Live Three Card Poker is a fast-paced variant of one of the most popular card games. As each player receives only 3 cards, hand ranking slightly differs to that in 5-card poker games. In Three Card Poker, there’s no such thing as a Full house nor Four-of-a-kind, and Straight outranks Flash. Learning how to play this game well is not that difficult and the only critical decision is whether to play or to fold. Before discussing the optimal strategy, let’s recap the basic rules of Three Card Poker.
Live Three Card Poker Rules
Generally, Three Card Poker features two separate games one can play at the same time – Ante/Play and Pair Plus. Both Ante and Pair Plus bets have to be placed before cards are dealt, and same goes for optional side bets. All Ante bets compete against the dealer who has to get at least a Queen High in order to qualify, while Pair Plus bet pays independently, based on your own hand alone.
Once all players have placed their bets, the dealer will deal 3 cards to each and you’ll need to decide whether to play or fold. The dealer’s hand is dealt face down and therefore not visible to anybody, which means the play/fold decision has to be made based solely on cards you’ve been dealt. Choosing to fold will cost you your Ante bet, and opting to play placing another placing another bet equal to the Ante. The dealer will then reveal their cards. In case they don’t qualify, you’ll be paid 1:1 on the Ante bet and your Play bet will push. If the dealer does qualify, the two hands will be compared and you’ll either score higher and get paid 1:1 on both Ante and Play bets, or score lower and lose it all. If you happen to get a Straight Flush, Three of a Kind, or Straight, you’ll win an Ante Bonus regardless of who wins the round. Straight Flush pays 5:1, Three-of-a-kind 4:1, and Straight 1:1.
Live Three Card Poker by Evolution Gaming offers two optional side bets – Pair Plus and Six Card Bonus. The objective of the first is to make a pair or higher, and the highest respective payout 100:1. Players who place Six Card Bonus bet will try to make the best five-card poker hand by combining their own three cards and the dealer’s cards. This side bet pays on Three-of-a-kind or better, with the highest payout being as much as 1,000:1.
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Optimal Live Three Card Poker Strategy
The optimal Live Three Card Poker strategy is fairly straightforward and easy to understand. The secret is to bet whenever you have Queen-6-4 or better, and fold otherwise. This means you should be folding if your high card is a Jack or lower, regardless of what the other two cards are, and you should be betting if you’ve got a King or an Ace. When your high card is a Queen, bet only if:
- your second-highest card is a 7 or higher, no matter what the third card
- your second-highest card is a 6 and the third one a 4 or a 5
If you choose to follow this strategy, prepare to abandon a number of hands as they won’t be meeting the above criteria. Be patient, though, because failing to consistently apply the optimal strategy could double the house edge, and that’s one thing you doubtlessly don’t want to do.
Pair Plus side bets will exhibit higher volatility, and though the odds are against you (one can expect to make a pair or better on average 25% of the time), potential big payouts could justify the risk. Before you decide whether to place this bet or not, check the house edge; paytable which delivers 4:1 on Flush carries less than 3% house edge, while with the one paying only 3:1 for the same hand, the edge could rocket to above 7%. First case scenario – try your luck and play Pair Plus; the alternative is to be avoided at all costs.