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 you 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.
If you have a Queen as a high card, then the second card comes into consideration. Stay with Queen-7-2 or Queen-6-4, but not with Queen-5-4 or Queen-6-3.
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.
THREE CARD POKER VARIATIONS
Some tables now offer a 6 Card Bonus bet. If you make the side bet, you’re wagering that your three cards plus the dealer’s three cards will yield a five-card poker hand of at least three of a kind. Strong hands are easier to attain than in straight five-card games because you have an extra card, and just ignore the sixth.
Several different pay tables are available for operators to choose from. One common one starts with a 5-1 payoff on three of a kind, and increases to 10-1 on straights, 15-1 on flushes, 25-1 on full houses, 50-1 on four of a kind, 200-1 on straight flushes and 1,000-1 on royals.
Also popular is a Three Card Poker Progressive. It’s a $1 side bet, and it also is offered in a couple of different pay tables. Commonly, payoffs start at $90 for three of a kind and increase to $100 for a straight flush, $500 for a mini-royal of Ace-King-Queen in the same suit, and a progressive jackpot if the mini-royal is in spades. If you get a mini-royal, all other players at the table also get an envy bonus – $25 on most mini royals, but $100 if it’s in spades.
- Some Three Card Poker tables also add a mini-royal to the Pair Plus pay table, separating suited Ace-King-Queen out from other straight flushes. When a 50-1 mini-royal is added to the top of a pay table that yields 40-1 on straight flushes, 30-1 on three of a kind, 6-1 on straights, 3-1 on flushes and 1-1 on pairs, it drops the house edge from 7.3 percent to 7.1 percent.
- The when both antes and bets are considered, the house edge of 2.01 percent on Three Three Card Poker ante-bet play is one of the lowest on proprietary table games. By comparison, the house edge on Caribbean Stud is 5.2 percent of the ante or 2.6 percent of total action, and on Let It Ride it’s 3.5 percent of one bet or 2.8 percent of total action.
- The 21 + 3 side bet on blackjack involves a three-card hand consisting of a players first two cards and the dealer’s face up card, with any hand of a flush or better paying 9-1. Though similar to Three Card Poker, it is not distributed by Bally/Scientific Games. It belongs to Galaxy Gaming, which acquired it from Prime Table Games and Derek Webb – the originator of Three Card Poker.