Most casino newbies are in disbelief that 3 Card Poker is the most profitable proprietary table game ever. Naturally, blackjack and baccarat enjoy a far greater deal of popularity. However, no one owns the rights to those, and any gambling establishment can feature them. In the US, Shuffle Master, a subsidiary of Scientific Games, owns the rights to 3 Card Poker.
Today, you can find it at most gaming venues in gambling hotspots, and you can play it online at one of many 3 Card Poker real money sites that have it in some form. According to some estimates, there are over 2,000 table installations of this game, not including multiple copycat versions. You are likely to find it in its software form on the internet rather than stumbling upon an opportunity to play it at a live table.
What is a casino-poker variant?
Casino poker variants are fast-paced card table games played against a house dealer. Hands played per hour are crucial for any gaming establishment when deciding if they will feature a game. 3 Card Poker’s inventor, Derek Webb, knew this. He made sure that his popular game’s casino variation featured easy-to-understand rules, payouts that would attract players, and a decent house edge. An experienced croupier can get through around 70 hands per hour.
3 Card Poker made its debut in Grand Casino Gulfport in Mississippi at the tail end of the 1990s. It did so after being rejected by venues in Atlantic City, Vegas, and Reno. In 2002, UK gambling regulations changed, which opened the door for the game in Great Britain.
How to Play 3 Card Poker
You play 3 Card Poker with the standard 52-card deck, which gets shuffled after each hand. Usually, you’ll have the option to make three bets, an ante, a play wager, and a pair plus side bet. However, some variations let you make additional side-bets, such as ones that may provide a progressive prize.
To kick things off, you need to make an ante bet before the dealer proclaims that wagering has concluded and the round starts. You could also make the pair plus wager before you get your cards if you think you will have a pair or better. The pair plus bet is independent; to win it, you only have to have a pair or better. The dealer’s hand is irrelevant.
If you bet the ante, that signals that you want to receive a hand. As mentioned, you play this game against the dealer and not the other players at the table. The dealer begins the round by dealing three cards to each player and himself.
3 Card Poker utilizes a hand ranking system similar to regular poker but slightly different since, as the name suggests, your hand in this game consists of only three cards. If you cannot tell if you have a winning hand, you can ask the dealer or check a Three Card Poker hand ranking chart.
Once you review your hand, you have to choose whether or not to go on. If your hand is weak, you can fold, and you lose any wagers you placed. If you have good cards, you can make the “play bet,” which is equal to your original ante, if you think your cards beat the dealer’s hand.
Winning & Payouts
This game features something called dealer qualification. It means that the dealer’s hand must have a queen to face off against your cards. For example, let’s say that the dealer flips over his cards, and he has a Q-8-4 hand. That means he qualifies for a face-off.
If you have a 5-9-10 of the same suit, a flush in 3 Card Poker, you beat the dealer’s queen-high hand, and you win both your ante and play bets at even money. If you made the pair plus wager, you also win that one because your flush is better than a pair.
If the dealer does not qualify, he will pay you your ante bet, regardless of your hand, and return your play wager. What sets this game apart from other casino–poker variants is that a premium hand gets you a bonus. For example, a straight flush pays 5 to 1 on the ante bet and 40 to 1 with pair plus.
Not all casinos and variations of the game feature the same payout structure, so you must review it before playing.
Advantage Gambling in Three Card Poker
For the uninformed, advantage play is when you exploit the odds of a specific game to give yourself an advantage over the house. That said, there isn’t a whole lot of advantage play available in 3 Card Poker. Based on the math, the optimal strategy is to play anything above Q-6-4. If you follow this suggestion, the house edge should fall into a range between 2.2% and 3.4%, which is super-acceptable.
Another option is to make the pair plus wager without even considering the play bet. It has a lower house edge than the main game, falling in the range of 2.32% to 2.14%, depending on the payout. It’s quite appealing since it cuts some of the stress associated with decision-making and further simplifies the game.
Can You Cheat?
To put it bluntly – no, you can’t cheat. There is no tricky way to tip the odds in your favor. You cannot card count because the deck gets continuously shuffled by an automated machine.
Gambling expert Stanley Ko claims in his book, “Mastering the Game of 3 Card Poker”, that a concealed computer could use information from the first hand to lower the house edge on the second one by 0.06%. That is not impressive and will not make much difference in the end, aside from getting you kicked out of the casino.
Are You Ready to Play 3 Card Poker?
3 Card Poker is a straightforward game that offers some decent payouts. We hope this how-to-play guide provided sufficient information to get you started. It may be a simple game, but small mistakes can cost you a lot of money. So, make sure you have a good grasp on the rules and paytable before laying down your hard-earned cash.
Many venues offer one or more variants of the game, such as Ultimate, California, Prime, Brag, and Macau 3 Card Poker. These versions may not require the dealer to qualify and could switch up the ranking or paytable.
If you are still a bit perplexed, try a practice tool or try free play at the online casino of your choice. It is a terrific way to play the game with no money on the line and grasp its rule-set within minutes.