Three-Card Poker: History, How to Play & more

Three Card Poker

Three-card poker is a very new game in the casino world and is fast becoming one of the most popular table games. Players are attracted to the game because of its simplicity and also the fact that it is great fun. Three-card poker is actually a combination of 2 games in one – Pair Plus and Ante and Play and players are allowed to bet on either or both, depending on the house rules. Both games are based on hands requiring three cards.

Unlike regular poker where players compete against each other, three-card poker players compete against the dealer or against a predetermined payout schedule for specific hands. In the Ante and Play game, players bet against the dealer to see who has the highest hand, and in the Pair Plus game players wager whether they will be dealt a pair or better.

Three-card poker was invented in 1994 by Derek Webb, the proprietor of Prime Table Games and was first offered at the Atlantis Casino Resort, in Reno.

Table Set-Up

Three-card poker is played on a table similar to a blackjack table. The table layout consists of three betting circles in front of each playing seat. The top betting circle is titled Pair Plus and is where players will place bets for the Pair Plus game. The second circle is labeled Anti and the circle closest to the player is labeled Play.

Three-Card Poker Table Layout

Three Card Poker Table Layout

Start of Play

Players begin by placing bets on the Pair Plus or the Ante circles, according to the table minimum. For Anti and Play bets, players wager that their hand will be higher in rank than the dealer’s hand. For Pair Plus bets, a player wagers that their hand will have at least a pair or higher.

After all the bets have been made, the dealer hands out three cards to every player and himself. The cards are handed out one at a time, in a face down position. Play begins with the first player to the dealer’s left and moves in a clockwise direction around the table.

Ante and Play

If a player has placed a bet in the Ante circle, they must decide whether to fold or play after looking at their cards. If deciding to fold, the player forfeits his ante wager, and if he decides to continue playing, then the must make an additional bet in the Play circle. The additional bet has to be at least equal to the original Ante bet.

After all the players have decided how to proceed, the dealer flips his three card hand. In order to continue play, the dealer needs to qualify with a hand holding a Queen or higher. If the dealer’s hand does not hold a Queen or higher, then all the players still in the game are paid even money for their Ante wager and their bet on the Play will be refunded.

In the case that the dealer’s hand does qualify, then the cards are compared to the other players’ hands. If a player’s hand beats the dealer then he will be paid even money for the Ante and Play bets. If the dealer’s hand beats a player’s hand, then both bets are lost. If there is a tie, then the player wins the hand.

Hand Rankings

Hand rankings in three-card poker differ to the traditional five-card because less cards mean less combination options. Below are the hand ranks from highest to lowest:

Straight Flush – Three cards of the same suit in sequence.
Three of a Kind – Three cards of equal rank.
Straight – Three cards in sequence of mixed suits.
Flush – Three cards of the same suit.
Pair – Two cards of equal rank
High Card – The highest card in the hand.

Ante Bonus

One great feature of three-card poker is the fact that there is a bonus payout on the Ante bet for specific hands which does not require an additional wager. A player holding a straight, three of a kind or straight flush will be awarded a bonus whether their hand beats the dealer or not.

The payout for the Ante bonus varies from casino to casino, but is based on the payout board displayed near the table. Generally, a straight flush will be rewarded 5-1 or 4-1; three of a kind will receive 4-1 or 3-1 and a straight will get 1-1.

Ante and Play Tips

There is one basic strategy tip for the Ante bet in three-card poker. If a player’s hand is lower than Queen-6-4 then he should fold. If a player’s hand is higher than Queen-6-4, then he should continue to play and make a Play bet.

To calculate whether a hand is better than Q-6- 4, a player must compare his highest card to the Queen – if it is higher, he should play, and take no notice of the other two cards. If the first card is Queen and the second card is valued more than six, then the player continues, regardless of the third card’s value. If the third card is lower than a six, the player should not continue.

Pair Plus

Pair Plus wagers are very simple to determine – if a player’s three card hand has a pair or higher, it wins. This bet is not dependent on whether the dealer qualifies or not and it also doesn’t take into account whether a player has been beat in the Ante and Play section. Simply, if a player has a pair or better than it wins, and if it does not have at least a pair, it loses. The odds of being dealt a pair or better every time are 4-1. Pair Plus payout is based on the table displayed at the casino.

Online Three-Card Poker

Because three-card poker is very new in the gambling world, and developed around the same time as the online casino world, the game was quickly absorbed into the online form. The simplicity of the game and the similarity that the setup has to a blackjack table, has made it very popular for new online players.

Players who choose to play three-card poker online do so because of the easy betting options, the minimal strategy required and the fast pace of the game. Players are still exposed to the excitement of poker and some of the hand rankings, but the complex betting strategy of other poker games is not required in three-card poker.

Players wishing to learn about three-card poker should take advantage of the endless free games available at online casinos in order to learn how to play the game live, without any financial commitments. The game, however, is so fast to learn, that the new player will be betting like a pro in no time.


Three-card poker is a rising star in the gaming world. Combining the excitement of poker with the two games that comprise three-card poker (Pair Plus and Ante & Play) it is enjoyed by beginner and seasoned players alike. Due to the fact that the game was only born in 1994, the spread of its popularity is quite stupendous.

Three-card poker has been made even more famous due to its popularity in the online form. These days, most players do not enter land casinos if they wish to partake in a little gambling – with over 2000 online casinos floating around cyberspace all one needs is a PC and an internet connection. Three-card poker is one of those games that has benefited greatly from the remote gambling industry and countless players enjoy the game online.

Have a go at three-card poker and join the world of antes, plays and pairs.

Posted by CCJ Team