3 Card Poker Side-Bets Explained

Posted:March 2021

3 Card Poker is the most successful proprietary table game ever. However, reaching this goal was not a smooth ride, as when it first got pitched to brand venues in the mid-1990s, everyone passed on it. The initial rejection caused its inventor Derek Webb to move from the UK to the US to market his product. Once it began to flourish in Mississippi, gambling hot spots took notice, and now, according to its license-holder, Shuffle Master, there are over 2,000 3 Card Poker installations worldwide.
It is a simple game to grasp that incorporates a hand ranking system similar to poker. If you are a fan of Texas Hold’em, you will learn the 3 Card Poker rules in no time. In this casino-poker variant, you begin a hand by making an ante bet. After you make this wager, you receive your three cards. Depending on their strength, you can choose to raise or fold. Folding means that you forfeit your ante. Raising entails that you make a play bet equal to your ante one. If you opt for the latter, that signifies that you wish to compare 3 Card Poker hands. However, the dealer must have a queen or higher for this to happen, meaning for you to have an opportunity to win both bets. If he does not have such a hand, you win your ante wager but get nothing for your play one.
In the full play, the house edge in this casino-poker variant is 3.37% for the ante/play bet and 2.32% for its most famous side-bet, the pair plus wager. It is a rare instance of a casino game where a side-bet features a lower casino advantage than the base gameplay. However, if you look at the element of risk (the average loss divided by total money wagered), for the ante/play wager, it is 2.01%, while for the pair plus bet, it is 2.32%. Almost all real money 3 Card Poker sites incorporate this side-bet option, so write these figures down.

3 Card Poker Side-Bets Explained

Note that not every gambling establishment features the same 3 Card Poker payouts, rules, and side-bet options. There are multiple variations of this game, and while a venue may advertise its tables as the original version, they still may deviate in many aspects from it.
Always check the pay structure on your table, as it defines how much you can win on your side-bets. If a table features any of the bets listed below, you should see them marked with their dedicated fields. All casinos will likely offer at least one additional wager. The most popular 3 Card Poker side-bets are:
Pair Plus – As mentioned, this is the most common additional wager in this game. You receive a payout when your hand consists of a pair or better. It is irrelevant what the dealer holds, as this is an independent wager. Most casinos payout 40 to 1 for a straight flush and 30 to 1 for three-of-a-kind on this wager. A pair gets you even money.
Prime Bet – Some locales may feature this bet on top of the pair plus one. To win a prize worth x3 your stake on this wager, you need to have three cards of the same color, regardless of their suit.
6-Card Bonus – The most famous 3 Card Poker side-bet is the 6-Card Bonus. You can find it at most Vegas tables, and it is a mini-game in itself. Payouts here get determined by the best five-card hand that combines yours and the dealer’s cards. Three-of-a-kind is the weakest required rank to win this bet. That said, a royal flush will get you a win that’s worth 1,000 to 1.
Millionaire Maker – Now, this is a red-light side-bet offered by many top Vegas casinos, such as the Venetian and the Palazzo. It requires a $5 bet minimum and is also available for other casino-poker variants such as Let It Ride and Ultimate Texas Hold’em. Since in this game you only get a three-card hand, the dealer will provide two dummy cards. If you hit a five-card royal flush, you will get a win that is 1,000 to 1. Alternatively, some venues incorporate the best six-card hand compiled by yours and the dealer’s cards. In such a case, a 6-Card super royal in diamonds can yield a payout that is 200,000 to 1.
Progressive Wager – Same as with slots, a prize pool here rises until a lucky player wins it all. To win this massive amount, you usually have to land a mini-royal in spades. When it comes to online casino-poker variants, RNG Mississippi Stud titles are most likely to feature this bet option.

Should You Take Side-Bets?

It depends on your goals. If you wish to come out ahead, then stick to the play wager, as side-bets feature house edges higher than that of the basic gameplay. We already mentioned that the pair plus bet is a rare exception to this rule of thumb. Yet, its element of risk is still higher than that of the base gameplay. Regardless of this fact, many players choose to make it and ignore the play wager altogether.
That said, when it comes to all your other side-bet options, most gamblers will tell you that these are sucker bets. The chances of you landing a progressive prize are astronomical, similar to those of hitting millions on a jackpot slot. The house advantage on the Millionaire Maker bet is 18.1%, for the minimum payout of 5 to 1 for three-of-a-kind. The 6-Card Bonus features a comparably unfavorable edge to payout ratio.
Thus, the best pick out of all the five mentioned side-bonuses is the pair plus one. It offers the most reasonable payout to house edge ratio of the bunch.

Basic Strategy

There is only one widely-used strategy in real money 3 Card Poker, the queen-six-four system. You make the play bet on any hand that consists of a queen-six-four or cards of a higher value. In all other instances, you fold and forfeit your ante.
When you have a hand with a rank equal to or higher than a queen-six-four, your win probability jumps over the 51% mark. Note that the casino has the overall edge because you have to make the ante wager before receiving your cards. You also have to make the play bet before knowing what the dealer holds. However, if you receive such a hand, then you are more likely to win both bets in a face-off against the dealer. Some players even make the play bet if they only have two cards higher than a queen-six.
There is no strategy for the pair plus bet. You only have to decide to make it or not. Think of it as a spin of the reels, where your fate rests with lady luck.

Bankroll Management

3 Card Poker is a fast-paced game. At a full table, on average, you will get to play around 70 hands per hour. The blackjack average is 60. So, things move fast here, and if you are playing with few players around or against software, this figure could jump well over 100. Thus, you must budget your gaming sessions appropriately and never bet more than you can afford to lose.
Usually, 3 Card Poker games will have a $5 bet minimum, but lower-end locales may feature $2 - $3 tables. You should always look up these limits and factor them into your gambling budget. The most common practice is to take a minimum and multiply it by the number of hands you wish to play. For example, if the casino you are looking at features tables with a $5 minimum, you can aim to play 120 losing hands. That will come to a $600 budget or roughly two hours of losing gameplay.
What is essential is to recognize when things are not going your way. Remember, you are never due for a win, as previous outcomes do not dictate future ones. 3 Card Poker is a luck-based game where you cannot count cards. Therefore, aim to remain cool-headed and be ready to walk away when you get close to depleting your budget. Gambling sites let you set deposit/loss limits, and they allow you to self-exclude. If you are playing online and believe that you are developing a compulsion towards this activity, exercise these options.

To Sum Up

Side-bets are there to add an extra layer of excitement to any table game. Such wagers feature worse odds than the base gameplay and can easily milk your funds if you are not careful. When it comes to 3 Card Poker, your best bet, pun intended, is the pair plus wager. Never make any other side-bet with any degree of regularity. Opt for them when you are feeling lucky or as a way to spruce up a monotonous gambling experience. Otherwise, you should stay away from them if you are serious about maintaining your gambling funds throughout long sessions. Also, avoid progressive betting systems, and know that you cannot significantly lower the house edge at 3 Card Poker by playing multiple hands.
A big thank you for this article - submitted by Shelly Schiff @ Online United States Casinos..
About the Author
Shelly Schiff is a table game maven currently employed by the internet’s top iGaming info hub Online United States Casinos. She has been active in the online gambling industry for over a decade and has written for countless websites before settling in at OUSC. Despite having extensive experience in table games, Shelly is also a reel-spinning aficionado. In her leisure time, she enjoys walking her dog, Garry, and listening to old rock music.


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