There are few video poker variations as unique as 3-Way Action video poker.
This game manages to combine the basic aspects of three of the most popular
versions of poker as played at home by millions of people. You can get all the
variety you want by playing just this game alone, either in the casino or within
a top gambling website.
Video poker, for the most part, is based on the common card game known as
five-card draw. The player gets a five-card deal, which they then try to improve
with a draw round. This is when they decide what cards they want to keep while
trying to make a great hand, and what cards they want to discard because they
don’t feel useful to them.
But there are many other games that people can play at home with a standard
deck of cards that aren’t usually a part of video poker. There is five-card
stud, where a player is simply dealt five cards and has to make the best of them
that they can. Or there is seven-card poker, which opens the possibilities up to
a number of explosive hands.
In nifty fashion, 3-Way Action video poker manages to combine all these
elements into a single, exciting casino entertainment. If you are willing to bet
on all three hands, you have the opportunity to win three times, and conceivably
three different ways, from a single deal.
First, you can win if your initial deal forms some sort of winning hand. Then
the game is played like normal video poker, with a draw round whereupon you try
to make your best five-card hand by holding certain cards and discarding others.
Finally, two more cards are dealt on top of the five which you accumulated at
the end of the draw, giving you the chance to make a winning hand out of the
seven which you now have in your possession.
As you might imagine, this means that a great initial deal can really
multiply your winnings. The three different hands also add a new strategic
aspect. This makes 3-Way Action video poker a fascinating challenge for those
who have become used to regular video poker.
Of course, the challenging aspect might be a negative for those people who
just want simple play out of their video poker. In addition, you might find the
game too expensive for your blood. After all, to make the recommended maximum
bet in 3-Way Action video poker, you must play 15 coins in a single hand.
In the following article, we will explain how 3-Way Action video poker takes
the basic elements of video poker and expands upon it. We’ll also go over how
the pay tables work for all three aspects of the game. Finally, we’ll look at
strategy and payback percentages for this one-of-a-kind game.
3-Way Action Video Poker Gameplay
Normally in this section of our video poker articles, we talk about the
basics of video poker. But because 3-Way Action video poker contains such a
striking twist in the ability to play your hand three different ways, we decided
that it is probably better to just walk you through how this game works from
start to finish.
Before we do that, we want to tell you that all of the good things that are
implemented in other basic versions of video poker apply here as well. You still
get to play 3-Way Action video poker away from the mad rush of the table game
section. That means no complaints from other gamblers or dirty looks from casino
On top of that, video poker is preferable to slot machines because of
probabilities. Even in a variation as relatively complex as 3-Way Action video
poker, you have a rough idea of how often you have a shot at certain winning
hands. That is not the case with slot machines, where you can never know from
one spin to the next what your chances are of winning.
Let’s now go through the step-by-step process of a round of 3-Way Action
video poker. At the end of this tutorial, you should be able to settle in at a
casino, or online, and get to it.
Establishing Your Bankroll
This process is basically the same as it would be for most versions of video
poker. You can put either money or a redemption ticket into the machine and use
that as your bankroll. If playing online, you will have to set up an account at
the website that you’ll be using to play 3-Way Action video poker.
The denomination that you choose will be equal to one credit on the machine.
So, if you put $20 in a $1 machine, you will receive 20 credits to start.
You have to bet at least one credit to play the game. Keep in mind, however,
that to get the most out of 3-Way Action video poker in terms of payback, you
will need to play 15 credits per hand. If you plan on playing a while, that
means that you either need an extensive bankroll or you should switch to a game
featuring a lower denomination.
Making Your Bet
This is the area where 3-Way Action video poker begins to separate from
normal video poker play. When playing video poker, you usually have the choice
of betting one through five coins on a single hand. But with 3-Way Action video
poker, you can play that same amount for the three different hands that will be
scored during play.
The first coin that you play will go to the five-card deal, with the next
coin going to the five-card draw, and the final coin going to the seven-card
poker round. As you add more coins, they will be added in that order. For
example, a five-coin bet would mean two coins for both the deal and the draw and
then a single coin on the seven-card round.
Keep in mind that the pay tables pay at higher odds for the five-coin max bet
on each part of the hand than they would if you were betting less. As a result,
it is recommended that you play 15 coins per hand to get the max bet for all
Needless to say, this can get pricey. For example, 15 coins at a quarter
machine means a bet of $3.75 on every single hand.
Get a couple of losing hands in a row to start and you are quickly in the
hole. Of course, because of the three ways to win, a good deal or two can change
everything very quickly.
The Five-Card Deal
For the remainder of this discussion, we are going to assume that you take
our advice and play the max bet on all three parts of the game. That means that
you will have activated each portion of the process for 3-Way Action video
poker. And that means that your first concern is the five-card deal.
This part of the game is simple, because there is no strategy involved. What
you get is what you get, and you will immediately be scored on it. Let’s say
that you came away with the following hand on the deal:
You have made a pair of fives on the deal. In 3-Way Action video poker,
specifically in the deal round, that is enough to secure you five coins in
return (since we’re assuming the five-coin bet and knowing that the payback is
even money). That goes into your bank regardless of what happens in subsequent
Keep in mind that the pair of fives will only get you a return in the deal
round. In the five-card or seven-card draw portion of the game, that hand is
simply too common. The game couldn’t pay out for that hand in those
circumstances without losing serious money to the gambler.
The Five-Card Draw
At this point, anyone who has ever played normal video poker should know how
to proceed. That’s because this round plays out in similar fashion to other
versions of the game. You have the opportunity to make the best five-card hand
that you can by throwing out certain cards from your hand and replacing them
with others in the deck.
This is the point in 3-Way Action video poker where it is a good thing to
understand how the probabilities
of poker should play into your decision. Knowing that there are only 52
cards in the deck and that you have already been dealt five of them, should make
your decision-making process a bit more clear.
What makes that process even more difficult is the fact that you also have to
take into account the seven-card hand as well as the five-card draw. As a
result, your decisions on holding and discarding might be affected by seeing the
bigger picture. You have to figure out what play gives you the best possible
chance at maximum winnings for the final two-thirds of the hand.
In the case above, you could very easily keep the two fives and hope to
improve upon that. But you also have three cards to a flush, including two high
In normal video poker, the choice would generally be to keep the two fives
with no questions asked. But with 3-Way Action video poker, you also have to
consider the fact that a royal flush is in play in the seven-card hand if you
keep the hearts, not to mention the possibility of a high-paying seven-card
straight flush. It turns out that the mathematically correct play, which is the
one which will give you the maximum winnings if you played this hand over
endlessly, is to go with the three of hearts.
Let’s say that you make this choice. That means that you will be discarding
the two fives. For the five-card draw portion of the game, you will receive two
cards from the same deck that gave you the deal to replace the two that you are
Here is what comes out of the draw:
Instead of the flush, you lucked out by pairing up the queen and king to come
away with two pair. On the pay table for 3-Way Action video poker, specifically
the five-card draw round, this pays off at even money as well. That means you
are still at break-even heading into the final part of the process.
The Seven-Card Poker Round
You have now reached the last portion of the hand. The computer will deal you
two more cards from the same deck that you have been using for the whole hand,
which means that you can’t get two of the same exact cards in the hand.
This seven-card hand will also be scored using its own separate pay table
from the other two. Here is what comes out when the final two cards are drawn:
The final seven-card hand leaves you with four kings. Consulting the
seven-card pay table, you’ll see that four of a kind pays 10 to 1. That means
that you ended up with a 50-coin payback from that part of the hand.
Let’s tally up your winnings:
Pair on 5-card deal: 5 coins
Two pair on 5-card draw: 5 coins
Four of a kind on 7-card hand: 50 coins
5 + 10 + 50 = 60 coins
Minus your initial 15-coin bet, you’ve earned a profit of 45 coins on that
hand. That’s the kind of action that 3-Way Action video poker provides on a
hand-to-hand basis. Not all of the hands will turn out that well for you, but it
gives you an idea of how the winnings can add up, especially when the first deal
is a promising one.
3-Way Action Video Poker Pay Tables
When dealing with 3-Way Action video poker, you must realize that there are
essentially three pay tables combined into one. The winning hands that you might
make on the deal will pay less (or not pay at all, in some cases) when you get
to the 5-card draw pay table. Consequently, the pay table for the seven-card
round will require more spectacular hands than would the draw pay table to pay
These tables are adjusted based on the probabilities of the different hands
showing up in each of the three rounds. The less likely they are to show up, the
more they will pay. You have to take all of that into account when dealing with
this unique game.
Let’s take a look at a table that combines all of this information. The
payouts here are from what might be considered the full-pay version of 3-Way
Action video poker. By this, we mean that the payback percentage for this game
(more on that below) comes out higher than any other version of the game that
you might encounter.
Four Aces + Three of (2-4)
Four of (2-4) + Three of (A-4)
Seven-card Straight Flush
Four of a Kind + Three of a Kind
Four Aces + (2-4)
Four of (2-4) + (A-4)
Four of (2-4)
Four of (5-K)
Three of a Kind
One Pair of Jacks or Better
One Pair of (3-10)
The numbers in that table give the odds for payout for five coins played.
Simply multiply by five coins to see how much you’ve won for each hand. For
example, the ultimate hand, four of a kind with three of either 2s, 3s, or 4s,
pays off 20,000 coins for a five-coin bet.
Obviously, there are several hands that can’t be made when playing five cards
as opposed to when you deal with the full seven-card hand. That is why the
dashes appear in certain sections. Also, note that two pair only pays for the
seven-card hand when it achieved with jacks or better in both pairs.
Veterans of video poker might also note that the pay structure for the
five-card draw closely mimics what you would expect from bonus-style games.
These games award you more for four of a kind hands than other games do. As a
result, they pay less for common hands, specifically two pair, which often is
paid at 2 to 1. But, as you’ll notice, the middle column only returns even
All of this must be taken into consideration when you sit down to devise a
strategy. And you also have to account for the fact that you might come upon
other pay tables. These pay tables will have different payouts somewhere along
the line, which could also affect how you play certain hands.
Payback Percentage for 3-Way Action Video Poker
Payback percentage is a measure of the money that a player might expect to
earn from a given game when playing it for a long amount of time. It can be
calculated by combining all of the probabilities for certain hands with payouts
for those hands. Luckily, these figures can be found out with some online
analysis, so you won’t have to do complicated research all by yourself.
The issue with payback percentage is that many people misunderstand that it
is only an average. On two different occasions, your experiences with a machine
could be completely different due to luck coming into play. Yet, over time, the
game will settle in at a certain percentage.
In the case of 3-Way Action video poker and the pay table we listed above,
the payback percentage is a competitive 99.29%. That is assuming a max bet on
every wager and unerring strategy (more on that in a bit). It means that $10,000
in the machine would return, on average, $9,929 to the player, or a $71 loss.
Again, you might luck out one time and hit a bunch of big hands. Another time
you could struggle to come up with anything and lose your bankroll quickly.
Consistently playing the game will yield something close to that quoted
percentage, however, and it is a pretty solid number on the whole.
Yet you might run into other pay tables when you see this game online or in a
casino. As we stated before, the pay table listed above pays the most back to
players, meaning that others will drop your expected payback a bit.
For the other versions that you find, the percentage can drop as much as five
points. Five dollars for every $100 played can add up after a while. That’s why
you should search for the pay tables that are most beneficial to you if you
really want to make money at this game in the long haul.
Strategy for 3-Way Action Video Poker
Payback percentages are computed with the notion that the player is making
every correct decision while playing. Of course, that is easier said than done.
As the example we gave you showed, it can be very difficult to factor in all of
the mathematical possibilities on the spot when you are pressed to make a
decision on the holds and discards.
This is especially true for 3-Way Action video poker because of the
seven-card portion of the game. Making decisions for a possible five-card hand
is hard enough, but when you consider that the seven-card hands must be factored
into the decision, it really presents some tough situations for the gambler.
In a short session, bad decisions won’t hurt you too much. The luck of the
draw might even mask these mistakes. But if you play for a long time, your
percentages will drop several percentage points by making poor choices.
The problem with 3-Way Action is that many of the avenues that are usually
open to you when developing strategy might be closed. Because the game has such
a unique structure, it might be difficult to find a strategy chart online to
tell you which combinations of cards are best to hold and which should be
discarded. By the same token, it might be difficult to find video poker training
software that can be tailored to the 3-Way Action video poker structure.
Your best bet might be to play the game online for free for a while and see
how the different holds and discards work out for you. While you might not be
able to quite get to perfect play in this method, you’ll likely find the obvious
mistakes that you’re making and rectify them. And you’ll see how the seven-card
aspect of the game makes a huge difference.
Knowing that, here are some quick tips to get you started on the strategic
Play the Max: If you don’t play the maximum each
time, you are short-changing yourself in the event that you hit some of the
game’s biggest hands. Your payback percentage drops a few points by not
making this commitment. It’s better to play at a lower denomination and play
the max than go with a higher one and come up short of it.
Seventh Heaven: The largest portion of your
payouts when playing 3-Way Action video poker will come from the seven-card
hands. What that should tell you is that you should tailor your strategic
decisions with the seven-card hand in mind. The above example shows how a
seemingly quiet five-card hand can explode into something lucrative once
those extra two cards show up.
Bonus, Baby: Remember that you are essentially
dealing with a bonus pay structure, one that seriously rewards four of a kind hands in
the five-card portions. It also means common hands pay less, and counting on
those common hands to get you through won’t work in the long run. Think
always in terms of shooting for the long-shot hands that will overcome a
bunch of losing hands in one fell swoop.
Top payouts higher than most video poker offerings
Cons of 3-Way Action
Expensive game to play
Tough strategy to figure out
Might be too confusing for novice players
Conclusion on 3-Way Action Video Poker
The Commodores once sung about “Three Times A Lady.” In the case of 3-Way
Action video poker, you might just be three times a winner. And the sound of the
tallying winnings on the machine will be sweet music to your ears.
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