It may not feel like there’s room for a lot of strategy in Three Card Poker, but in reality, the difference between proper play and bad play can have a big impact on the size of the house edge and your chances of winning. With optimal strategy, Three Card Poker can be one of the better table games to play in a casino.
There isn’t much to memorize when it comes to Three Card Poker strategy. The player should raise with every hand that consists of a pair or better, along with any “high card” hand of Q64 or better. The house edge will depend on the ante bonus table being used, but typically, using this strategy results in a house edge of about 3.4%.
Other strategies are reasonable, but do not offer as good returns as the Q64 strategy. For instance, if you use the same strategy as the dealer and raise with every queen-high or better hand, the house edge rises very slightly to about 3.5%. If you raise with every hand blindly, the house edge increases significantly, to about 7.65%.
If you have a choice between Three Card Poker tables at different casinos, take a look at the ante bonus pay tables. Many casinos offer ante bonuses that are worse than the standard table, which offers the following:
Straight Flush: 5-1
Three of a Kind: 4-1
Some tables offer only 4-1 (or even 3-1) on a straight flush, and similarly, they may offer only 3-1 (or 2-1) on a three of a kind. These tables don’t affect Three Card Poker strategy, but they do change the return the player can expect. Some of these pay tables have house edges of over 4%. In additional, you will sometimes find tables that offer an additional bonus if you make a mini-royal – a straight flush using the ace, king and queen of the same suit. While occasionally these may be on top of the standard pay table (in which case they’re a good deal), mini-royal tables are usually gimmicks, and can have house edges as high as 7%.
Another question often asked about Three Card Poker Strategy has to do with the popular Pairplus bet that most players enjoy betting on. The Pairplus bet usually has a higher house edge than the standard ante bet; depending on the pay table, the house edge can range anywhere from 2.3% to over 7%. These days, it’s difficult to find a Pairplus pay table that offers that 2.3% edge, but if you can find one, this is what it will look like:
Straight Flush: 40-1
Three of a Kind: 30-1
If you want to analyze the quality of a Pairplus pay table, look mainly at the straight and flush payouts. In general, the best Pairplus tables offer 6-1 and 4-1 on those two bets, with tables that offer less (such as the common 6/3 and 5/4 tables) having much higher house edges.
So, does this make Pairplus a good or bad bet? One possible Three Card Poker strategy is to only play Pairplus if you have a favorable table that keeps the house edge low. However, it’s hard to describe the Pairplus bet as a sucker bet; even in the worst case, the house edge is not astronomical. If you want to have the chance at occasional huge wins, the Pairplus bet will pay huge dividends when you hit a straight flush or a three of a kind.
Overall, Three Card Poker strategy is very simple, meaning that you won’t need any complex charts with you at the table to help you play optimal strategy. The biggest decision you’ll need to make is what to do about the Pairplus bet. If you’re looking to lose as little money as possible, you should probably avoid it; if you’re playing somewhere where there’s an exceptional pay chart or you’re just looking to have a little extra fun, there’s nothing wrote with playing Pairplus.