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# Three-Card Poker by Meg Elaine Schneider

Three-card poker is one of the newest variations of the game, designed to move along at a quick clip, almost like a version of blackjack. It is played with a standard deck of cards, and you can bet on your own hand as well as against the dealer. Both the player and the dealer receive three cards, face-down; as in blackjack, each player's hand is played against the dealer's hand and not against the other players.

## Winning Hands in Three-Card Poker

The hands in three-card poker are based on standard poker, but the ranking is different because the probability of getting each hand is different when you only use three cards. A flush in three-card poker is three cards of the same suit, while a straight is three consecutively numbered cards of any suit and a straight flush is three consecutively numbered cards of the same suit. Pairs and three-of-a-kind hands also are possible in three-card poker; four of a kind, full house, and two pair are not possible.

Unlike standard poker, you're more likely to be dealt a straight in three-card poker than you are to be dealt three of a kind, and you're more likely to be dealt a flush than a straight. Three-card poker hands, ranked from highest to lowest, are:

• Straight flush

• Three of a kind

• Straight

• Flush

• One pair

• High card

There are 52 possible three-of-a-kind combinations in three-card poker, and 720 possible straight combinations, which is why three-of-a-kind beats a straight in this game. Likewise, there are more than 1,000 ways to get a flush, which is why a straight beats a flush.

## How to Bet Three-Card Poker

Players have three betting options in three-card poker: the ante, the “pair-plus” bet, and the “play” bet. As in standard poker, the ante is your buy-in for the hand. The pair-plus bet is a wager that your hand will contain a pair or better; like the ante, this bet has to be made before the cards are dealt. At most casinos, the pair-plus bet cannot exceed the ante.

Typical payouts on the pair-plus bet are:

• Pair — 1:1

• Flush — 4:1

• Straight — 6:1

• Three of a kind — 30:1

• Straight flush — 40:1

After looking at your cards, you decide whether to play your hand against the dealer or to fold. If you fold, you forfeit your ante and pair-plus bets. If you want to play, you make your “play” wager, which usually must be equal to the ante.

In most casinos, a dealer's hand has to “qualify,” usually with a queen or better, in order to play against the player. If the dealer's hand doesn't contain a queen, the hand is considered a push. When that happens, you keep your play bet, and you get a 1:1 payout on your ante bet. In addition, some casinos offer bonuses on the ante bet. Typically, you'll receive even money for a straight, 4:1 for three of a kind, and 5:1 for a straight flush.

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By Meg Elaine Schneider

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