Three Card Poker Guide

Three Card Poker Guide

Three-card games have been around for quite a while, especially the Three Card Brag game, which dates back to the 1500s. Games played with three cards are new to the casino industry, though casino players and casinos tend to love the simplicity and fun they offer. The advent of new casino table games like 3 Card Poker, which incorporates one major element of skill with random results to create an excellent casino gamble. In this Three Card Poker Guide, you’ll learn all you need to know about this exciting card game, its history, how it’s played, and strategies to help you stay on the winning side.

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Three Card Poker Guide: What Is Three Card Poker?

Three Card Poker is a simple game that involves a player and a dealer each getting three cards. The one with the greater hand wins. The player makes a fold or raise decision before action from the dealer. The game is fast gaining popularity in live and online casinos. The house enjoys more edge than ever before, and it’s still reasonable to several players. Let’s learn more about the game with this easy-to-read Three Card Poker Guide.

Three Card Poker Game: A History

Many people claim that the three card poker originated from an Italian game known as “Primero”, while others argue that it came from Spain, where it was also named “Primera”. This game became more popular in mainland Europe and later arrived in the UK, where its name changed to Brag (or Bragg). The game was eventually developed into what we currently know as Three Card Poker.


Primero is translated as ‘first’. Ironically, it’s referenced as the first Italian card game in literature. The game originally involved 40 cards, as opposed to the 52-card deck we have today. It combined gambling and bluffing (mostly associated with Poker). “Flushes” and “four of a kind” have remained, while “partial flushes” haven’t (flushes that don’t use all of your cards). Also, the “primero” game didn’t have any place for pairs and straights.


Bragg, also known as Brag, is the British version of “Primero”. It’s more similar to the poker game played throughout the world today. It has similar hand rankings and features a 52-card deck. The greatest possible hand a player can have in Bragg is three of a kind, while a straight flush in poker will conquer all. These rankings later changed when a five-card version was introduced.

Three Card Poker/Casino Brag

In 1994, an English man named Derek Webb noticed a market gap and decided to convert Bragg into a version suitable for casino tables. He removed elements such as double bets, bluffing, and checking to ensure the game could be played by a player against the house.

The pair plus and ante bonus were introduced to replace them. These changes birthed a product that combined an already popular traditional game with something suitable for a casino setting, meeting casino players’ desire to wager small and expect potentially huge wins. Webb also included an in-built House edge that attracted casinos.

Webb couldn’t launch the game in the UK due to gambling regulations, so he launched it in America. The American market couldn’t relate well with the name of the game “Casino Brag” as “Brag” was a European word. Hence, the name eventually became Three Card Poker to make the game adaptable and acceptable.

Three Card Poker Variations

Macau Three-Card Poker

In Macau, some 3-Card Poker casino games are known as Fortune 3 Card Poker. Another variation, known as QPoker, is similar to 3 Card Poker. The major difference is your option to call or surrender, rather than just raise or fold. The Macau version has a few more differences. The dealer doesn’t have any qualifying hand value. A player must beat their cards (regardless of the value) to win. Moreover, a 5 percent commission is charged from the winning hand. Also, this version has a slightly higher house advantage at .5 percent.

Three Card Brag

Three Card Poker originated from Three Card Brag, the British version. They have similar rules with a few differences. The major difference is the way hands are ranked. A straight flush in Three Card Brag doesn’t rank higher than a 3-of-a-kind. Also, 3-3-3 is the high 3-of-a-kind, followed by A-A-A, and so on. The change in rankings reduces the house advantage on both ante bonus and Pairplus bets.

In terms of ranking straights, the highest straight in Three Card Brag is A–3, followed by A-K-Q, etc. The other rankings follow the regular 3 Card Poker rules. There are also differences between the terms used. In Three Card Brag, a straight flush is known as a running flush, s at right is known as a run, and a 3-of-a-kind is referred to as a Prial.

Three Card Prime

The major differences between this game and Three Card Poker are the inclusion of bonus bets. Three Card Prime offers all three major side bonus bets: Six-Card, Pairplus, and Prime. In addition to the bonus options, the game also offers a bad beat return that costs nothing extra for you to participate in. The extra return is awarded when you lose with a straight. The game also has a less popular rule that considers all ties as a win. These additional features will reduce the house’s advantage.

Ultimate 3-Card Poker

This game is among the more common variations with similar gameplay to traditional Three Card Poker, though not without a few differences. Its major advantage is your ability to raise an ante bet up to three times on the play bet. You can only do this if you have a pair or better in your hand. Otherwise, your ante bet must be equal to your play bet.

The game also features another required wager known as the blind bet, which must be equal to the ante bet. The wager is paid when a pair’s hand value is held. If a player has a lower hand than a pair, but higher than the dealer, the bet will push. They’ll lose their bet if they lose their hand to the dealer.

The play bet is another difference. A player must beat the dealer in Ultimate 3 Card Poker to win. The dealer’s qualifying hand (a queen-high) isn’t relevant for this bet. You’ll still lose the play bet even after losing to the dealer where they didn’t qualify. In this circumstance, you’ll push on the ante bet, just like in traditional Three Card Poker.

Face Up 3 Card Poker/California Three Card Poker

As the name implies, this game is popular in California casinos. It eliminates both the ante additional bonus and Pair plus bonus bet payouts. If a player wins a payout on their ante bonus bet, they’ll get paid at even money—at the holding of a high bonus hand.

In the California 3-Card Poker game, one dealer’s card is handled face-up to help slightly with a player’s decision to raise or fold their hand. The game features another variance to compensate for that; the dealer has no qualifying hand. Players can lose, push, or win depending on their ability to beat the dealer in each hand. These rule changes put the house advantage at about 4.3%, which is higher than traditional 3 Card Poker odds. A few casinos usually charge a 1 percent commission on each winning payout.

While some players appreciate this face-up dealers’ card, the elimination of higher house advantage and Pairplus deters several others.

Side Bonus Variations


Several casinos with Three Card Poker like Vegas Aces Casino offer progressive jackpot bonuses. It’s a $1 side bet, and the jackpot amount will keep increasing until there’s a win, causing a reset. Players can win the jackpot with a mini royal (spades). Here are the payouts:

  • 3-of-a-Kind: $90
  • Straight Flush: $100
  • Mini Royal: $500
  • Mini Royal (Spades): Progressive Jackpot

Some games usually offer payouts for a straight, though it’s less common. This side bonus has varying house advantages, depending on the progressive jackpot size. The lower the jackpot, the higher the house advantage.


This bet is the most popular side bonus bet at 4 Card Poker tables. You’ll get a payout on the wager for holding a pair or better. The house advantage that this side bet offers is lower than most other games.

3 Card Poker allows you to choose to play Pairplus side bet only, without engaging in the main game—a common choice among many. It has similar odds to the main game, without requiring any decision-making. Here are the payouts for Pairplus side bets:

  • Pair: 1:1
  • Flush: 4:1
  • Straight: 6:1
  • 3-of-a-kind: 30:1
  • Straight Flush: 40:1

These payout calculations show a .32% house advantage. Finding a game that distinguishes the mini royal from a straight flush category will further reduce the house’s advantage. The paytable must remain the same for this to hold. For instance, the following paytable reduces the house advantage (.14%).

  • Pair: 1:1
  • Flush: 4:1
  • Straight: 6:1
  • 3-of-a-kind: 30:1
  • Straight Flush: 40:1
  • Mini Royal: 50:1

Prime Side Bet

Some tables have this bet alongside the Pairplus bonus side bet, while other tables may omit it. You’ll get a Prime bonus when every card in your hand has the same color. The bonus is only color specific, not suit-specific. This implies that if your hand is all black or red, you win. In addition, if the dealer has similar colors on their hand too, you’ll receive a higher pay rate. Here’s the table:

  • 6 Cards with the same color: 4:1
  • 3 cards with the same color: 3:1

The house advantage is 3.62%, which is higher than Pairplus bonus odds, though it’s still very low when compared to other games.

Millionaire Maker

This side bonus offers you the chance to win one million dollars. It’s determined by the best six-card hand gotten from both the dealer’s cards and yours. It has a minimum of $5, and the payouts include:

  • 3-of-a-Kind: 5:1
  • 5-Card Straight: 10:1
  • 5-Card Flush: 15:1
  • House: 20:1
  • 4-of-a-Kind: 50:1
  • 5-Card Straight Flush: 200:1
  • 5-Card Royal Flush: 1000:1
  • 6-Card Super Royal: 20000:1
  • 6-Card Super Royal (Diamonds): 200000:1

Keep in mind that the maximum payout for this bonus is $1,000,000, and the next is $100,000. Betting with more than $5 won’t affect your payout unless your win isn’t higher than a 5-Card Royal. Also, this side bonus has an 18.1% house advantage, the highest of the side bonuses we’ve discussed. While the value isn’t good enough for your wager, you have the chance to walk away with one million dollars.

Six-Card Bonus

This bonus is another side bet usually found alongside the Pairplus bet. The best 5-Card Poker hand made out from both the dealer’s hand and yours will determine the payout. Here’s the payout table:

  • 3-of-a-kind: 5:1
  • 3-of-a-kind: 5:1
  • 3-of-a-kind: 5:1
  • Straight: 10:1
  • Flush: 15:1
  • House: 25:1
  • House: 25:1
  • Four-of-a-kind: 50:1
  • Straight Flush: 200:1
  • Royal Flush: 1000:1

The house advantage of this side bonus is 15.28%. The popularity of this bonus is due to the whole different game it adds to the main game. The payouts could bring large wins, but the odds are not as great as they look.

Three Card Poker Guide: How to Play

Three Card Poker has the same hand ranking order as standard poker, but the gameplay is different. The game allows players to change their bets slightly in pursuit of different premium bonuses or premium hands. But it doesn’t involve any poker strategy (betting against other players, choosing which cards to draw or keep, etc.). You simply select between some bets before each deal, check the three cards you get, and wait, hoping for the best. But you need to note a vital exception to standard poker hand rankings.

The ranking order for flushes and straights is reversed due to the challenge of making a straight in Three Card Poker compared to a flush. So, a straight is more special than a flush. Otherwise, there’ll be no changes in the hand rankings apart from the elimination of hands that need more than 3 cards. That makes things even easier as you have only six possible Three Card Poker hands to make:

  • High card
  • Pair
  • Flush
  • Straight
  • 3-of-a-kind
  • Straight flush

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How to Place Bets

When playing a Three Card Poker game, there are a couple of bets you can choose from, depending on the selected table type. The bets that most Three Card Poker tables offer include:

  • Pairplus
  • Play bet
  • Ante bet
  • Both Pairplus and Ante bet

The Pairplus, Ante, and Ante Bets

Note that you must choose a bet before receiving any cards. You can bet:

  • The Pairplus and the Ante bet or
  • Only the Ante bet

While the Pairplus bet is optional, the Ante bet is a must. A player simply bets whether they’ll get a pair or higher in their hand.

As soon as everyone at the table makes that betting decision, the dealer deals three cards face down to every player in the hand. They can then look at their cards. You’ll make another decision after looking at your cards: Will you proceed to match your hand against the dealer to see the higher one? If you do this, then you’re making a “Play” bet (equal to an Ante bet). The basic order of this game basic is as follows:

  • Place the Ante bet (or Pairplus and Ante)
  • Receive your cards
  • Make a Play bet (equal to Ante) or choose to fold (lose every bet made already)

Choosing to fold implies forfeiting your Pairplus and your Ante (if you made any). If you decide to Play (match the size of your Ante bet), then you’ll compare the dealer’s hand to yours to know if you win.

How to Win a Hand

Your Three Card Poker hand must be higher than that of the dealer to win. The dealer’s hand must contain a queen-high or better, to qualify. Note that:

  • If a dealer doesn’t qualify, you’ll receive 1:1 on your ante and get your Play bet.
  • If a dealer qualifies and you lose, you lose both bets.
  • If a dealer qualifies and ties you, you push: both bets will be returned.
  • If a dealer qualifies and you win, you’ll receive 1:1 on both your Ante-Play bet.

In addition to this player-dealer payout, you can receive bonus payouts for strong hands if you play Ante-Play, regardless of your dealer’s hand.

  • Straight: 1:1 payout
  • 3-of-a-Kind: 4:1 payout
  • Straight Flush: 5:1 payout

The Pairplus Bet

The Pairplus bet is about the simplest of all casino games. It requires no decision-making on your part.

  • Place your bet (Pairplus) before the deal. It must be within the minimum and maximum limits
  • Receive your cards
  • Collect your payouts (except if you lose)

Here’s the payout scale if you hit a pair or higher Three Card Poker guide:

  • Pair: 1:1
  • Flush: 4:1
  • Straight: 6:1
  • 3-of-a-Kind: 30:1
  • Straight Flush: 40:1

If you have only a high card without a pair, you lose the Pairplus bet. However, you could still win an Ante bet if the dealer’s card is lower than your high card.

Note that you could still lose your Ante-Play bets and lose to your dealer but hit the Pairplus bet and collect your payout. Qualifying for the Pairplus payout doesn’t require you to win your Ante-Play bets.

Tips for Beginners

Stick to a Budget

Those who have played 3 Card Poker in the past know that it’s very easy to surpass your spending budget while playing the game. It is highly volatile and fast-paced. You can easily go from having very little to stacking so much and returning to nothing all in a short while. Hence, this tough game requires budgeting yourself. If you have a spending limit you’re hoping not to exceed, set the number starting at the table.

Stick to the specific number you pick. You can also create a winning limit (a specified amount at which you can decide to walk away after reaching) to help manage your bankroll. Effective management of both your losses and wins will help to achieve winning results in the long run.

Practice for Free

Learning how to play a new game can sometimes be intimidating, especially if it’s in person. That’s why you need to find an online casino like Vegas Aces that allows you to play a free version of the game. It enables you to practice without risking any money. It also helps to avoid slowing down the game pace for others.

Ask Questions If You Don’t Understand

You might encounter situations that you don’t understand perfectly when playing a new game. Do not hesitate to ask the dealer or contact the customer support team for clarification on game rules, betting structure, etc. You won’t be slowing down the game pace as long as you’re not doing this during every hand.

Check the Pay Tables

The Three Card Poker game has many variations, as we’ve mentioned in this guide. They are found in payouts, game rules, and bonuses.

We’ve also listed the most common payouts in this article. Some casinos alter the payouts significantly. So ensure to avoid playing variations with lowered payouts. A slight change in the pay structure gives the house a higher advantage. For instance, altering the payout on a flush (Pairplus bonus) from 4:1 to 3:1 will increase the house advantage (3.1% to 7%).

Three Card Poker Guide | Strategy

Stay Away from Side Bets

You can only enjoy side bets through luck and having a large bankroll. Aside from that, they are there for the profit of the casinos due to higher house advantage. Side bets have huge payouts. For instance, you’ll get 100 to 1 if you use a Pairplus bet to hit Mini Royal. However, if you’re looking to maintain a healthy bankroll and survive the game, don’t play them.

Avoid Playing Blind

The simplicity of the Three Card Poker game makes most inexperienced players play blind (play every hand without knowing what they’re dealt). Although this can be fun, it has its consequences. Playing blind increases the house advantage from the standard 3% up to 7%.

Place All Your Bets on the Ante

If you prefer making a Pairplus bet and wish to enjoy the lowest house edge, bet a similar amount on your side bet as you’ve done for the Ante. However, we recommend avoiding the temptation of making side bets unless you can really afford them. If you’re not regular at it, you won’t get great results in the long term.

Raise the Golden Hand: Q64

Whenever you’re dealt a queen, a 6, and a 4 (or greater), raise an Ante-Play. That’s the borderline hand. Hence, if you have anything lower, fold and allow the next hand to play.

Keep in mind that the dealer requires a queen or higher to qualify, and the scoring of hands is from the highest card to the next highest and down to the last card. Hence, your combination of cards (Q64) gives you the greatest winning chances and the lowest loss rate. Besides, this keeps the house advantage as low as 3%.


3 Card Poker offers incredible gameplay. The house edge is low enough to allow you to play on a budget. Although the game is simple, little mistakes can cost you large amounts. Take note of the tips from this Three Card Poker guide.

If you’re looking to play or learn from other guides like this Three Card Poker guide, ensure to use a reputable site like Vegas Aces Casino. Aside from the excellent gameplay they offer, you’ll also enjoy lots of bonuses, free poker online, and responsive customer service. Additionally, you can try playing similar games with a different approach, like the Three Card Rummy Game.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What's a House in Three Card Poker?

In 3 Card Poker, there can only be a house in a 6-card bonus game where the player and the dealer's hand are combined to achieve the highest hand. It's a side bet that a player must make for the hand creation to be possible. The house payout is 25:1.

What Are the Chances of Having a Pair in Three Card Poker?

In the Three Card Poker game, the chances of having a pair are very slim (with a 0.1694 probability). It's one of the most improbable hands a player can possibly have. If you're lucky enough to get it, you'll have a very high chance of winning.

Can You Count the Cards in Three Card Poker?

You can count the cards if it's a standard deck, depending on how many players take part in the Three Card Poker game. It's a different case online, as casino operators use an RNG (Random Number Generator) to determine the cards you play. You can only count cards on a multiplay live poker game, where a dealer controls the table.

Can I Play Three Card Poker Online?

Three Card Poker is one of the most popular casino table games you'll find online. Several live dealer casinos also allow you to play the game online. Online casinos like Vegas Aces also offer software-based games where you can enjoy Three Card Poker with real money or for free.

Which Online Casino Offers 3 Card Poker?

Most casino sites have 3 Card Poker in the game catalog, but you must consider some essential factors when choosing one. Ensure to check their certificates, games, support, bonuses, reliability, payout, safety, licenses, etc. To make this easier for you, we recommend using Vegas Aces.