Real money Three Card Poker delivers all the excitement of regular stud poker, but it presents the game in a simpler and faster format. It was created by Derek Webb in 1994, and it later debuted at Mississippi’s Grand Casino Gulfport.
According to the game’s entry on Wikipedia, “It is the most profitable proprietary table game ever when measured by wins generated for the casinos or by revenue generated for the rights owner.” That’s a bold claim, and one that makes you wonder why casinos both online and land-based aren’t lining up to feature it.
While the game hasn’t become a household name, it has managed to make the inevitable transition to the world of virtual gambling. This article looks at the basics of Three Card Poker for real money, from the house edge to the importance of finding a fair casino.
Difference between Real Money and Free Play
As you might have guessed, the biggest difference between free and real play is the presence of money. While the latter requires the player to risk their hard-earned cash, the former provides a certain level of enjoyment with no money on the line. Of course, winning on the free version of the game doesn’t reward the player with anything more than a smile.
Strangely, Three Card Poker is the rare online game where the free version actually seems to be more available than the real money variety. This is due to the game’s status as a relative unknown, although a handful of sites do offer it among their titles.
There’s also one other important difference that sometimes exists with free versions of casino games: the player’s winning percentage. Free software is sometimes designed to allow the customer to win at a greater rate, which is meant to bolster their confidence and encourage them to open an account for real money. I’ve seen no evidence that this is the case with free Three Card Poker software, but it’s something that players should always keep in the back of their minds.
Three Card Poker Software
As this game isn’t as prevalent as others, you won’t find it among the titles created by all casino software designers. In fact, the only company that I’m certain produces an online version is Realtime Gaming. In their case, it’s marketed under the name “Tri Card Poker” and available at a smattering of virtual gaming establishments.
Three Card Poker is a licensed product, which means casinos pay the owner for the right to use the game. I’m not sure if the name switch is simply a re-branding effort or an attempt to avoid forking over some cash to the license holder. If it’s the latter, then shame on RTG for resorting to such tactics.
Regardless of the ethics of the situation, you’ll find that a certain level of persistence may be needed to track down the online version of the game. I’m familiar with three casinos that offer it, although I’m sure the number is at least a bit higher. Still, anyone expecting the all-encompassing presence of, say, blackjack is going to be disappointed.
How to Play Three Card Poker
I usually skim over the rules for most games, as I assume players are familiar with how they work. Since Three Card Poker isn’t available at all casinos, however, I thought a more in-depth explanation might be helpful.
The game of Three Card Poker has a trio of betting options: Ante, Play, and Pair Plus. The Ante and Play options are determined by the player’s cards being pitted against that of the dealer. The Pair Plus, meanwhile, is resolved by looking at the overall strength of the player’s hand after the deal.
To begin the game, the player must decide whether to bet on Ante, Pair Plus, or both. The Pair Plus wager is always optional, while the Ante wager is sometimes mandatory. When in doubt, always check the casino rules to be sure.
After the initial wagers have been placed, the player and the dealer receive three cards apiece (with the dealer’s cards dealt face down). The player must then decide if the resulting hand is strong enough to continue.
If the player made the Ante bet, they now have the option to either fold or continue. If the player folds, then they forfeit the Ante bet. If they want to continue, they must make a Play wager that’s equal to the value of the Ante.
The dealer examines their hand and determines whether or not to play. In order to play, the dealer must have a queen high or better in their three-card hand. If the dealer isn’t able to continue, then the Ante wager pays even money and there’s no action on the Play bet.
If the dealer does continue, their three cards are compared with the player to determine who has the stronger hand. In the case of a player loss, the bettor forfeits their Ante and Play wagers. A winning player hand gets an even money payout on both bets. If the result is a tie, then there’s no action on either wager.
After the hands are resolved, any player who made the Pair Plus wager also checks to see if they receive a payout. In order to do so, the player must have a pair or better. The player can still lose the other wagers and receive a Pair Plus payout.
The hand values in Three Card Poker are as follows (in descending order):
- Straight Flush – Three cards of the same suit that are also in order (for example, the 3, 4, and 5 of hearts).
- Three of a Kind – Three cards that have the same rank.
- Straight – Three cards in order (4, 5, and 6, for example).
- Flush – Three cards of the same suit.
- Pair – Two cards that have the same rank.
- High Card – Determined by the highest card in the player’s hand. There’s a 69.59% chance getting a queen high or better.
The following pay table is common for all Ante wagers, although it varies at some gaming establishments:
- Straight – Pays even money (1 to 1)
- Three of a Kind – Pays 4 to 1
- Straight Flush – Pays 5 to 1
If the player chooses to make the optional Pair Plus wager, they’ll receive a payout for various hand values. The below list includes one of the most common pay table, although these may differ from one casino to the next.
- Pair – Pays 1 to 1
- Flush – Pays 4 to 1
- Straight – Pays 6 to 1
- Three of a Kind – Pays 30 to 1
- Straight Flush – Pays 40 to 1
House Edges for Three Card Poker
This game has a couple of different forms of house edge, as the player has multiple wagers to choose from. The pay table at casinos can vary, however, so make sure to pay attention before risking your money.
The Ante and Play bets have the same edge, as the latter doesn’t exist without the former. The most common include the following (although others do exist):
- 61% House Edge – Pays 1 to 1 for a straight, 3 to 1 for three of a kind, and 5 to 1 for a straight flush.
- 37% House Edge – Pays 1 to 1 for a straight, 4 to 1 for three of a kind, and 5 to 1 for a straight flush.
- 28% House Edge – Pays 1 to 1 for a straight, 2 to 1 for three of a kind, and 3 to 1 for a straight flush.
Here are the house edges for three of the most common versions for the Pair Plus wager:
- 32% House Edge – Pays 40 to 1 on a straight flush, 30 to 1 for three of a kind, 6 to 1 for a straight, 4 to 1 for a flush, and even money for a pair.
- 70% House Edge – Pays 35 to 1 on a straight flush, 33 to 1 for three of a kind, 6 to 1 for a straight, 4 to 1 for a flush, and even money for a pair.
- 28% House Edge – Pays 40 to 1 on a straight flush, 30 to 1 for three of a kind, 6 to 1 for a straight, 3 to 1 for a flush, and even money for a pair.
Three Card Poker and Sign-Up Bonuses
When you visit a virtual casino for the first time, you’re likely to encounter one of more offers that promise bonus money for signing up. While these can be tempting, they’re rarely as uncomplicated as they might initially seem.
Here’s an example: a casino offers a 100% matching sign-up bonus with a maximum of $1,000 for any new customer who signs up and makes a deposit. If you only read the main ad, it seems as though a $1,000 deposit should get you an additional $1,000 in free cash. Sadly, that’s not the way it works.
In reality, the player is required to risk a certain amount of money before the bonus amount can be withdrawn. This is commonly known as a “rollover” or “wagering” requirement. It should also be noted that some bonus amounts can never be withdrawn, as they can only be used for online gambling.
A wagering requirement is usually a multiple of the bonus amount, although some sites require a multiple of both the bonus and the player’s initial deposit. For example, a player who receives a $1,000 bonus must meet a 25x wager requirement in order to withdraw his “free” money. This means a total of $25,000 must be risked, and there’s often a time limit attached, as well.
As if that weren’t bad enough, not all games count the same for meeting the requirements. Slot machines and keno usually count 100% because of their lousy house edge, but most other games come in well below that mark.
For example, the rules of Bovada casino limit Three Card Poker (known as “TriCard Poker) to 60%. That means a wager of $300 would only count $180 towards satisfying the requirements set forth by the house.
If the player actually reads the terms and conditions in advance, then there’s no harm done. After all, a new customer is going to deposit money anyway, so why not reward high rollers and obsessive gamblers with a little extra? The main problem comes when players don’t read everything they’re supposed to, as they have a tendency to go ballistic when they find out what’s actually expected.
The moral of this story? Always read the fine print before putting any money on the line. It’ll make your life a lot simpler in the short term, and it should also ensure a more enjoyable playing experience down the road.
Is Three Card Poker Legal?
The more appropriate question should probably be, “Is online gambling legal in my state or country?” This isn’t easy to answer, as the laws can sometimes be vague and ever-changing. Luckily, a glance at the terms and conditions page of your chosen casino should provide you with a list of states or nations excluded from their services. As long as you’re not on the list, you can probably play without fear of any legal repercussions (although this isn’t a 100% guarantee).
Beware of Problem Gambling
Whether you’re playing Three Card Poker or one of dozens of other casino games, you should always be on the lookout for signs of problem gambling. The most obvious is the inability to stop, even when your savings having been depleted. This can lead to lying and even criminal acts, so it’s important to seek help for such behavior before the issue becomes too pronounced.
Most countries have gambling addiction hotlines available, and the men and women on the other end can help identify any potential problems and recommend a trained professional in your area. The majority of Internet casinos also maintain a section on this subject, and regular gamblers are advised to take a look at it from time to time.
Finding a Reliable Casino
Before you open an account at an online casino and deposit real cash, it’s always wise to make sure the company isn’t going to cheat you or act dodgy when it comes time for a withdrawal. Based on my experience, there are a couple of responsible ways to go about this.
The first option involves using a search engine to look up the name of your chosen casino. You might also include words such as “cheating” or “reviews” to further narrow down the selection. If there have been any major issues in the past, they’re likely to come up via this method.
However, not all articles and reviews are reliable, as some are written by those with a financial interest in driving traffic to specific casinos. A lot of losers also tend to grow bitter and level unfair accusations of cheating, so customer opinions should always be taken with a grain of salt.
The second option, and the one that I usually turn to, involves reading reviews by respected watchdog sites such as Casinomeister. If a gambling provider is guilty of slow-paying customers or using predatory terms and conditions, these sites aren’t afraid to point it out.
Getting Your Money
Prior to signing up with a casino, you should always read up on the available methods of customer withdrawal. While I realize this sort of research can be dreadfully dull, it makes a major difference if you ever plan on spending some of the money you’ve won.
Some casinos, for example, require the player to use the same method for both deposits and withdrawals. That’s not always an option, though, especially when various national laws are factored in. Knowing this policy in advance can possibly save you a lot of headaches in the long run, especially if you need to make arrangements for a suitable replacement.
The necessary information can usually be found at the FAQ or Terms and Conditions section of the site. If any details are vague or confusing, don’t hesitate to contact customer service for more information. Also, don’t be afraid to take your business elsewhere if the casino doesn’t offer what you’re looking for in terms of withdrawal options. After all, it’s your money.
The Taxman Cometh
If you gamble with any sort of regularity, it’s crucial that you keep accurate records of your gambling wins and losses. This is due to the unfortunate fact that most nations require their citizens to pay taxes on casino winnings, and trying to dodge your responsibility can land you in some very hot water. The wisest tactic is to behave as though an audit is always just around the corner.
Real money Three Card Poker provides a fast-paced alternative to more traditional versions of the card game. While it’s easy to learn, it does suffer from a lack of online availability and a house edge that’s inferior to games such as blackjack and video poker. Still, anyone looking to broaden their gambling horizons is urged to give it a try.