Why playing aggressively pays off
By Basil Nestor
You may be tempted to play this game the same way as standard hold em, checking and folding low-quality hands. But that will lose you a lot of money.
Regular hold ‘em poker can be so frustrating. When bad cards come, you spend a lot of time folding, staring at the ceiling and examining the chandeliers. Boring. When things do get exciting, sometimes it’s the wrong kind of excitement, the sort that melts a stack in moments.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could play every hand to the river? And wouldn’t it be even nicer if you could limit your possible loss to a maximum of three bets and still see the river?
Ultimate Texas Hold ‘Em by Shuffle Master allows you to do all that, with no fear of being bluffed out of pot. And you can still win multiple bets if you hit a strong hand.
We’ll cover the rules briefly, and then focus on an optimal strategy that lowers the casino’s edge to about 2.2%. That’s pretty slim compared to most casino contests.
No Fold ‘Em Hold Em
In Ultimate Texas Hold Em, you’re always “heads-up” with the dealer.
The play is very much like classic hold em. You get two cards, the dealer gets two, and the table gets five community cards that you and the dealer share. The winner is determined by who has the best five-card hand from the seven cards that are available.
Before the cards are dealt, you make two mandatory bets, an ante and a blind bet. Both are the same amount and must be at the table minimum or higher. Then you receive two cards.
If you like your hand at this point, you can make an additional wager, called a “play” bet. Essentially it’s a raise of 4x (optionally 3x) the size of your blind bet. Or, you can check and risk nothing more. Then the dealer reveals the flop.
If you bet pre-flop, no more action is allowed—but if you check, then you can bet 2x the blind on the flop. Or, you can check again. Either way, you see the last two cards.
At this point, if you made previous play bets, the hand is resolved without further action. But if you checked all the way, you must either fold (lose your ante and blind) or bet 1x the blind to see the showdown.
The best five-card hand wins. Tied hands push (no money changes hands).
Play bets are paid 1:1 when you win. The ante bet is paid 1:1 only when the dealer finishes with a pair or better. Otherwise it’s a push. The blind bet is also a push unless you win with a straight or better, and then it pays on a graduated scale (see the adjacent chart). There is also an optional bet called Trips that pays three-of-a-kind or better regardless of whether you win or lose the hand.
An Aggressive Strategy
You may be tempted to play this game the same way as standard hold em, checking and folding low-quality hands. But that will lose you a lot of money. The important thing to remember is that the dealer is a “dumb” calling station. You are literally trying to beat a random hand. So the criteria for betting and raising are tremendously loose.
Bet the maximum pre-flop with:
Any hand containing an ace
Any king with a suited card, or any unsuited K5 or higher
Any queen with a suited card of 6 or higher, or any unsuited Q8 or higher
Any jack with a suited card of 8 or higher, or an unsuited JT.
Any pocket pair except 22.
Otherwise check. Never bet 3x; it’s either the max or nothing.
On the flop, bet any pair or better unless the board is suited against you. Optimally, there are some exceptions to the following rules, but they’re intricate, so we’ll make them simple. Bet any straight draw of jack-high or better. Bet your four-card flushes. Easy to remember, yes?
On the river you’re betting one unit to win one and save two, so your standards for betting become ridiculously low. Bet when you beat the board with any pair or better. Bet with a jack-high or better any time you beat the board with less than a pair, unless the board has four cards to a straight or flush.
The betting criteria get even looser when the board shows a pair, trips, or a quad. Bet any ten or better. And of course, bet if the board shows a made straight or a flush. Otherwise fold.
When you follow this strategy, you’ll find yourself doing strange things like raising the max pre-flop with an unsuited K8, or betting on the end with a pair of 3s. But you will win more with these hands than you will lose. Nearly every hand will require some thought, and many hands will give you opportunities to win. Meanwhile, you’ll have no time to stare at the chandeliers.
|Player Hand||Blind Bet Pays*||Trips Bet Pays*(pay table ver. 1)||Trips Bet Pays*(pay table ver. 2)|
|Royal Flush||500 to 1||50 to 1||50 to 1|
|Straight Flush||50 to 1||40 to 1||40 to 1|
|Four of a Kind||10 to 1||30 to 1||20 to 1|
|Full House||3 to 1||8 to 1||7 to 1|
|Flush||3 to 2||6 to 1||6 to 1|
|Straight||1 to 1||5 to 1||5 to 1|
|Three of a kind||Push||3 to 1||3 to 1|
|All Other Hands||Push||-1||-1|
* The dealer must qualify with a pair or better for the blind bet to be paid. A Trips bet is paid even if the player loses to the dealer.
Basil Nestor is author of The Smarter Bet Guide to Poker, The Smarter Bet Guide to Blackjack, and other comprehensive gambling guides. Got a question? Visit SmarterBet.com and drop him a line.
Ultimate Texas Hold Em.