3 Card Texas Hold’em – Overview
The hybrid table game known as 3 Card Hold’em was first spotted at the Golden Nugget Casino in Downtown Las Vegas around 2012.
Since that time, two competing casino game development companies – Betwiser and Games Marketing – both appear to hold some level ownership over both the title and the concept. Betwiser, a company based in Las Vegas, holds the current trademark on the term “3 Card Hold’em,” while Games Marketing also distributes its own game with the same rules setup and title.
In any event, with a third company known as Squarejack Gaming currently marketing a game known as “Mini Tex 3 Card Hold’em,” it would seem that the game has become ubiquitous within the world of casino gaming today.
In fact, Games Marketing has recently created a version of 3 Card Hold’em for online play, so you can find the game both in brick and mortar and online casinos. Games Marketing currently owns the trademark for specialty games like Triple Attack Blackjack, Double Ball Roulette, and the wildly popular Lucky Ladies side bet found on most land-based blackjack tables.
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Combining Two Great Card Games
Designed to blend elements of the popular Three Card Poker table game with traditional Texas Hold’em, the result was 3 Card Hold’em. By pitting players against the dealer in the classic table game format, but allowing for the use of three community cards, 3 Card Hold’em provides a funky twist on both versions of poker.
If you’ve never sat down for a session at the 3 Card Hold’em tables, this page is intended as a full tutorial for beginners. Beginning with a section exploring the most important changes to the rules which separate 3 Card Hold’em from Three Card Poker and similar games, you’ll also find directions on where to find the game, and finally, a section covering proper strategy.
Here’s a YouTube video:
Rules and How to Play
As is the case with nearly all table games found on the casino floor, 3 Card Hold’em pits the player against the dealer on each hand. Of course, multiple players can sit at the same table, though, so the dealer’s hand can actually take on several hands at once.
Begin the Round
To begin the game, you must place a mandatory ante bet, and for the sake of this discussion, we’ll be using a $5 increment. With your $5 bet placed in the “ANTE” space on the table, you may now elect to place either or both optional side bets: the Straight or Up bet; or the Pair or Suited bet.
Side Bets: Optional
As you’ll learn in the subsequent section covering optimal strategy for 3 Card Hold’em, playing either of these two side bets is always a losing proposition, and doing so will significantly increase the house edge against you. With that said, we’ll be placing a $1 wager on both the Straight or Up and the Pair or Suited side bets, simply to explain how they work.
Dealing the Cards
At this point, you now have $7 at risk on this particular hand ($5 ante bet + $1 Straight or Up side bet + $1 Pair or Suited side bet). With your bets in place, the dealer will then distribute two cards face down to each player at the table, along with two cards face down to themselves, and three cards in the middle of the table.
These three cards are known as the community cards, which means both the dealer and players can use any of the three to help complete their best poker hand (more on this below). The first community card is dealt face up while the other two are turned face down.
After examining your two hole cards, your job is to determine whether or not to proceed with the hand. In the game of 3 Card Hold’em, the final three card poker hand you form, using any combination of your hole cards and the community cards, is ranked according to the following poker hand hierarchy:
The objective of 3 Card Hold’em is to form any of the hands on the list above, using either one or both of your two hole cards, along with the community cards on board.
Raising or Checking
So, based on the information provided by your two hole cards and the first community card turned face up, you may choose between folding or continuing with the hand by raising. When you fold, you simply surrender your Ante bet straight away. When you raise, you must place an additional wager in the “RAISE” space on the table which is exactly equal to your Ante bet.
Should you decide to place the Raise wager, the dealer will then reveal the second community card. From there, the process repeats itself, but rather than fold or raise, your options now are to check or to place a second Raise wager equal to your original ante. Whatever action you decide upon, this will conclude the betting, and the dealer will proceed to expose the third and final community card.
By checking, you simply opt not to bet while remaining in the hand.
Raising the Wager
Returning to the example hand from earlier, let’s say you’ve been dealt the Jh and the 10h while the dealer has exposed the 9d as the first community card. You’ve already placed $5 on the Ante bet (plus $1 each on the two side bets), so with your hand already standing at a straight (J 10 9), you’ll be glad to place the Raise bet as well.
This ups your total wager to $12 ($5 for Ante + $5 for Raise + $2 for both side bets). When you’ve seen the second community card, you’ll place the second Raise wager for another $5, so your final wager will be for $17 in total.
Third Community Card
At this point, the dealer will turn over the third community card, while also exposing their own pair of hole cards. The hand has ended, and the dealer now compares their best three card poker hand (using their hole cards and community cards just like players do).
Dealer Hand vs. Player Hand
When the dealer’s hand outranks the player’s hand, according to the hand ranking chart described above, all Ante and Raise bets are claimed by the house.
When the dealer’s hand ties the player’s hand, both the Ante and the Raise bet(s) are returned as a push.
When the player’s hand outranks the dealer’s hand, the house pays off all Ante and Raise wagers according to the following structure:
Determining the Winner
Continuing with the example hand – in which we’ve made the Ante bet, both Raise bets, and both optional side bets for a $17 total wager ($5 + $5 + $5 + $1 + $1 = $17) – let’s examine how this payout system is applied.
Your hole cards of Jh and 10h have combined with the first community card of 9d to make a straight. You’ve made the appropriate Raise wagers and the dealer has turned over the 5s and the Ac as the final two community cards. The dealer’s hole cards are revealed to be the Kd and the 5c, giving them one pair of 5s as their final three card poker hand.
3 Card Hold’em Payouts
Using these hands and wagers, here’s how the payouts would shake out: you’ve beaten the dealer’s pair of 5s with a straight, and the dealer’s hand outranks the pair of 4s threshold. With three $5 wagers in place for the main bets (Ante and two Raises), you’ll be paid out at even money on all three bets for a $15 return.
Take note, though, if the dealer’s hand failed to meet the pair of 4s threshold (they produce a pair of 3s or lower), the payout would be reduced. The $5 placed on the Ante bet would be returned as a push, and the two $5 raise bets would be paid at even money for a $10 profit.
Optional Side Bets
Moving on to the game’s two optional side bets, on which you’ve placed a $1 wager for both, these bets are completely independent of the results from your Ante and Raise bets. In other words, should you decide to fold after the first community card is revealed (surrendering your Ante bet in the process), both your Straight or Up and Pair or Suited side bets will remain live and in place.
Straight or Up Side Bet
The first side bet in 3 Card Hold’em is known as the Straight or Up wager, and this pertains to the best three card poker hand made using your hole cards and the community cards. The name of the side bet refers to the fact that payouts begin with a straight and escalate from there. The payouts for making a qualifying hand on the Straight or Up side bet are as follows:
|A K Q Suited + One Pair*||100 to 1|
|A K Q Suited||40 to 1|
|Straight Flush||10 to 1|
|Three of a Kind||9 to 1|
|Straight||1 to 1|
|*Must use all five cards.|
The minimum hand needed to win on the Straight or Up side bet is, of course, the straight, which pays out at even money. From there, three of a kind, a straight flush, or the A K Q Suited combination in suited cards pay out at 9 to 1, 10 to 1, and 40 to 1, respectively. The top payout on this side bet is the A K Q Suited plus any pair, which pays out at 100 to 1, but must use all five cards (two hole cards and community cards).
Using the running example hand, your straight with the J 10 9 would pay out a $1 return for making the minimum required hand.
Pair or Suited Side Bet
The second side bet in 3 Card Hold’em is known as the Pair or Suited wager, and this pertains to the player’s two hole cards only. The name of the side bet refers to the fact that payouts begin with two suited cards and escalate through to the one pair hands. The payouts for making a qualifying hand on the Pair or Suited side bet are as follows:
|Ace-King Suited||30 to 1|
|Ace-Ace||20 to 1|
|King-King||10 to 1|
|One Pair||4 to 1|
|Any Suited Cards||1 to 1|
Whenever you have a wager placed on the Pair or Suited side bet, and your two hole cards are suited, you’ll receive an even money payout. From there, one pair hands below Ks pay out at 4 to 1, a pair of Ks pays out 10 to 1, a pair of As pays out at 20 to 1, and the A K in suited cards pays out at 30 to 1.
Using the running example hand, your hole cards of Jh and 10h are suited, so you’d earn an additional $1 for your $1 wager on the Pair or Suited side bet.
Once all the bets on the table have been either paid off or claimed by the house, the dealer will reset the action and a new hand will begin.
You can also find details about three card holdem at the Wizard of Odds.
Best Places to Play 3 Card Hold’em
As a fairly popular hybrid table game, 3 Card Hold’em should be available in most major casinos in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, or abroad. When it comes to tribal casinos, every jurisdiction authorizes different table games, so you’ll need to check around to see whether or not this particular game is readily found.
In Washington State, for example, the tribal casinos are permitted to run a game known as “Mini Tex 3 Card Hold’em” – which plays identically to the 3 Card Hold’em rules described above. Several such newly named versions of the base 3 Card Hold’em game exist around the country, so be sure to check with your local casino to determine which one is available in your area.
You can also play at many of the best online poker sites. The Games Marketing company has developed software for a virtual version of 3 Card Hold’em. Although the developer’s reach appears to be limited at this point, and no major online casino platforms currently spread 3 Card Hold’em, new sites pop up on a regular basis.
Also, if you look long enough, and browse the Games menu for several online casinos, you may be able to find games with slightly different names which operate according to the same rules.
Strategic Considerations for 3 Card Hold’em
When playing 3 Card Hold’em, you’ll be faced with a house edge of 3.05 percent on your Ante bet (and subsequent Raise bets when applicable).
The house edge applied to the Straight or Up side bet stands at 4.49 percent, and the Pair or Suited side bet incurs a house edge of 4.83 percent.
Avoiding Side Bets to Decrease House Edge
As you can see from these numbers, the most basic strategy to use when attempting to increase your overall odds at the 3 Card Hold’em tables is simply to avoid both of the optional side bets. By sticking to the Ante and Raise bets only, you’ll automatically reduce the house edge against you by nearly 1.5 percent, which represents a statistically significant difference over the long run.
Overall, players should be expected:
When to Raise
When it comes to playing your hands correctly, a general guideline for decision making in 3 Card Hold’em advises players to make the Raise bet when holding any of the following hands (on either the first or second community card):
When using this chart, the only time you’ll be folding or checking (i.e. not making a Raise bet) is with low, unconnected hands. If you happen to hold two cards which fall within one rank of one another (3 to 5, 6 to 8, 10 to Q, etc.), this two-card straight draw is good enough to warrant a raise. Two cards of the same suit also represent a raise worthy draw, as does any hole card combination containing a high card.