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This poker game is played with three cards per hand, but unlike regular poker where players compete against each other, all players at this game compete either against the dealer or against a posted payout schedule for specific hands.
Atlantis Casino Resort, a land-based casino in Reno, is the first property in northern Nevada to offer this new and innovative game and currently has a Three Card Poker table with a $3 minimum and $200 maximum.
Three Card Poker is a relatively new casino game and uses a 52-card deck. It was invented in 1994 by Derek Webb, the proprietor of Prime Table Games, and a successful poker player based in Great Britain. It is played on a table similar to that of blackjack. It is actually two games in one. The player may bet on either one, both, and with different amounts.
There are three betting marks in front of each player. Closest to the player is the betting mark labelled 'play', above it one labelled 'ante' and above the 'ante' one labelled 'pair plus'. These are the only bets allowed in three card poker.
To start, all the players make their bets. Players can either wager that their hand will be higher in rank than the dealer's hand ('ante' and 'play' wagers) or they can wager that their hand will have at least a pair or higher ('pair plus' wager). Each player and the dealer are then dealt three cards, giving each player in turn one card face down until all the players and the dealer have three face down cards.
The simplest bet to make is on the 'pair plus'. It does not matter whether the player's hand is better than the dealer when it comes to the payouts of the 'pair plus' wager. It is a completely independent bet and the payout is based only on the rank of the 3 card hand. If you have less than a pair, you lose the 'pair plus' wager. If you have a pair or higher, you win. The higher the rank, the greater the payout, as follows:
- A pair: pays 1 to 1
- A flush: pays 4 to 1
- A Straight: pays 6 to 1
- Three of a kind: pays 30 to 1
- A Straight flush: pays 40 to 1
The above are the valid ranking hands in Three Card Poker in ascending order starting from the lowest.
The second bet available to the player is a bet on the 'ante', like in the Caribbean Stud poker. Here the player competes against the dealer's hand. The player places a bet, and after examining the cards, the player must decide on one of two options:
- Either place a bet on the 'play' mark equal to the 'ante' amount and continue the game, or
- Fold and withdraw from that round and forfeit the 'ante' wager. If the player played two bets and placed one also on the 'pair plus', that too is forfeited.
Once all the players made their decisions, the dealer will open his or her cards. The dealer's hand must contain a Queen or better to qualify and challenge the players hands, otherwise the dealer folds and only the 'ante' wagers are paid, at 1:1 irrespective of ranking. The 'play' bet is returned to the player.
If the dealer's hand qualifies with a Queen or better, then the players cards are opened and compared against the dealer's. If the dealer's hand is better than the player's hand, then the player loses both, the 'ante' and 'play' wager. If the player's hand is better than the dealer, then the dealer pays the player at 1 to 1 for both, the 'ante' and the 'play' wager. Additionally, on a good hand, the player may also win a bonus payment on the 'ante' wager, as follows:
- For a straight, the bonus is paid at 1 to 1
- For three of a kind, at 4 to 1, and
- For a straight flush, at 5 to 1
The bonuses are awarded irrespective of the dealer's hand ranking, whether better or worse than the player's. If the dealer's hand is better than the player's hand, then the player loses both, the 'ante' and 'play' wager.
As an example, if a player places two bets of, say $10 each, one on the 'ante' and one on the 'pair plus'. Then the player, having good cards, follows up the 'ante' with a $10 on 'play'. The dealer opens his or her cards and just about qualifies with a Queen. The player has three of a kind.
In this case the player is paid a total of $360. $10 each for the 'ante' and 'play' wager, $40 bonus on the 'ante' for the three-of-a-kind hand, and $300 at 30:1 for the 'pair plus' wager.
Pair plus: 2.3%
Ante + play: 1.5%
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