Three Card Poker Guide

Poker, which boasts an estimated 50 million players in the United States alone, gets an additional boost with the emergence of three card poker, also known as tri-card poker, or simply, tri-poker.

3 Card Poker Betting Tips

To start with, the house has a 3.4% advantage in 3-card poker. Either way, your three-card hand needs to be one pair or better—to be entitled to a payout, in the case of a Pair Plus, and to have a chance of beating the dealer’s hand, in the case of an Ante/Play.

Optimal Three Card Poker Strategy

You should play a Queen-six-four or higher. Do not play with anything lower. (See optimal Ante/Play strategy below.)

Also, If you are holding a Queen or something better, make a wager in the “Play” spot. If not, you should just fold. (See optimal Ante/Play strategy below.)

Dealer qualifies with his Queen on about 66% of his hands.

Four of his 10 “Ante” hands are going to get the Ante bonus.

You should also know that lower payouts – like in Pair Plus, are mostly being used in lots of establishments that like to double and triple the house edge vs the customer.

So keep away from games with a Pair + payout of only three to one for a Flush combination instead of four to one.

Be on a lookout for full payout three card games.

3 Card Poker Probabilities

Hand Combinations Probability
Straight Flush 48 0.0021719
Three of a Kind 52 0.0023529
Straight 720 0.0325792
Flush 1096 0.0495928
Pair 3744 0.1694118
Queen to Ace High 9720 0.4398190
Jack High or Less 6720 0.3040724
Pair Plus Non-Strategy & Unequal Bets

In a Pair Plus, your only deliberate concern is how much money to bet. Hence, the Pair Plus non-strategy. Equal bets are expected, and safe. Like, you wager two units for Ante and Play; 1 unit for Pair Plus. What you can do is post what are known as unequal bets. It is allowed in most casinos, and best for handling the volatile win/loss situation in Pair Plus. Say, if you bet more units on Pair Plus than on Ante/Play, you attempt to secure the edge more aggressively. A favored practice is to up your conservative ratio bets slowly while they are going well in order to have a headstart, and then get all fired up and start to fatten up the Pair + wagers. At full payout, the house edge is a low of under 3 1/2% for Pair Plus, which is not worse than at any other poker table. Do not expect to live off your winnings on a $5 wager but the generous payouts should give you some kind of a pay hand maybe 25% of the time.

Optimal Ante/Play Strategy & Loss Limits

Optimal strategy in Ante/Play advises you to play within loss limits. That is, play hands that have negative expectations, namely, Q-6-4 through K-Q-10—as opposed to those with positive expectations, like Ace High or better . The logic goes that you stand to lose less by playing Q-6-4 or higher and lose more in forfeited ante bets by not playing it. The house advantage is an okay 3.4% for Ante/Play using optimal strategy on high-card-only hands, which is not a bad deal. You can lose 8.66% of your original bet yet win 5.29% on bonus payoffs. All in all, it can make a more beneficial hand in the long term, regardless of the bonus payout table.

You might wonder why optimal strategy begins with Q-6-4 and not, say, Q-7-3. Simply put, Q-7-3 is greater than Q-6-4. In poker, hands are always scored according to the highest card first, the second highest next, the third highest, and so forth, when more than three cards are involved. Between Q-6-4 and Q-7-3, the highest cards are both Queens and negate each other. The second highest cards are then scored to break the tie, in which case, a 7 beats a 6. The third highest cards do not matter in this case because the score is already resolved by the second ones. Q-6-4 is the borderline strategic hand because, if you raise on Q-6-3, you can expect to lose 1.00255 units, which is more than the 1 unit lost by folding. But if you raise on Q-6-4, the expected loss is .993378, which is less than the 1 unit lost by folding.

Raising on any Queen or better, also known as the mimic-the-dealer strategy, brings the house edge to 3.45%, which still is not bad although slightly higher than optimal strategy. Raising on everything, or playing blind, results in a house edge of 7.65%.