Three Card Poker is an online casino game similar to the five card poker games. It is structured more simply and moves much faster. Therefore it is offered by most online casino software developers. This article explains how Three Card Poker is played and provides tips on the crucial decision making.
The Three Card Poker game begins with the player making the mandatory Ante bet and the optional Pair Plus bet. Three cards are dealt face up to the player and three cards are dealt face down to the dealer. After seeing his cards the player has to decide whether to fold or raise. If the player folds then he forfeits his Ante bet. If the player raises then he has to place an additional Play bet, equal to his Ante bet. If the player places the Play bet, the dealer's cards are exposed. The dealer requires a queen high or better to qualify. In case the dealer does not qualify then the Ante bet will pay out at 1 to 1 and the Play bet will push. If the dealer's hand qualifies, then the two hands will be compared and the higher ranking hand will win. If the player has the higher poker hand then the Ante and Play bets will both pay out at 1 to 1. If the dealer has the higher poker hand then the Ante and Play bets will both lose. If the hands are tied the Ante and Play bets will both push. The three card poker hand rankings are as follows from highest to lowest: straight flush, three of a kind, straight, flush, pair and high card. There are two bonus bets in Three Card Poker. The Ante Bonus pays as per a payout table when the player holds a straight or higher. The Pair Plus bet will pay based on a separate payout table that starts with a pair.
There are two decisions that a player has to make in Three Card Poker. The first is whether to fold or raise after seeing his hand. Some players raise irrespective of the hand they hold. This leads to a house edge of 7.7%, which is atrocious for an online casino table game. The strategy usually followed is to raise if the player holds a dealer's qualifying hand. In Three Card Poker this is queen high or better. Following this strategy reduces the house edge to 3.5%. The optimal strategy that further reduces the house edge is to raise on a hand of queen, six and four. This seems a very odd strategy, but it is based on computer simulations. The expected loss per dollar wagered on a hand of queen, six and four is $0.993, which is less than the certain loss of folding. The expected loss per dollar wagered on a hand of queen, six and three is $1.003, which is more than the certain loss of folding.
The second decision that the player has to make in Three Card Poker is whether to place the Pairs Plus bet. Different Pair Plus payout tables offer different house edges and the player has to decide whether the risk is worth it for him. The Microgaming payout table has a house edge of only 2.3%. This is less than the house edge for European Roulette and is very attractive.