Face Up Three Card Poker
The game of Three Card Poker is a true classic within the world of hybrid casino table games. One of the variations is known as Face Up Three Card Poker, a variant which simply takes the basic structure of the base game and adds a wrinkle concerning one of the dealer’s three cards. As the name of the game suggests, in Face Up Three Card Poker, the dealer will be showing one of their three cards to the table throughout the hand, rather than keeping it concealed.
Over more than two decades since then, Three Card Poker has proliferated throughout casinos and card-rooms across the country. And as the game has spread, regional offshoots have been developed by casino operators hoping to carve out their own niche in the highly competitive market.
Pinning down an exact invention date, or crediting a particular designer or game manufacturer, is quite difficult when it comes to Face Up Three Card Poker. This suggests that the adjusted rules developed organically, and anecdotal reports show the game to be a specialty enjoyed by players at the casinos of Los Angeles County, and along the West Coast through to Washington State.
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Not a Popular Variation
Aside from these areas, however, Face Up Three Card Poker is not widely known – at least under this exact title. Another form of Three Card Poker known as Ultimate Three Card Poker has sprung up over the years, and this alternative version also has the dealer turn a single card face up. However, Ultimate Three Card Poker also includes other changes to the rules, including the amount players, can choose to raise, so we’ve devoted a separate game page to differentiate between the two and keep the instruction as clear as possible.
For players who frequent the thriving casino and card room scene in Los Angeles, this page should provide a thorough introduction to the world of Face Up Three Card Poker. Here you’ll find a detailed description of the rules and gameplay, along with comparisons to traditional Three Card Poker whenever necessary. After that, we’ll run through a list of brick and mortar casino properties which offer the best chances of finding the game, followed by a discussion on optimal strategy to help players improve their odds and play correctly.
Face Up Three Card Poker Rules
As we mentioned earlier, Face Up Three Card Poker is nothing more than Three Card Poker with a few crucial rule adjustments.
With that in mind, if you’re not all that familiar with Three Card Poker proper, head to our main Three Card Poker page for a quick crash course on the game. Once you have a decent grasp of that game’s basic elements, learning to adjust your perspective for Face Up Three Card Poker will be a breeze.
In both games, the standard 52 card deck of playing cards will be used.
The objective of Face Up Three Card Poker is to form the best possible three-card poker hand or at least one which is superior to the dealer’s own hand. With only three cards to work with, however, the traditional hierarchy of hand rankings used to score poker hands has been adjusted slightly.
Three Card Poker Hand Rankings
If you aren’t familiar with poker hand rankings, take a look below to see how the hands in Face Up Three Card Poker stack up:
- Straight Flush: Any straight, with all three cards the same suit (7s 8s 9s, 10c Jc Qc)
- Three of a Kind: Any three of the same card rank (7 7 7)
- Straight: Any three cards in consecutive order (5 6 7 or J Q K)
- Flush: Any three cards of the same suit (2h 5h 9h, Ad 4d 10d)
- One Pair: Any two of the same card rank (7 7 X)
- High Card: Any unpaired/unconnected hand is ranked according to its high card (A 3 2)
Rank Order Differences
As you can see, the order has been switched around a little bit for the three card game. Normally, in poker, a straight would beat a three of a kind, but in Three Card Poker and its related offshoots, three of a kind is actually quite a bit more difficult to land than a straight.
Another difference comes between the straight and the flush, as the latter beats the former in regular poker, but the rankings are reversed here. Don’t worry too much about comparing this game to a traditional poker game, though, as you’ll have the order of these six possible hands down pat after only a few minutes on the table.
Playing Face Up Three Card Poker
Step #1: Starting the Round
To begin a hand of Face Up Three Card Poker, players must put up a mandatory Ante bet, which must equal or exceed the posted table minimum.
Throughout the course of this section, we’ll use a running example hand to help clarify how the gameplay descriptions actually work from the player’s perspective. So going forward, we’ll assume that we’ve placed the standard wager of $5 on the Ante bet.
Step #2: Receive Three Cards
Once all players have anted up, the dealer will then distribute three cards face down to each player, along with three cards to themselves.
For the running example hand, we’ve been dealt the Qd Qc 4s, while the dealer shows a Jh as their lone up card.
Players can obviously examine their own hole cards, but casinos are strict when it comes to prohibiting players from sharing information among themselves. So once you’ve seen your cards, keep them to yourself until the showdown occurs.
First Rule Change: You Get to See a Dealer’s Card
The first major difference between classic Three Card Poker and the Face Up variety occurs here, as the dealer’s hand will show one “up” card along with two “hole” cards. Knowing one of the dealer’s three cards is a crucial item of information, so players definitely benefit from this rule change, but of course, the casino has built in other rule modifications to help offset any advantage offered to players.
Step #3: Fold or Raise
After examining your holding, the game’s player decision point takes place: Fold or Raise.
- FOLD: you simply surrender the hand right then and there, forfeiting your Ante bet to the house and sliding your cards to the dealer. This may seem like a counterintuitive play, but as you’ll discover, sometimes in this game you just have nothing to work with, and even when you have a decent hand, seeing the dealer’s strong up card can easily encourage you to fold out.
- RAISE: you elect to continue in the hand, but you’ll have to place an additional Raise bet which is equal to your Ante bet.
For the running example hand, we hold a pair of queens with our Qd Qc 4s combination, and although we haven’t discussed strategy yet (more to come in the concluding section), you should recognize by now that one high pair is more than enough to raise within this game. So we’ll go ahead and make the Raise bet for an additional $5 and hope we beat the dealer’s hand.
Step #4: Dealer Completes Their Hand
Once all players with a live hand have either folded or raised, the dealer will then reveal their two hole cards to complete their own three card hand.
Back to the running example hand, our dealer turns over the Js and the 2d to accompany their Jh – good for one pair of jacks.
In the game of Three Card Poker and its related variants, the dealer must show down a “qualifying” hand of queen high or better in order to trigger certain payout conditions.
Second Rule Change: Win When Dealer Doesn’t Qualify
The second major rule change in Face Up Three Card Poker concerns this concept of dealer qualification. In the classic version of the game, you’ll win even money on your Ante bet whenever the dealer fails to produce a qualifying hand of queen high or better, while your Raise bet will be returned as a push.
So even when you show down nothing but a lowly 8 high in that game, you’ll still win on your Ante bet if the dealer shows down a non-qualifying hand that beats yours, like 9 high, 10 high, or jack high.
Step #5: Dealer Qualifying Hands
In Face Up Three Card Poker, however, you’ll still need to beat the dealer’s non-qualifying hand with your own in order to earn that even money payout. If you lose to, or tie, a non-qualifying dealer hand in Face Up Three Card Poker, your Ante bet, and Raise bet will both be returned as a push.
Admittedly, deciphering the various payout schemes relative to qualifying and non-qualifying dealer’s hands can get a bit confusing. To help clarify the matter, take a look at the payout scheme breakdown below:
Dealer Doesn’t Qualify
- When the dealer doesn’t qualify, but your hand beats their hand, your Ante bet will be paid out at even money, and your Raise bet will be returned as a push
- When the dealer doesn’t qualify, but your hand fails to beat their hand or ties their hand, your Ante bet, and Raise bet will both be returned as a push
Dealer Does Qualify
- When the dealer does qualify, and your hand beats their hand, your Ante bet and Raise bet will both be paid out at even money
- When the dealer does qualify, and your hand ties their hand, your Ante bet and Raise bet will both be returned as a push
- When the dealer does qualify, and your hand fails to beat their hand, your Ante bet and Raise bets will both be lost to the house
So, the best possible scenario from the player’s perspective is to show down a strong hand which beats the dealer’s qualifying hand. Doing so will return the highest payout in the game: even money on both the Ante bet and the Raise bet.
Step #6: Getting Paid
Luckily enough, this is exactly what happened in our running example hand. We showed down Qd Qc 4s for one pair of queens, while the dealer tabled Js Jh 2d for one pair of jacks.
The dealer’s hand qualifies, but we beat it fair and square, so both of our $5 wagers on the Ante and Raise bets bring back even money payouts of $5, respectively.
If the dealer’s hand was adjusted downward, to something like Js 10h 2d, they would fail to qualify with only jack high. And thus, we’d only receive the even money payout of $5 on the Ante bet, while our $5 chip on the Raise bet would be returned as a push.
Third Rule Change: Ante Bonus Bet Payout
Another discrepancy between Face Up Three Card Poker and its predecessor concerns the concept of an Ante Bonus. In the classic version of the game, making extremely strong hands like straight flushes and three of a kind entitles players to a bonus payout of between 2 to 1 and 9 to 1, depending on the house rules.
In this game, however, even if you line up the perfect three-card hand of A K Q suited, or the “Mini Royal Flush,” you’ll still earn just the base even money payouts (and only when the dealer qualifies).
For this reason, alone, Face Up Three Card Poker will never be as popular as the original version, because recreational gamblers love the allure of “bonus” payouts and big returns on their small wagers.
Finally, in most houses which carry Face Up Three Card Poker, the dealer will keep a running tally of the “commission” – or a fee charged by the house. This rule was instituted to help offset the player favorable change of turning a dealer card face up, so in effect, you’ll be paying simply to play the game.
This commission fee is usually 1 percent of your total bet. So, in our running example hand, we bet $10 and won $10, but we’d actually be charged a $1 fee for the hand. This shaves our profit from $10 to $9 on a single hand and beware, as the commission fee is charged on all player bets – win or lose.
Best Places to Play Face Up Three Card Poker
Unfortunately, identifying the venues which currently offer Face Up Three Card Poker is rather difficult, and for one simple reason: most casinos in California just don’t use that name.
For example, if you head to the website maintained by the California Grand Casino – located near the Bay Area – the table games section lists only Three Card Poker. Upon closer examination of the game’s rules page, however, you’ll discover the following description:
“You receive 3 cards. The Dealer also receives 3 cards, 2 down and 1 face up.”
As you can plainly see, these rules for a game called Three Card Poker actually reflect the rules of Face Up Three Card Poker.
The same holds true at the Commerce Casino and Hawaiian Gardens Casino, both located in Los Angeles county, and likely in countless other casinos across California and the West Coast.
Depending on the venue’s particular house rules, you’ll either be playing traditional Three Card Poker (with all three of the dealer’s cards turned face down) or the Face Up Three Card Poker variety. Finding out which rules are in play is as simple as calling up your favorite California casino and asking for the table games manager. Let them know you’re interested in playing Face Up Three Card Poker, and ask how the dealer’s hand will be played in that particular game.
Face Up Three Card Poker can also be found sporadically in the casinos of Washington State, although, the game is not nearly as popular there as it has become in California.
Not Much Difference, so Ask Around
The same guidelines hold true no matter where you play, though: Face Up Three Card Poker isn’t a proprietary game concept, but rather a rule variation included by some houses.
With that in mind, do your due diligence and ask around, because of any 10 casinos in the area, half will likely be playing classic Three Card Poker, while the other half adjust the action to Face Up Three Card Poker.
Strategic Considerations for Face Up Three Card Poker
For the most accurate and thoroughly constructed strategy chart for Face Up Three Card Poker, look no further than Michael Shackleford’s Wizard of Odds site.
An invaluable resource for casino gamblers for many years now, Wizard of Odds specializes in analyzing casino games on a mathematical level, “cracking” the proverbial code to identify the best possible plays for any given scenario.
Shackleford’s strategy chart for Face Up Three Card Poker works just like a basic strategy chart for blackjack, so you’ll simply scan the list for your three-card holding and compare it to the dealer’s up card to find either an “R” or an “F.” These abbreviations stand for Raise or Fold, and courtesy of Shackleford’s elite analytical skills, you’ll always be making the most mathematically optimal decision.
Basic Guidelines to Follow
A few quick lessons gleaned from the chart are as follows:
- Always raise when holding a made hand (one pair, flush, straight, three of a kind, or straight flush)
- Always raise when holding any unpaired/unconnected hand of A 9 2 or better
- Always raise when holding an unpaired/unconnected hand of K 9 2 or better, except when facing an ace as the dealer’s up card
- Always raise when holding any unpaired/unconnected hand of Q 9 2 or better, except when facing an ace or a king as the dealer’s up card
Unfortunately, no accurate information on the house edge rate or expected return associated with Face Up Three Card Poker has been published. So you’re on your own when it comes to comparing this exciting variant with its classic forerunner.