This game is usually played for money as, unlike other card games, for example euchre or cribbage, there is no scoring involved. The game is played using one deck of cards from which the dealer deals three cards to each player. Prior to the deal each player must place a sum of money, the ‘ante’, into what is commonly referred to as ‘ the pot’. Each player in turn bets by placing further money into the pot until there are only two players left in the game. The player with the highest ranking hand wins the contents of the pot.Let’s break this down a little further and examine the various stages of the game and for the purpose of this piece we’ll assume the game is not being played in a casino. Three card poker is a gambling game so it’s best to establish some rules that each player be aware of and comfortable with prior to entering the game.It is necessary to establish and agree to the amount that each player pays before being allowed to participate in each hand, that is called the ante. The ante is required to be paid in full by each player before each new hand is dealt. A minimum and maximum initial bet amount must be agreed upon. These are the minimum and maximum amounts that the first player can bet in order to stay in the hand. The ‘raise’ limit must be established. The raise limit is a predetermined table maximum bet that no player can exceed. Some card schools will allow wild cards, sometimes referred to as ‘floaters’, and these must be made known prior to the commencement of play.The game itself is played using one 52 card deck with no Jokers. To determine who will deal first the cards are cut then dealt clockwise until a pre chosen card appears whereupon the player receiving the card will deal first in the game proper. The cards are shuffled well prior to the first deal and do not get shuffled again until a player receives three of a kind or ‘prial’, eg three Kings or three Sevens etc.To begin play each player puts his ante money in the pot then the dealer deals a card to each player in turn beginning with the player to his immediate left and procedes around the table three times until everyone has three cards in front of them including the dealer. Players must play or fold in turn beginning with the player to the left of the dealer. If a player folds his or her cards are placed face down at the bottom of pack (the rest of the deck containing the unused cards). At the conclusion of the hand the deal will be passed to the player on the outgoing dealer’s left, so both play and deal are clockwise.Betting begins with the player to the dealer’s left who can do one of three things. He can leave his cards face down on the table and bet ‘blind’, that is bet without having looked at his cards. Whilst this can be risky, given that his hand could be one that most players would instantly fold, it does afford him the luxury of only betting half as much as players who are ‘open’, ie they have seen their hands (an open player cannot raise or see a blind man but a blind man can raise or see an open man). Secondly he can look at his cards and bet an amount in accordance with the minimum and maximum first bet amounts, or lastly he can fold or ‘stack’ his cards. After he or she plays or folds play is passed onto the next player to determine what they will do and so on.Play continues around the table as necessary with players betting to stay in the game or folding to get out until the winner is determined. The winner may not necessarily be the player who holds the highest ranking hand were all cards to be turned face up. In some cases players will fold their hands in turn, judging them not to be sufficiently good enough to warrant betting any more money on, leaving the last man to scoop up the pot. The last man may only be holding the lowest hand possible, a Two, a Three, and a Five of mixed suits, yet he wins the pot due to the other players folding their hands. More often than not play will continue until only two players are left and at some point one will call the other in which case the player with the highest ranking hand wins. On occasion two players will be left in who both have identical ranking hands, for example Ace, King, Four, all diamonds. In this case the player who pays to see the other player’s cards, and thereby end that particular game, loses.Hand ranking falls into one of six categories in three card poker. The top category is a prial, and that is three cards of equal rank or value with the absolute top ranking hand being three Threes. Second best hand would be three Aces then Kings and so on.The second highest category would be a running flush in which Ace Two Three of the same suit is top of the pile, followed by Ace King Queen, King Queen Jack and so on down to Four Three Two.The third category hand rankings follow those of the second category with the exception that these are runs made up from mixed suits. Be aware that a Two Three Four in the second category (running flush) beats an Ace Two Three of the third category (run)The fourth category is comprised of flushes whereby all three cards are of the same suit, the highest flush being Ace King Jack and the lowest being Five Three Two.The fifth category is where we find the pairs, the best being a pair of Aces then Kings and so on down to Twos. When two hands are left in the game with both sporting a pair naturally the higher pair wins but if both pairs are the same then the winner is deemed to be the player with the highest third card (unless both hands are of identical value as discussed earlier where the player who ‘sees’ the other player loses).Finally the sixth and lowest ranking category is where we find the high card. This is basically where you have a hand that does not form any of the combinations found in categories one to five so the hand rank is determined by it’s highest value card, the Ace being highest of course, then King etc. Where players have identical highest value cards the second highest value cards are used to find the winner and if those cards are identical then it falls down to the third highest cards to be compared. If neither hand betters the other then the player who paid to see the other players hand loses.Betting is such that you cannot bet lower than the player before you but you are not forced to bet higher unless you feel the need to. When only two players are left and one pays to see the other, which has to be double the last amount bet, the player who is called must reveal his cards. If the calling player’s hand is higher he must show his hand to prove he is the winner but if he has the losing hand he is under no obligation to show his cards since he has lost the hand.There is a final rule whereby if a player runs out of money he can ‘cover the pot’ whereby when it is his turn he may put all of his remaining money into the pot then place his cards face down over that pot and the remaining players carry on betting without him placing their money in a new pot. Covering the pot is only permitted when a player has very little or no money left following his cover bet. When the winner of the new pot is decided the player who covered the old pot has his cards revealed and the highest hand wins the old pot. In the event of a tie the player who covered the pot loses.This really is a great game to play but beware a good three card poker game can last all night if things go your way.