The Ultimate Guide to Playing 3 Card Draw

Posted by Veronica Taylor . Last updated:

If you are looking for a little more action and real money on the table, then 3 Card Draw poker is for you. The fast pace of this poker game and its easy-to-learn strategy is a great option for beginners and veteran gamers alike. This guide will walk you through 3 card draw basic rules, review a sample hand, explain how the bonus side bet works and differences between regular 3 Card and 3 Card Draw.

Where To Go To Play 3 Card Draw

How to Play 3 Card Draw

At its core, 3 Card Draw poker is just like 3 Card, a variation of poker but with the option for each player to swap one, and only one, card in exchange for a fourth in an attempt to strength their hand. While each player receives three cards, the dealer receives four, always qualifies and is tasked with making the strongest 3-card poker hand from the four cards.

The objective of 3 Card Draw poker is to finish with a stronger hand than that of the dealer. Because we’re playing with fewer cards than a typical poker round, here’s the 3 Card Draw hand rankings breakdown (strongest-to-weakest):

Hand Definition
Mini-Royal Ace-King-Queen of same suit
Straight Flush Three sequential cards of same suit
Trips Three of the same card value
Straight Three sequential cards, off-suit
Flush Three cards of the same suit
Pair Two cards of same value

Before a player receives their three cards from the dealer, they must first place an ante bet and decide whether or not to bet on the “First 3 Bonus” optional side bet. The value of the bonus bet does not have to be equal to the ante. The “First 3 Bonus” pays out when a player possesses a pair-or-better on their initial hand.

After initial bets are placed, the dealer or online casino random number generator software deals three cards face down to each player and four to the house. After reviewing their three cards, known only to them, the player has three choices:

  • keep all three cards AND raise, matching the bet of the ante OR 
  • raise equal to the ante bet and exchange one card for a new one OR 
  • fold and lose their initial ante bet (and side bet if necessary).

If the player chooses to swap one card for another, the dealer gives them one face down, tucked under either the “First 3 Bonus” or original ante chips. When keeping or drawing, the player must move their cards into the “In to Win/Draw” box to confirm their bet decision.

The dealer then flips over their four cards and creates the best 3-card hand. Players then flip theirs over and hand rankings are compared. If the dealer has the higher hand, players ante and raise bets are collected. If the player has the higher hand, they’ll be paid 1-to-1 on the ante wager and raise bets.

The “First 3 Bonus” and “In to Win / Draw” bet payouts are unique to the casino provider as odds can vary. A sample of a “First 3 Bonus” paytable could look something like this:

First 3 Bonus Hand Payout Odds
Mini-Royal 200-to-1
Straight Flush 50-to-1
Trips 30-to-1
Straight 6-to-1
Flush 3-to-1
Pair 1-to-1

To reiterate, payouts occur when you build these hands on the initial three cards you receive. Some casinos will also pay small bonuses when you draw and build these hands.

3-Card Draw Sample Hand

At its core, 3 Card Draw poker is just like poker with 3 cards, but with the option for each player to swap one, and only one, card in exchange for a fourth in an attempt to strength their hand.

For this sample hand, let’s play at a $10 / hand 3 Card Draw table.

  1. You place a $10 chip in the ante circle
  2. You decide to wager $5 on the First 3 Bonus side bet
  3. You and other players at table receive three cards, face down, each
  4. The dealer receives four cards
  5. You review your cards and have a 8 of Diamonds, 8 of Clubs and 2 of Spades
  6. Because you’ve already paired your cards on initial three, you’ve already won First 3 Bonus at 1-to-1
  7. You decide to go for trips, three of a kind and discard the 2 of spades
    1. Here you raise and match the bet of the initial ante, $10
    2. So, you have $10 on ante, $5 on bonus (WIN!) and $10 on “In to Win” raise
  8. The dealer gives you a new third card, face down, which you can’t look at yet
  9. After all players’ bets are in, the dealer flips over their four cards and makes their best hand with a 2 of Diamond, 5 of Clubs, 9 of Clubs and Ace of Spades, they only have Ace High card.
  10. Your draw card is flipped and it’s an 8! You hit trips, which beats dealer’s Ace High and are paid 1-to-1 on the initial ante and raise bets.
    1. Some tables will pay a bonus to those who draw and hit three of a kind, at like 5-to-1 odds bonus. When a player loses to the dealer, “In to Win” bonuses can still be paid on some qualifying hands.
  11. Monies are paid out and a new hand begins.

Bonus Side Bet

Players may wager an ante and additional “First 3 Bonus” before receiving their cards. This additional play wager doesn’t need to be equal to that of the original ante. Bonuses are paid if players hold qualifying hands after receiving their first three cards.

Odds of Winning at 3 Card Draw

Depending on the different bonus payouts, the house edge in 3 Card Draw poker is between 3 and 5 percent.

Difference Between Poker with 3 Cards and 3 Card Draw

The primary differences between the poker variation and 3 Card Draw Poker are:

  1. The dealer hands are four cards instead of three as they look to build the stronger three-card hand.
  2. Players are not stuck with their first three cards and can discard one card for a new one in hopes of strengthening their hand if they wish.
  3. Odds and payouts will vary based on bonuses and when hands qualified for said bonuses.
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