Three Card Poker Rules

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The game of Three Card Poker that was first introduced in the 1990s has gone through a number of changes since then. Casinos have the right to adjust the rules regarding payout schedules, betting limits and other aspects of the game, as long as they are properly described in their House Rules.

For that reason, the information below should be taken as an indication of the typical way the game is played, but House Rules should be consulted for specific variations prior to wagering. Players should be especially aware of the ranking of hands, noting the differences from traditional poker. From lowest to highest, with the associated payouts, they are as follows:

High Card – Any hand containing three cards of different values and suits, not in sequence, is called a High Card hand or Nothing. Examples are the unsuited K-7-2 or 8-6-3. Aces always count as high. If the highest valued card in the player’s hand matches that of the dealer’s, then the second highest card decides the winner or the third card if both the top cards are equal. A High Card hand receives no Ante Bonus, and any Pair Plus bet made loses.

Pair – Two cards of the same value are a pair. The third card of a different value is the so-called “Kicker,” such as J-J-6 or 9-5-5. If the player and dealer each have a pair, the tie is settled by the value of the paired cards; if they are equal, the tie is broken by the value of the unpaired Kicker. There is no Ante Bonus paid for a Pair, while the Pair Plus wager pays even money.

Flush – Three cards of the same suit, not in sequential order, form a flush, such as the A-10-4 of spades or the J-7-5 of diamonds. Aces count as high. Ties are settled by comparing the highest valued card in each hand; if they are of the same value, the second highest card determines the winner; else the third card does if both of the top cards are identical. No Ante Bonus is paid for a Flush; a Pair Plus wager usually earns 3-to-1.

Straight – Any three unsuited cards in sequence is referred to as a Straight or “Run,” such as 9-8-7 of different suits. Aces may be used as either high or low, just as such as A-2-3 or A-K-Q of different suits. Ties are settled by comparing the highest cards in the hands; for an A-2-3 Straight, the Ace is low, so the 3 is high. The Ante Bonus for a Straight is 1-to-1, even money; the Pair Plus wager pays 6-to-1.

Three-of-a-Kind – The second highest hand possible is three cards of equal value, such as Q-Q-Q or 5-5-5. This is sometimes called a Set, or else Trips, Trio or Triplets. Ties are settled by the comparing the rank of the three cards. The standard Ante Bonus for Three-of-a-Kind is 4-to-1, but it can sometimes be 3-to-1 or even 2-to-1, depending on the House Rules; the Pair Plus should pay 30-to-1.

Straight Flush – The highest ranking hand is three suited cards in sequence, such as the 8-7-6 of hearts or Q-J-10 of clubs. Aces may be counted as either high or low, such as A-2-3 of spades or A-K-Q of diamonds. Ties are settled by comparing the highest card in the hand, but again the 3 is highest, not the Ace, in a Straight Flush of A-2-3. For the Ante Bonus, this hand should pay 5-to-1, although it can be just 4-to-1 or even 3-to-1; the Pair Plus bet yields 40-to-1.

Other rules dictate the way the game is played, too, again subject to changes made by the House. Some of the most common rules used at Three Card Poker tables are as follows:

Ante Bonus – To be eligible for the Ante Bonus, both the Ante and Play bets must have been made. If the Player fails to make the Play bet, the Ante is lost regardless of what cards are in the Banker hand.

Play Bet Limit – Any wager made on the Play bet must be equal in value to the initial Ante, neither more nor less.

Qualifying – In order for the showdown to occur, the Banker Hand must contain at least a Queen or better. Should the dealer fail to qualify, all active Ante bets pay even money and all Play bets are returned. Note, however, that this applies only to active wagers, not those which have been forfeited by folding.

Pair Plus Bet – This optional side bet is treated independently from the Ante and Play bets. As long as it remains active, this wager will pay out for any hand ranked at a pair or better, regardless of whether the player’s hand beats the banker’s hand or not.

Play Both Bets – Casinos that offer this option treat it the same as a single wager covering both the Ante and the Pair Plus bets. One difference is that the player must make the Play bet in order to win on either the Ante or Pair Plus, else all bets are forfeited

Payouts – Ante and Play bets are always paid at even money, while bonuses for exceptionally high hands and for Pair Plus bets are remitted according to the House Rules, as per the published payout schedule.

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