If any modern table game could be said to be an adopted son of the South, it’s Three Card Poker. Success in Mississippi eventually convinced casinos throughout the United States to give the game a try and today, it stands as a casino standard that every operator must have.
It is fun, easy to learn and gives players a decent chance to win.
HOW TO PLAY
Start by making an ante for player vs. the dealer and/or a bet on Pair Plus. At most casinos, you do not have to make both wagers. The ante and the Pair Plus wager can be of different sizes. They are separate bets, and are decided independently, so they don’t have to match.
After all players have made their wagers, each player gets three cards face down, and the dealer also gets three cards face down. Play continues after players have a chance to pick up their cards and look at them.
ANTE-BET PLAY VS. THE DEALER
After you’ve seen your cards, you may either make a bet equal to your ante, or you may fold and forfeit the hand. If you’ve anted $5, then your bet must also be $5 for you to stay in the game.
The dealer then turns his cards face up. If the dealer hand is at least a Queen or better, it is a qualifying hand. For you to win, your hand must outrank the dealer’s. If you win, both your ante and your bet are paid at even money, and if you lose, the dealer takes both your ante and bet.
If the dealer hand does not qualify and you’ve made the bet to stay in the game, then you win even money on the ante, but the bet is returned to you with no additional payoff.
In addition, there is a bonus for strong hands regardless of whether you beat the dealer or not. Most casinos pay a 5-1 bonus if you have a straight flush, 4-1 if you have three of a kind and even money if you have a straight.
For example, let’s say you ante $5, see you have a straight flush and follow with a $5 bet. Assuming you win the hand, you then collect winnings of $5 on the ante, $5 on the bet and $25 on the straight flush. On other wins that don’t include one of the big three hands, you’d collect $5 on the ante and another $5 on the bet.
THE ANTE-BET STRATEGY
Optimal strategy for Three Card Poker is about as easy as it gets. Make the extra bet to stay in the game if your hand is Queen-6-4 or better. Fold if you have a lesser hand.
That means you also bet on all pairs, flushes, straights, three of a kinds and straight flushes – those all outrank high-card hands. Note that in Three Card Poker, straights outrank flushes. That’s because you see flushes more often than straights in three-card games. In five-card games, you get straights about twice as often as flushes, but in three-card games there are 1.5 times as many possible flushes as straights.
If you don’t have any of those higher-ranking hands, then hands are ranked by highest card first, then second highest. If you have Jack-10-7, the proper strategy is to fold. It is not Queen-6-4 or better since the highest card is lower than the Queen.
If your hand is King-3-2, then you should make the bet. The King outranks the Queen, making this a better hand than Queen-6-4 even though the second and third cards are lower than the 6 and 4.
With that strategy, the house edge on the ante-pay combo is 3.4 percent of the ante, or 2.0 percent when both the ante and bet are considered.
If you think ante-bet is easy, then Pair Plus is a real snap. You don’t have to beat the dealer, and there is no strategy to learn. All you need is to match a hand on the pay table – a concept video poker players can identify with. You win on any hand that contains a pair or better, and lose if you don’t have at least a pair.
There are several pay tables available, but the most common pays 40-1 for a straight flush, 30-1 for three of a kind, 6-1 for straights, 3-1 for flushes and even money for pairs. At that pay table, the house edge is 7.3 percent.
The payoffs aren’t as huge as you see on five-card games, but they are attainable. Anyone who plays very often will see the occasional straight flush or three of a kind. You’ll see the top hand, a straight flush, about once per 460 hands. Compare that to a five-card royal on a game such as Caribbean Stud. That occurs an average of once per 649,740-1. Caribbean Stud pays a lifestyle-changing progressive, but you may never see one in your lifetime. Three Card Poker pays a more modest sum, but $200 for a $5 bet is a nice win, and you’ll see straight flushes a lot more often with three cards. Good luck!
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