Best Bets at the Three Card Poker Table
Three Card Poker is another casino game that attempts to build off the popularity and excitement of table poker. It’s a bit simpler than its peers Caribbean Stud and Let it Ride and actually carries a lower house edge than the two, although it’s not one of the best bets in the casino.
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The best bet to make is the Pair Plus bet, which is also the most straightforward wager. After the bet is placed, you are dealt a three card hand and it is compared to the payout schedule; no additional decisions are necessary. A pair will pay off at 1-1 while the best hand, a straight flush, nets you 40-1. It is also significant to note that the hand rankings are different from traditional poker: three of a kind is the second best hand, ranking higher than a straight which beats a flush.
You can also make an Ante/Play bet, which comes with a slightly larger house edge. Instead of just playing your own cards, Ante/Play faces you off against the dealer. To start, you place an ante bet and are dealt your three cards. You are then given the option to make a Play bet of the same size as the ante or surrender your Ante bet and end the hand. If you make the Play bet, the dealer reveals his hand. If he has at least a queen high, he is said to “qualify,” and his hand is compared to yours. If you have a higher ranking hand than the dealer, you will be paid off at 1-1 on both the Ante and Play bets. If the dealer wins, then you lose both bets. If the dealer does not qualify, then the player wins the Ante bet while the Play bet is simply returned. (This is the same as in Caribbean stud.)
In addition to these payouts, there is a bonus table that awards additional payouts on your Ante bet regardless of the outcome of the hand. You don’t have to do anything to qualify for this bonus, and you are paid off even if the dealer has a higher ranking hand than you or fails to qualify. A straight flush gives you 5-1, three of a kind 4-1 and a straight 1-1 (no bonus payout is given for a flush). Guaranteed bonuses are nice, but you won’t be dealt these hands very often and even when they do, they are significantly lower than the payouts for the Pair Plus bet.
Even though the house edge is slightly larger, many players prefer the Ante/Play bet because it allows them to make additional decisions, which gives them the illusion of being in better control of the outcome. Although this notion isn’t true, it is a fact that the play is more interesting than the Pair Plus bet. You will incur a slightly larger expected loss over a big sample size with Ante/Play, but you will also experience more exciting play. This trade off is enough for many players, but you must evaluate your own preferences at the table.
You also need to make sure that your casino offers these maximum payouts for the Ante/Play bet. Occasionally you will encounter a game that offers less than 5:4:1-1 payouts for a straight flush, three of a kind and straight respectively. Avoid these games because the house edge is even larger.
Three Card Poker Smart Bets
Pair Plus bet – 2.32% house edge
Ante/Play bet – about a 3.4% house edge with correct play. Correct play in this case means playing any hand that is Q-6-4 and better, and folding all worse hands. It is rare for a game with any chance of strategy to only require memorization of one rule, which might attract some people to this bet, but remember that the house edge is larger.
Worst Three Card Poker Bets
Ante/Play 4:3:1 Payouts – 6.8% house edge. If you encounter a game that offers 4-1 for a straight flush, 3-1 for three of a kind and 1-1 for a straight, the house edge doubles. Be sure to avoid this game.
Ante/Play Mistakes – Players sometimes make decisions based on hunches or incorrect perceptions of patterns from previous hands. They might feel frustrated after folding on the previous hand only to see the dealer fail to qualify, meaning they would have won back their ante. Or they might think the dealer is “due” for a poor hand after hitting several winners in a row. This can cause the player to make the play bet with a hand like jack high. This is a terrible bet, since the house will either beat you or fail to qualify; it is impossible to win your play bet. This type of play only adds to the casino edge.
Building Your Three Card Poker Bankroll
Similar to the other games based on the attractiveness of poker, the casino will always have the edge. Every additional hand you play will put you at a disadvantage, so you need to look to other ways to improve your chances. If you look for an online or land based casino that awards players with comps, bonuses and other VIP promotions, you can find a lot of extra value for your three card poker play.