When the game was first introduced In Reno, Nevada, both the Atlantis and Harrah’s set the minimum bet at $3, which was also their minimum blackjack bet
. Players didn’t have to risk much to learn the game, and they found that the Ante wager, backed-up with a “bet” of the same amount when they wished to continue playing, was a reasonable bet they could afford. In addition, since the game is truly just the player’s 3-card stud hand against the dealer’s 3-card stud hand, players won their Ante wager quite often.
To stabilize the game and give the house its 3.61% edge, the house pays the Ante wager any time the player’s hand is higher than the dealer’s hand. However, to qualify and also have action on the Play bet, the dealer must have a hand of at least Queen-high. If not, the Play wager is a push and no chips are exchanged. In addition, the player must always wager on the Play spot or fold their hand and lose their original Ante wager!
To keep the game exciting, the Ante payoff is always 1 to 1, or even money, but a special bonus is paid on certain hands:
- Straight Flush – 5 to 1
- Three of a Kind – 4 to 1
- Straight – 1 to 1
That’s all there is to the Ante and Play wagers. To make the game more exciting, players may also wager on the Pair Plus, where
payoffs are as high as 40 to 1.
Pair Plus Payoffs
- One Pair – 1 to 1
- Flush – 4 to 1
- Straight – 6 to 1
- 3 of a Kind – 30 to 1
- Straight Flush – 40 to 1
The Pair Plush wager does make the game more exciting, but I learned that you have to be patient waiting for payoffs. The house edge is higher, at 7.28%, but if you play both the Ante and Pair Plus, the house overall edge on your total wagers is closer to 5.45% which is about what a double-zero roulette wheel offers, and the game is leisurely, so you won’t get nearly as many hands per hour as blackjack.
In 2007, some casinos began offering a Mini-Royal bonus, which is a 50-1 payoff for any Ace-King-Queen suited hand. With the higher payout the house edge falls, but the option is only available at a few casinos: the Borgata in Atlantic City, Casino Arizona in Arizona, Galewind Internet Casinos, and the Wynn in Las Vegas.
In 2009, a progressive jackpot was also added to the game. This optional feature is a $1 wager that wins a further bonus on any three of a kind, a straight flush, a Mini-Royal, or the progressive amount on a Mini-Royal in spades.
In 2010, a further feature was added to some Three Card Poker games called Prime, which is another wager that is won if the players three cards are all one color (pays 3 to 1) or if the player’s and the dealer’s cards are all one color (pays 4 to 1).
6 Card Bonus
As the game continues to evolve, another wager is also available at some casinos on the final outcome of the combined hand of the player and dealer. This wager pays on the best 5-card hand that can be made, from three-of-a-kind to a Royal Flush, and may even include a 6-card Super Royal payoff of 200,000 to 1. However, this bet starts with a house edge of just over 8% and runs to nearly 19%, depending on the payout chart used by the casino. Play at your own risk!