour of the cards. If all three player cards are the same colour the Prime wager pays at 3 to 1. If the dealer's cards are also that same colour the payout increases to 4 to 1. The house edge on this circumstance is 3.62%. Another variation that pays on the wedding of the player cards and the dealer cards is the Six Card Bonus. If the best five-card poker hand from the sextet is at least three of a kind a bonus of 5 to 1 is given up to a maximum of 1000 to 1 for a royal flush. This player reward, when offered, is given regardless of whether the player wins or loses the Ante and Pair Plus bets.

Three Card Poker Tips & Advice

The optimum strategy of Three Card Poker dictates that the player should fold any hand less than Q-6-4. If that is too complicated just fold any hand without a winning hand or queen, king or ace. Any bets on Pair Plus or staying in a hand hoping the dealer will "bust" will never defeat the house edge but can be played according to a punter's enjoyment.