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Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

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New Table Games Let You Play Like an Expert

17 April 1995

Huge jackpots and provisions to pamper patrons with perks have made slot machines socially acceptable. But folks wanting a more esoteric casino experience still gravitate toward the tables. Until recently, though, reasonable choices for novices and casual players were limited. The serious time-honored games - craps, blackjack, baccarat, and roulette - seemed too complex, costly, fast, and otherwise intimidating. The big wheel and other common alternatives belonged more at carnivals than in casinos.

Now, a class of table games based on five-card stud poker is emerging to fill the gap. Two such games are probably already available or in planning stages at your own friendly, neighborhood gambling den. And more are on the drawing boards.

In Caribbean stud, you bet an "ante" to receive five cards, face-down. The dealer takes four cards down and one up. If you don't think your hand can beat the dealer's, "fold" and lose your ante. To "call" the dealer, place a second bet equal to twice the ante.


At the showdown, if the dealer has less than A-K high, players who haven't folded get paid 1-to-1 for their ante bets and "push" their call bets. If the dealer's hand "qualifies," it's compared with that of each player. When the dealer wins, both player bets go down. When the player wins, the ante returns 1-to-1 and the call bet follows the accompanying payoff schedule. There's also an optional $1 jackpot bet, paid according to the indicated schedule regardless of the dealer's hand.

Play involves deciding to fold or call. Clearly, you fold below A-K high and call with a royal flush. But where's the borderline? Calling with A-K-J high or better, regardless of the dealer's upcard, is close to optimum - yielding a house edge comparable to double-zero roulette and less than most slot machines.

Let It Ride depends on absolute poker "scores." Players start with three equal bets and get three face-down "pocket" cards. Everyone shares two initially face-down "community" cards.

After seeing your three pocket cards, you can retrieve your first bet or "let it ride." The dealer exposes the first community card, giving you a four-card hand with which you decide to remove or affirm your second bet. The third bet is a "contract" and can't be taken back. The dealer next reveals the other community card, completing your five-card hand, and the accompanying chart determines the win or loss on all your bets still in action.


Here's the optimum playing strategy. First bet: ride with a high pair or three of a kind - which can't lose, or with any three-card straight flush. Second bet: ride with a "locked-in" high pair, two pairs, three-of-a-kind, or four-of-a-kind, as well as with 10-J-Q-K or a four-card flush or better "on the come." Third bet: pray.

With this strategy for Let It Ride, you can expect to win 93.4 percent of your active first bets and 89.8 percent of your active second bets but lose 76.1 percent of your contract bets. Net house advantage is no worse than average players get at blackjack and craps, and lower than at double-zero roulette and the slots.

With the right decision strategies, Caribbean Stud and Let It Ride offer combinations of house edge and bankroll fluctuation that give players a reasonable shot at coming out ahead. The danger for solid citizens moving from the slots is in not appreciating the importance of discipline at the tables. So lock up your profits, cut your losses, and resist making dumb moves because you're either spirited with success or disgusted with defeat. As Sumner A Ingmark, who always lets it rhyme, once warned:


Good gambling's more than winning bets;
It's going home without regrets.


PAYOFF SCHEDULES

CARIBBEAN STUD
Beat a qualifying dealer's hand with:
1 pair or less...........................................1 to 1
2 pairs....................................................2 to 1
3 of a kind..............................................3 to 1
straight...................................................4 to 1
flush.......................................................5 to 1
full house................................................7 to 1
4 of a kind............................................20 to 1
straight flush .........................................50 to 1
royal flush............................................100 to 1

$1 side bet on jackpot:
flush..........................................................$ 50
full house...................................................$ 100
4 of a kind.................................................$ 500
straight flush..............10% of progressive jackpot
royal flush.............................progressive jackpot

LET IT RIDE
high pair (10-10, J-J, Q-Q, K-K, A-A)......1 to 1
2 pairs........................................................2 to 1
3 of a kind..................................................3 to 1
straight.......................................................5 to 1
flush...........................................................8 to 1
full house..................................................11 to 1
4 of a kind................................................50 to 1
straight flush............................................200 to 1
royal flush.............................................1,000 to 1

Alan Krigman

Alan Krigman was a weekly syndicated newspaper gaming columnist and Editor & Publisher of Winning Ways, a monthly newsletter for casino aficionados. His columns focused on gambling probability and statistics. He passed away in October, 2013.
Alan Krigman
Alan Krigman was a weekly syndicated newspaper gaming columnist and Editor & Publisher of Winning Ways, a monthly newsletter for casino aficionados. His columns focused on gambling probability and statistics. He passed away in October, 2013.