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How To Play Three-Card Poker


A relatively new variation of poker (as it has just recently been patented in 1997 by Derek Webb), three-card poker is a more fast-paced version of the game— simpler in concept, easier to learn, and quite possibly, easier to master.

Players particularly like three-card poker precisely because it doesn’t take so much time to run through, and so you can play more games in an hour or two. It’s also considered to be a lot “friendlier”, in that you don’t go up against other players. And while the betting system is also simpler, it’s also more suited for beginners or those who just want a more casual game.

3-Card Poker Hand Rankings


A standard 52-card deck is also used but each player only gets three cards instead of the usual 5-card hand in other poker games.

Because you only have three cards, the possible combinations you might get for your hand are:

1.    A straight flush, which is three sequential cards of the same suit.
2.    A three-of-a-kind, which is three cards of the same rank.
3.    A straight, which is three sequential cards (of different suits).
4.    A flush, which is three non-sequential cards of the same suit.
5.    A pair, which is two cards of the same rank.
6.    High card. In this hand, you have three unmatched cards. The card with the highest rank of all three in your hand is your high card.

Betting (and Playing) 3-Card Poker


The first thing you’ll need to do if you’re playing 3-card poker is to make a wager. In this game, you have three options available:

First Option


One way of playing at the 3-card poker table requires placing only one bet: on the “Pair Plus” space circle.

The objective of the game is to get a pair or better out of the three cards dealt to you.

In this case, you’re not betting against either the dealer or other players. Instead, you’re betting against your own hand, or more specifically, the likelihood that you’ll be getting a ranking hand.

The Pair Plus wager can be any amount between the table minimum and maximum.

Second Option


The second way of playing at the 3-card poker table requires two bets of the minimum wage. So, if you’re sitting at a $5 minimum table and choose to play this way, then your actual minimum bet each hand is $10. (This is because both the play wager and the ante wager must always be exactly the same amount.)

To begin, you must place your first wager on the “Ante” betting space. The dealer then hands you your three cards. If you like your cards and wish to continue, you now put your second wager on top of your cards in the “Play” space.

Your cards are now compared to the dealer’s cards to see who has the better ranking hand.

Third Option


The third way of playing at the 3-card poker table is actually a combination of the first two options. As such, this requires three bets. So if you’re sitting at a $5 minimum table, then your actual minimum bet per hand is $15.

Note that while the Pair Plus bet can be any amount between the table minimum and maximum, the amount you bet on the “Pair Plus” circle doesn't have to match the bets on the “Ante” or the “Play” spaces. However, the bets on the “Ante” or the “Play” spaces must always be the same amount.

Putting a bet on both the “Ante” and “Pair Plus” spaces starts the game. When you receive your cards from the dealer, you must now place a wager on the “Play” betting space to continue playing. If you choose not to place a wager, you forfeit your hand, thus losing both the Ante and Pair Plus wagers in the process.

If you continue, your cards are then compared to the dealer’s cards to see who has the better ranking hand. Note that as you’re betting on both the Ante and Pair Plus wagers, you are also playing with two separate pay tables.

The Dealer’s Hand


To figure out how much you’d be winning at a hand of three-card poker, you’ll have to see if the dealer qualifies or not.

The dealer's hand must be queen high or better in order to qualify for play.

If The Dealer Doesn’t Qualify For Play


If the dealer’s highest card is a jack or less, this means the dealer’s hand doesn’t qualify (and their hand doesn’t play).

When this happens, everyone's play wager is considered a “push” and no action is taken on this bet. The dealer will pat the table just as they would if they were dealing on a blackjack game.

After the play wager gets pushed everyone's ante will get paid one-to-one. If you qualify, then the ante bonus will be paid. The last bet is the pair plus and that will only get paid if you have a pair or better.

If The Dealer Does Qualify For Play


Now if the dealer does get a queen high or better, this means the dealer’s hand qualifies and is, therefore, now in play.

At this point, you and the dealer now compare hands to see which has the better-ranking combination of cards:

•    If your hand loses, both the ante and play wagers are lost.

•    If your hand wins, both the ante and play wagers are paid 1 to 1.

•    If by a stroke of luck, the hands are tied, then there is no action on either wager.

The Pair Plus Payout


The pair plus would get paid depending on if you had a pair or better.

Note that the pair plus is not affected by the dealer's hand so if you have a pair or better then you'll still get paid for it.

(If your hand loses against the dealer’s, however, both your ante and play wagers will still be taken.)

For the pair plus payouts:

•    If you get a pair, you get paid one to one.
•    If you get a flush, the payout is three to one.
•    If you get a straight, you get paid six to one.
•    If you get a three-of-a-kind, the payout is thirty to one.
•    If you get a straight flush, then you get paid forty to one.

The Ante Payout


Similar to the pair plus, the ante bonus gets paid regardless of the dealer’s hand.

So if you get a straight or better then you'll get paid on the ante bonus even if the dealer's hand beats yours. The ante loses if (somehow) both your cards and the dealer's cards are exactly the same. This is then considered as a tie, and the ante and the play will push-- meaning no money is exchanged and you get to keep your bet for another round.

If you have a pair or better, then the pair plus will still get paid. The same goes for the ante bonus if you have a straight or better.

For the ante bonus payouts:

•    If you get a straight, you get paid one to one.
•    If you get a three-of-a-kind, the payout is four to one.
•    If you get a straight flush, then you get paid five to one.

Know Your House Rules


Remember, every casino may have different payout structures, betting rules, or variations, so make sure you review the house rules before you start playing.

In California (as well as in other states like Louisiana), the Ante wager is a mandatory bet that every player must play. The Pair Plus wager is merely an optional side bet.

Some of the other players might also be playing blind. Most casinos do allow blind betting, which means you go through the game, placing the necessary wagers to move forward, but never see your cards. At least, not until the dealer turns them over.

Also, some casinos might allow you to play two hands instead of just one. Some casinos also allow players to show their hand to other players and discuss openly.

Different casinos also might have different payout schemes for pair plus payouts and ante bonus payouts.

Playing at Capitol Casino


Capitol Casino is Sacramento's #1 poker room, with more tables, more games, and a lot more action compared to other casinos in the downtown area.

It's a fun and friendly, but elegantly comfortable environment where you can enjoy a game of poker or two, hang out with your friends, or even just come by for a quick bite or a much-needed after-work drink.

While Texas Hold'em is, without a doubt, our most popular game on the floor right now, we have a good number of other card games available for you to check out, including three-card poker, among others.