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:
Three of a kind
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.