A comprehensive guide to winning real money playing 3-card poker online.
With a standard house edge of 3.37% and an element of risk of 2.01%, three card poker (3CP) is a favorite among online and land-based gamblers alike. The game’s simple rules and attractive payouts help explain its appeal to so many casual gamblers.
In this guide, we will go over how to choose a real money casino to play online 3-card poker. We’ll also take a closer look at how the game is played, as well as examine strategies for maximizing your bankroll’s play time.
Most online casinos only offer a single variant of Tri card poker. This is largely due to the game’s design philosophy, which makes it difficult to introduce extra features that would warrant creating a separate variant without sacrificing the simplicity and playability of the original game.
In other words – no reason to change what isn’t broken.
As a result, your search for the best online casinos for 3-card poker games should focus on the following:
Generally speaking, an online casino can be considered trustworthy if it is licensed and regulated by a government institution, which in turn tend to vary by jurisdiction. Examples include the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDoGE) in New Jersey, the Malta Gaming Authority for many Europe-facing casinos, the UK Gambling Commission in the UK, and so on.
Keep in mind that not every casino without a government-issued license is bound to turn out fraudulent.
However, a complete lack of regulation significantly increases your odds of having your funds locked in your account, usually under some false pretenses. Definitely not worth the risk.
You can also take the easy route and stick to the top casinos recommended here on our website. This way you can feel confident that you are depositing your money with a trustworthy gambling establishment, with a proven track record of fair conduct and reliable withdrawals.
You’ll want to find out how much the casino’s three card poker pays on the Ante Bet Bonus, which is where casinos introduce changes to vary the house edge on the most profitable bets.
Most casinos pay Ante bonuses equal to 5:1 on a straight flush, 4:1 on three of a kind, and 1:1 on a straight (more on these further below). Such an Ante Bet Bonus pay table results in a house edge of 3.37% on the Ante bet, or 2.01% on the total bets made in the hand (including the Call bet).
However, certain casinos offer only 3:1 on a straight flush and 2:1 on three of a kind, which increases the house edge to 4.28% and 2.56% on Ante and total bets, respectively. Other pay tables exist as well.
The best way to check the game’s pay table is to load it up in free-play mode, assuming one is available. If the play-money game does not come with a pay table, contact the casino support team to request this information.
You want a casino with a responsive and reliable online platform – nothing ruins the fun of gambling more than a sluggish interface or frequent crashes. Luckily, the majority of reputable casinos are powered by established software, designed by independent gambling providers. Examples include:
The above household names guarantee excellent software performance and an enjoyable gambling experience. Also, don’t be surprised to see more than one casino running on the same software – since there are significantly fewer software providers than online casinos, this is to be expected.
Note that the outcome of each 3CP hand is determined by a random number generator (RNG). The RNG is a piece of software that takes various inputs from the player, such as mouse movements and wait times between actions, combines those with data from external servers, and runs the whole thing through a sophisticated algorithm. The end result is a string of random numbers, which are used to determine the outcome of the hand.
By sticking to casinos running on one of the popular platforms mentioned above, you are guaranteed a fair RNG that undergoes regular audits by licensed auditors.
Make sure the casino you plan to spend your time playing on offers a handsome welcome bonus. These are typically awarded as a percentage of your deposit, typically between 50% and 150%, with 100% being the most common. Welcome bonuses are usually capped at between a few hundred and a few thousand dollars.
For example, as of May 2018, Bovada casino offers a welcome bonus equal to 100% of your deposit and capped at $1,000. This means that if you deposit $700, you get an extra $700 bonus for free, but if you deposit $1,200, you’ll receive a $1,000 bonus.
(Interestingly, Bovada’s bonus can be on your first three consecutive deposits, for a maximum of $3,000 in welcome bonuses.)
Once you’ve claimed your bonus, you’ll have to complete a wager requirement – also known as the playthrough – before the casino will allow you to withdraw the bonus or any winnings generated from playing 3CP or any other game. Most casinos enforce a wager requirement between 15x and 25x the size of the bonus. For example, if you receive a $1,000 bonus with a 20x playthrough, you’ll need to place a total of 20 x 1,000 = $20,000 in bets before you’ll be able to withdraw any winnings or bonus funds.
Now comes the important part. Specifically, not all casino games contribute equally towards completing bonus wager requirements. Slots usually contribute 100%, but other games may contribute 50% or less. If you bet a total of $10,000 on a game with a 50% contribution rate, only $5,000 of your wagers will count towards meeting the wager requirement.
Unfortunately, there’s some bad news here for Three card poker players in that this game will often have a very poor contribution, sometimes as low as 20% or 10%. In fact, some casinos go as far as to exclude 3CP from their list of games where bonuses can be cleared.
On the flip side, some casinos – Bovada again comes to mind – offer a 100% contribution on Three card poker.
In short: look for a generous welcome bonus, and if you’re a 3CP-only player – make sure the game contributes a decent percentage of wagers towards clearing the bonus.
A hand of Tri-card poker is played against the Dealer.
In order for a new hand to be dealt, the player must either make an Ante Bet, a PairPlus Bet, or both. Minimum and maximum bet sizes vary by casino, with a typical minimum between $0.50 and $1, and a maximum as high as $1,000.
Once a bet is made, both the player and Dealer receive three cards each. The player may check their own hand, but the Dealer must keep their cards face down.
If the player only made a PairPlus Bet without an Ante Bet, there are no further actions to be taken. Rather, the player will either be paid according to the pay table if they managed to land a pair or higher, or they will lose their PairPlus Bet if all they got was a high card. A new hand can now commence.
However, if the player made an Ante Bet, they will be given a choice between Folding or Calling once the cards are dealt. Choosing to fold will result in the Ante Bet being forfeit, however, the player gets to keep any winnings from their PairPlus Bet if one was made.
This is because PairPlus Bets are independent of anything else the player does in a given hand.
If the player decides to Call, they will be required to place a bet equal to their initial Ante Bet. This is then followed by the Dealer revealing their cards so that the winner can be determined based on the stronger hand. Hands are ranked as followed, from weakest to strongest:
(Notice that a straight is stronger than a Flush – this is because in Three card poker a flush is easier to make.)
Depending on what the Dealer is holding, here’s what happens next:
Additionally, the player can earn an Ante Bet Bonus if they make a straight or higher. As with the PairPlus Bet, winnings from the Ante Bet Bonus are paid out regardless of whether the player’s hand is stronger or weaker than the Dealer’s. Note that the player does not need to make any special bets to qualify for the Ante Bet Bonus.
There can be some major differences between online and brick-and-mortar variants of the game. Here are things you might see at some land-based casinos that you probably won’t witness online:
Some of these rules are more popular in Europe than they are in the US, and vice versa.
When considering Three card poker’s house edge and profitability, one must differentiate between house edge on pre-deal bets and house edge on total bets made.
The first value signifies our expected losses when considering bets made before any cards are dealt. However, since Three card poker hands additionally involve placing bets after the cards have been dealt, and because these post-deal bets come with different odds, a more appropriate value to consider is the one signifying expected losses on total bets made in a hand.
With this in mind, we can now say that the majority of online 3CP games come with a 2.32% house edge on PairPlus bets, and 3.37% edge on Ante bets. On quick examination, one might conclude that avoiding Ante bets is the right move from a bankroll-optimization standpoint.
However, the percentages above do not take bets made after the cards are dealt into account. In other words, these values denote the pre-deal house edge. To get a clearer picture of what’s happening we must take post-deal bets into account to arrive at a house edge on total bets.
Here’s what happens if we do that:
All PairPlus bets are made before cards are dealt, which means that pre-deal house edge on these bets and the house edge on total bets are the same – 2.32%.
Conversely, Ante bets do involve betting after the deal (these are the Call bets we spoke of earlier). These extra bets end up reducing the house edge on total Ante bets from the aforementioned 3.37% to a mere 2.01%.
All things considered, Ante Bets have a lower house edge – and therefore a better return-to-player – than PairPlus Bets. This may go against what you may have heard on other websites, so we’ll say it again: if you’re looking to maximize your RTP, avoid PairPlus Bets and only place Ante and Call bets.
Keep in mind that the house edge can vary across casinos, depending on the size of Ante Bet bonuses. A growing number of online 3CP games come with a PairPlus house edge of 5.58%.
While there can be decent variation in rules across land-based casinos, online versions of 3CP are identical and differ primarily in their return-to-player (RTP), which is altered by the casinos through manipulations to the Ante Bonus and PairPlus Bet payout tables.
However, while rare, some casinos offer additional side bets to the regular ones. These include:
6 Card bonus
In addition to PairPlus and Ante bets, players can place a third bet. Once the Dealer reveals their hand, their three cards are combined with the player’s and the strongest possible five-card combination is determined. If that combination happens to be three of a kind or better, the player is paid a bonus in accordance with a separate pay table.
Keep in mind that this bonus comes with a hefty house edge – 10% to 15% is typical.
Games that feature Mini Royal issue an additional payout to player’s who make a suited Q-K-A, and an even larger payout to Q-K-A in spades. Games with this feature are extremely rare online, but due to their growing popularity in land-based casinos, we expect to see more of them soon.
As with other casino games, such as slots, Blackjack, or Keno it’s impossible to be a long-term winner at Three card poker.
Of course, it’s possible to get lucky and score a big win early on. You could, for instance, place a $500 PairPlus bet, make a straight flush (roughly 1 in 476 probability) and, if the Dealer’s hand Qualifies, get paid 40 * $500 = $20,000.
On the flip side, you could also get a high card and lose your $500.
In this sense, the only way to “win” at 3CP is to get quite lucky and then quit the game while ahead, because if you keep playing, you are guaranteed to lose more than you earn. That $20,000 we made earlier with our straight flush? We’ll lose all of it, and then some.
This phenomenon wherein the inevitability of the house edge ultimately catches on to us is referred to as “the grind”.
Here’s a way to visualize the grind: Imagine you’re playing online Tri-card poker at one of our recommended casinos, and that the house edge on total Ante bets equals 2.01%. This means that if you were to bet, say $1,000 over the course of a few hundred hands or more, you can expect to lose slightly over 2% to the house, or about $20. This would leave you with approximately $980 in your bankroll.
If you were to wager that $998 over the course of another 100 hands, you can expect to lose another ~2% of that, which would leave you with ~$960.
You can see how if this were to go on long enough, you would eventually be left with nothing in your bankroll, unless you make another deposit with the casino. This is the grind in action.
Of course, the numbers never line up so neatly in real life due to the volatility of the game. You might even get ahead over the course of those first 100 hands, but in the end and given enough time, even the smallest 0.01% house edge will wipe out the largest bankroll. It’s just a matter of when, not if.
The grind is the reason we always recommend treating online casino games as a form of entertainment – it’s the only way to come out a winner in the long run.
There are three things you must do if your goal is to reduce the house edge to an absolute minimum:
This is about as much as can be done to reduce the house edge to its bare minimum.
Whether it makes sense to clear a casino bonus on three card poker (3CP) depends on three things:
The first point is self-explanatory: you’re hopefully playing at a casino with the best payouts and therefore the lowest house edge of 2.01%. This will make it more likely for you to clear the bonus before the grind consumes your bankroll; refer to the “Three card poker house edge” section above for details on how to recognize the best-paying games.
The second point is hopefully also clear: the lower the bonus wagering requirement, the more likely you are to meet it and still be left with some money to withdraw. As a general rule, anything below a 20x playthrough is decent; 10x or lower is excellent; 25x or above is a struggle.
The third point is a little more involved: if bets made on 3CP do not count towards meeting bonus playthrough requirements at your casino, you’ll need to look for a different game to clear your bonus. If the game does contribute, it will typically be either 100% or 20%.
Here are two example scenarios. Both assume you are playing at a casino with a 2.01% house edge on total Ante/Call bets, and that you never place any PairPlus bets, which have a poor return-to-player by comparison.
Scenario #1 – game wagers contribute 100%:
This means that by the time you are done clearing the bonus, you can expect to be left with $200 (deposit + bonus) minus $40.20 (money lost to the house) = $159.80 in your bankroll – a net profit of $59.80.
Scenario #2 – game wagers contribute 20%:
That’s correct – you can expect to lose over $200 in the process of clearing a $100 bonus. You could lose your entire bonus and deposit by the time you complete the playthrough!
Note that the above scenarios assume perfect, disciplined play. Also, these are theoretical values that can be expected over the long term. Actual results may vary considerably, however, these calculations are useful in helping dedicated 3CP players compare theoretical bonus values across casinos.
Final note: the numbers above scale linearly with both the wager requirement and the house edge. For example, if we were to cut the wager requirement from Scenario #2 in half (from 20x to 10x), our expected losses would be cut in half, too – $201 / 2 = $100.50.
You can use the following formula to calculate the expected losses associated with clearing any online casino bonus on Three card poker:
Expected losses = (BS * WR * HE) / GC
– BS = Bonus Size (e.g. 100)
– WR = Wager Requirement (e.g. 20)
– HE = House Edge (e.g. 0.02 for 2%)
– GC = Game Contribution (e.g. 1 for 100% or 0.20 for 20%)
Example: for a BS of $100, a WR of 15x, a HE of 2.1%, and a GC of 10%, our expected losses = (100 * 15 * 0.021) / 0.10 = $315.
As with most casino games, the proper Three card poker mindset involves playing for fun and never betting more than we can afford to lose. Because 3CP is “rigged” to favor the casino no matter what the player does, it is impossible to make a living playing the game.
Also, never assume you’ve found a loophole. Certain strategies may seem at first glance to turn the odds in your favor. However, any such strategy is mathematically guaranteed to be misguided. If you allow yourself to believe the impossible, you’ll quickly be disappointed and what should have been an enjoyable experience will turn into a depressing activity.
As already mentioned, 3CP is primarily a luck-based game. We can reduce the house edge to a minimum by avoiding PairPlus bets and folding hands weaker than Q-6-4, however, even then we should expect the house to claim 2.01% of our total bets in the long run. This is due to the way the rules of the game are set up.
As a result, no betting system can ever allow us to turn a consistent profit from playing 3CP – if this were possible, casinos hosting the game would go bankrupt in a matter of months.
Surprisingly, there aren’t many Tri card poker betting systems in existence, which is a pleasant surprise. We only ran into one semi-system, which advises players to always split their bet equally between PairPlus and Ante. The idea behind this is to hedge your bets – if your hand is weaker than the Dealer’s and you lose, at least you might score a handsome payout on your PairPlus bet.
Unfortunately, what this strategy actually does is it increases the house edge from the minimum possible 2.01%, to anywhere between around 2.17% and 5.30%, depending on the game’s Pair Plus table. It makes you lose more money over time.
Here are some tips to keep in mind:
Try to size your bets according to your bankroll. If your goal is to maximize your play time, never bet more than 1/100 of your entire balance on a single hand. This will help you avoid emptying your balance too quickly in case of a bad run.
Keep in mind that this is not a strategy for “beating” Three card poker. The game can’t be beaten, and the house always wins in the end. Rather, this approach will allow you to extract maximum fun from your time at the table and help you avoid tilt.
As discussed under the “how to maximize your bankroll’s playtime” section above, you should remember that clearing casino bonuses on 3CP has its price. This price will depend on the wager requirement, the game’s contribution, and the pay table.
Use the formula provided to compare bonus values between casinos and to make sure you are not paying the casino to clear your bonus – unless of course you are completely fine with this and you’re just playing for fun anyway, in which case good for you.
PairPlus bets return significantly less to the player in the long run than Ante bets. It’s OK to make a few of these bets once in a while for fun, but do so knowing that you’re increasing the grind’s effect on your bankroll and thereby speeding up the process of going bust.
Doing so will have a positive effect on your bankroll. This is because by folding weaker hands, you can expect to lose less money from folding and forfeiting your Ante than you would lose from calling and then losing both your Ante and your call bet. The difference can seem tiny in the short term, but in the long term, the effects compound and reduce the casino’s house edge to the bare minimum.
The best return-to-player can be achieved by placing Ante bets on 3CP games with the following Ante Bet Bonus payout schedule:
For these games, proper play will result in a tiny house edge on total bets of 0.20%, or an RTP of 98.80%. Unfortunately, games with this payout table are exceedingly rare on the internet. The majority of games found online will feature the following odds on the same hands mentioned above:
This results in a house edge of 2.01% with an optimal strategy.
The worst Ante Bet Bonus pay table you can find online is:
Which carries a house edge of 2.56. Avoid these games if possible.
There are two PairPlus pay tables commonly found online. One of them pays the following:
The PairPlus house edge for this pay table is 2.32%.
The second popular paytable is almost identical to the first one – the only difference is that it pays 3:1 on the flush instead of 4:1. While this doesn’t seem like much of a difference, it raises the house edge on PairPlus bets from 2.32% to a whopping 7.28% – more than a three-fold increase. This is because flushes occur relatively frequently in Three card poker, so any associated payout reduction will have a significant impact on the bottom line.
It is not impossible to win money in the short term. Anything could happen over the course of a few or even a few dozen hands – you could even turn an initial $100 bankroll into tens of thousands of dollars within the span of an hour if you’re lucky enough.
What’s impossible is turning a profit over hundreds or thousands of hands. As explained earlier in the “ How to win at Three Cards Poker online” section, the game is designed to profit the casino and to slowly but surely grind away at a player’s bankroll. Play 3CP long enough and you’re guaranteed to lose your entire deposit.
Any game with an Ante/Call house edge of 2.01% will do fine. See the “Tips for playing online Three card poker” section above for more details on pay table structures and what to look for.
As long as you’re doing it for fun and are fully aware of the consequences placing these bets will have on your bankroll, go right ahead. Just don’t be surprised to see your bankroll dwindle to nothing much quicker than it would have had you focused exclusively on Ante / Call bets.
And make sure to look for a game with a decent PairPlus paytable, if possible.
No. Each player is involved in their own one-on-one hand against the Dealer. The players’ actions at the table are independent of one another. However, it’s worth noting that some casinos allow players to swap their cards with those of another player.
The odds are as follows:
These are very close approximations.
This varies from casino to another. However, most games we’ve seen accept a minimum bet between $0.50 and $1, while the maximum usually falls in the $500-$1,000 range.
No. A hand will commence once you’ve placed an Ante bet or a PairPlus bet. Either one is enough, but you can place both if you like.
If your goal is to optimize bankroll play time and reduce the house edge, then yes. The typical 2.01% house edge on Ante/Call bets only holds if you fold hands weaker than Q-6-4. If you decide to play any Queen irrespective of the value of the two remaining cards, the house edge increases to 3.45%. And if you were to Call every hand you are dealt, the edge skyrockets to 7.65% – a close to four-fold increase relative to optimal play.
Modern-day online casinos offer a variety of convenient deposit methods. These will generally vary by country, as well as your standing with the casino – long-term members can have more options available to them.
You should be able to make a deposit using Skrill or Neteller, as well as some sort of e-banking method such as eChecks in the U.S. PayPal is rarely supported due to the company’s aversion to processing gambling-related payments. Certain forms of location-dependent cash payment methods are available as well, such as 7-Eleven convenience store deposits in New Jersey and Ukash in eastern Europe. Most transactions are processed almost instantly.
Credit and debit card deposits are popular in Europe, but not so much in the States – this is due to poor reliability and high rejection rates.
As quickly as possible. Expect to undergo a security check the first time you request a withdrawal. You should also consider your daily and weekly transaction limits, which can have an impact on your play-style – these can be checked in the cashier or by contacting casino customer service.
Withdrawals can usually be processed via an e-wallet or check by courier. The latter can be used to request very large withdrawals, however, it can take more than two weeks to process.
Most casinos refuse to deal with Bitcoin. This is largely due to price volatility, slow transaction processing, and large fees. Certain cryptocurrencies, such as Monero, perform better on some of these fronts than Bitcoin, but the issue of volatility is still unresolved.
However, some reputable casinos do process Bitcoin deposits and withdrawals, including Bodog and Bovada.
Finally, there are casinos that deal exclusively with cryptocurrencies. You can easily recognize most of them by their brand name, which typically contains the word “bit,” “coin,” or both. Unfortunately, the majority of these are either unregulated or have too short of a history to be worthy of recommendation. As a result, you should probably stay clear of them.
Your bet won’t disappear if that’s what you’re worried about.
Once you click the “Deal” button, the casino already knows the outcome of the hand, which is determined by the random number generator. The card-dealing and chip-moving animations are only for show and have no effect on the end result. Once you log back into your account, you’ll find the outcome of your last hand in your game history, and your bankroll will reflect the result of that hand.
Three card poker was invented by Derek Webb and Roger Snow in 1994, who went on to file for a patent in 1995, which was finally awarded in 1997 (US Application number US20020153662A1) .
The current patent assignee is Bally Gaming.
Having failed to convince various casino owners to adopt the game, Webb managed to find a receptive audience in Barry Morris of Grand Casino Gulfport, Mississippi. The casino thus became the first land-based establishment to host a three card poker table. Due to the game’s simple rules and relatively attractive payouts, it quickly became a success and spread across the US, and then the UK.
The next step in the game’s history was its appearance in online casinos, where it is currently known under multiple names, including Tri-card poker, Tri-poker, Three card poker, and 3CP. The game can usually be found either under a casino’s “Poker” or the “Specialty games” tab.
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