Three card poker is two games in one. The player may bet on either one, both, and in different amounts. Both games are based on hands consisting of three cards. Before I go on here are the possible hands in three card poker, the number of combinations of each hand, and the probability of forming. Note that a straight is harder to form than a flush.
Probabilities in Three Card Poker
Hand Combinations Probability
Straight flush 48 0.0021719
Three of a kind 52 0.0023529
Straight 720 0.0325792
Flush 1096 0.0495928
Pair 3744 0.1694118
Queen to ace high 9720 0.4398190
Jack high or less 6720 0.3040724
This is a simple game in which you get three cards and are paid according to their value. The dealer’s hand is immaterial. There is no raising and no discarding, in fact no skill of any kind is involved.
The following table shows various paytables for 789betting Pairplus. It used to be that the only table was pay table 1. Now pay table 4 is becomming increasingly prevalent in Las Vegas, especially on the Strip.
Payoff Table for Pairplus
Hand Probability Table 1 Table 2 Table 3 Table 4
Straight flush 0.002172 40 to 1 40 to 1 35 to 1 40 to 1
Three of a kind 0.002353 30 to 1 25 to 1 25 to 1 30 to 1
Straight 0.032579 6 to 1 6 to 1 6 to 1 6 to 1
Flush 0.049593 4 to 1 4 to 1 4 to 1 3 to 1
Pair 0.169412 1 to 1 1 to 1 1 to 1 1 to 1
Nothing 0.743891 lose lose lose lose
House Edge 2.32% 3.49% 4.58% 7.28%
Ante and Play
Play begins with a wager on ante. After the player views his three cards he may either raise by putting an equal bet on play or fold and lose the ante bet. If the player folds he also loses the pairplus bet if one was made, however this should not be any sacrifice because if the pairplus bet paid anything the player shouldn’t fold.
If the player does raise then he goes against the dealer’s hand. The dealer needs at least a queen high to qualify. Below are the possible outcomes and their payoff:
Dealer does not qualify: Ante wins 1 to 1, play bet is returned
Dealer qualifies and player beats dealer: Both play and ante win 1 to 1
Dealer qualifies and dealer beats player: Both Play and ante lose
Dealer qualifies and dealer ties player: Both Play and ante push
In addition the Ante bet has an extra bonus that does not depend on the dealer’s hand. There are different variations of the bonus paytable. The following table shows some variations I have seen along with the corresponding game house edge and element of risk.
Ante Bet Bonus
Hand Probability Table 1 Table 2 Table 3
Straight flush 0.002172 5 to 1 4 to 1 3 to 1
Three of a kind 0.002353 4 to 1 3 to 1 2 to 1
Straight 0.032579 1 to 1 1 to 1 1 to 1
House Edge 3.37% 3.83% 4.28%
Element of Risk 2.01% 2.28% 2.56%
Optimal strategy in ante and play is to raise if you have a queen/6/4 (that is a queen, 6, and 4 all in the same hand) or greater, regardless of the bonus pay table. Overall the player stands to lose 8.66% of the original wager but win 5.29% on the bonus.
Many people have asked me what I mean by queen/6/4, wondering for example whether queen/7/3 is greater than queen/6/4. In any poker based game hands are scored first according to the highest card, then the second, and then the third, and so on if there are more. So a queen/7/3 would beat queen/6/4. The queens tie so the second highest cards are used to break the tie, and a 7 beats a 6. The third card does not matter in this case because the hand was resolved by the second card.
If you want to know why queen/6/4 is the borderline hand it is because if you raise on queen/6/3 you can expect to lose 1.00255 units, more than the 1 unit by folding. However if you raise on queen/6/4 the expected loss is .993378, less than the 1 unit by folding.
I have been asked several times about the strategy of raising on any queen or better, in other words mimicing the dealer. This is not a bad strategy but you will lose more with it than the optimal strategy above. The house edge playing the mimic the dealer strategy is 3.45%. Raising on everything, or playing blind, results in a house edge of 7.65%.
Full Pay Casinos
Following is a list of some casinos that offer the maximum paytables (1-4-6-30-40 in Pairplus and 1-4-5 in Ante&Play;). Unless otherwise stated all casinos are in Las Vegas
Lodge, Hyatt (Blackhawk, Colorado)
Casino de Montreal, Casino de Charlevoix, and Casino de Hull (Quebec, Canada).