3 Way Action Video Poker

3 Way Action Video Poker

When you are dealt a great hand in video poker you cannot help but wish in the back of your mind that you could get a few more like that.

That's the basic appeal of 3 Way Action video poker games.

Although you must place additional bets, you can play your cards up to two more times.

If there is a downside to 3 Way Action video poker, it comes from the variations in pay tables you find on different machines. In fact, if a casino has more than one 3 Way Action machine, it is possible you will find the machines are using different pay tables.

That makes it hard for anyone to fall in love with this game. You may find a machine you enjoy playing, but have limited access to that. Still, the experience of playing a hand 3 different ways challenges your strategy.

You must think beyond that first deal.

3 Way Action Video Poker Basics

Because you bet on each of your three hands, you are really playing three different games. What 3 Way Action offers is a chance to play three times from the same deal. Hence, what you are dealt in the first game could lead you to decide not to keep playing.

The game begins when the player makes the first bet. The machine deals five cards. The player either wins or loses on the basis of the 5 card deal.

At this point the player can push "Deal" for another hand or "Bet 3 Way". After putting more money on the line, the player has the option of drawing new cards from the original five card deal. This option gives the player a chance to win more money on the original deal, or a second chance to win if the original deal paid nothing.

Finally, after you place the third bet two more cards are dealt and the best possible five card hand is chosen. However, the highest possible hands are 7-card hands including (four of a kind + three of a kind), 7 card straight flush, and (four aces + three of a kind low cards 2-4).

The 5 card royal flush payout is best on the first bet because the probability of drawing one on a single deal is so low. Since you have two draw opportunities by the time you get to the third game the payoff for a 4 card royal flush is very low.

You also have the opportunity to double up on a winning hand. Opinions vary on whether you should do this.

We'll discuss this further in the strategy section below.

How Video Poker Games Work in General

The simple explanation for how video poker games work is that you put your money in the machine and play poker according to the cards you are dealt. Since you are the only player there is no chance for bluffing or buying a pot. You either win or you lose.

All deals are based on a single 52 card deck (53 if a joker is used). The machine's random number generator chooses which cards are dealt to you. On games where you are allowed to hold and draw cards the game uses the undealt cards of the original 52/3 card shuffle.

The probabilities of being dealt, or of drawing, any given hand usually do not change. How game makers keep things interesting is to introduce different pay tables, add some special rules for extra wins, or otherwise modify how those probabilities are rewarded.

The player needs to have some skill in both understanding the hierarchy of poker hands and how the different rules affect their probabilities and payoffs. A full house may pay 8X on one machine and 7 times your bet on another machine. That difference in payoff may lead you to play your hand differently on the draw.

Video poker games that offer a "Double Up" or "Double or Nothing" option give you a chance to double your winnings by playing another game. The usual setup is for the game to deal five cards. The dealer (machine) turns over the first card. The player then bets his winnings on whether the next card turned over will be higher than the first. You can quit at any point and take what money you have.

If a video poker game has an extra play option, as in 3 Way Action, there will be an extra button to facilitate that option. Alternatively, the game maker could repurpose an existing button. You are more likely to see that in online games than on physical video poker machines.

How Does 3 Way Action Video Poker Affect Payback Percentage?

As noted above there are three different pay tables, one for each step of the game. The first pay table offers the most generous 5 card prize for the high value hands and the third pay table offers the lowest payoff for those hands.

The draw is what changes your percentages. As you draw more cards (up to 7 in total) from the same shuffle you increase your chances of finishing with a high value hand. The casino has to offset those improving chances with worse payouts.

The game resets the probability to payout ratio in the third phase by adding new high value options based on 7 cards. This way you have three chances to win a large prize on the same shuffle.

3 Way Action is one of the few video poker games where a simple form of card counting is applicable. There are only four aces in the deck. If you are dealt four aces in the first hand you know there won't be any more. You must decide if you want to try for a royal flush on the second phase or hold the four aces for the third phase. The value of the four aces declines from phase to phase.

What the 3 Way Action Video Poker Pay Tables Look Like

Here's a normal pay table for 7/5 Jacks or Better. This is just an illustrative example. The second chance option can be added to many different types of video poker games and their pay tables may look different from this.

HAND 5 Card Deal 5 Card Draw 7 Card Draw
Four aces + 3 of (2-4) - - 4000
Four (2-4) + three (A-4) - - 2000
7-Card straight flush - - 800
Four + Three of a kind - - 400
Royal flush 4000 800 160
Straight flush 500 100 25
Four aces + (2-4) 1000 400 -
Four aces 400 160 40
Four (2-4) + (A-4) 400 160 -
Four (2-4) 200 80 20
Four (5-K) 100 50 10
Full house 25 9 4

3 Way Action Video Poker Strategy Tips

  • Doubling Up

    There are five low hand even money prizes across the three tables. The worst case scenario on a winning hand is the 1-for-1 prize. Choosing to play Double Up on an even money prize risks less than doubling up on any greater prize. The following strategy assumes the Double Up option uses the 5 card game where the dealer gets the first card and you have to beat it on each card turned over (up to 4 cards).

    Although every card in the deck has a 1-in-52 chance of being included in that initial five card deal the probabilities of winning change based on which card you have to beat. In other words, if the dealer card is a "2" there is a 92% probability that the next card turned over will be higher than a "2". If, however, the dealer card is an Ace you cannot beat that. You can only hope to match it, and that means you lose.

    Your decision whether to turn over a card or exit the game with the winnings you already have should be based on what the dealer card is showing, what has already been played, and how much money you risk losing. The less you stand to lose the more risk you should take.

    To calculate the probability of the next card being a winner, use the following method:

    • Subtract all cards higher than the dealer card (that are not showing) from 52.
    • Divide that number by the number of undealt cards.

    For example, say the dealer card is a "10". That means there are 16 cards left in the deck that can beat the dealer. The probability that the next card is one of those 16 is (16 divided by 51). That works out to about 31.37% or almost a 1-in-3 chance. Let's say you decide to turn over the card and you find a Jack. Now there are 15 cards left that could beat the dealer's "10". The probability that the next card is a Jack or better is (15 / 50). That works out to 30% or 3 in 10. If you win again then the probability of beating the dealer again drops to (14 / 49) or about 28.57%.

  • 5 Card Deal

    There is no strategy to apply to this game. You win or lose base on what you are dealt.

  • 5 Card Draw

    Use the standard "Jacks or Better" strategy you would apply, but look at the pay table. You may not be playing with the best possible odds.

  • 7 Card Draw

    To improve your hand you'll need to remember what you discarded in the 5 Card Draw game. For example, if you threw away a low pair you could hurt your chances to score high in the final game. This game favors low cards on the high value hands, so you have to take that into consideration when you are playing the 5 Card Draw option.

The good thing about the 7 card game is that when played optimally it promises a 102% return to player on the best pay tables. Going into the 7 card game with three of anything puts you in a good position for anything but a Royal flush. Fortunately, the Royal flush doesn't pay very well in the 7 card game. It's better to play to the "of a kind" hands in the long game strategy.


As we have noted, opinions vary on whether you should double up in this game. You're already making three bets and if you double up after coming out with even money or close on the 7 card game, is it really worthwhile to risk what little you have won? Some players would cut their losses short at this point. Aggressive play is not likely to improve your win by much.

The estimated return to player always assumes a perfect strategy is in play but if you are new to the game you won't be playing optimally. Add to that the fact that you have to play maximum bets to get those big prizes and 3 Way Action may be a little more than a beginning player should take on.

This is a good game for someone who understands the basics of video poker already, who is comfortable with picking a strategy based on the pay table variations, and who is not intimidated by making aggressive bets. Otherwise you'll do better to stick with a "Jacks or Better" game.

The 5 Card Draw game is a reasonable exit point for someone who doesn't have the experience to plan ahead for a 7 card game. You are risking 2 bets on the same deal but if you get a strong hand on the deal then you have a chance to practice your draw strategy on the second phase. As long as you don't take on the 7 card game before you are playing with a solid strategy this is a good game to practice draw strategy.

Players have reported mixed results with this game. It's hard to say that's because of inexperience, bad luck, or just choosing the wrong pay tables. It's worth playing a few times to decide if you like it.



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