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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: Too good to be true?

9 November 2007

Dear Mark: Could you please give me some information on "Let It Ride." I tried it recently and liked it, but I had the unpleasant feeling that something this easy couldn't be "too good to be true." Tom Z.

Let It Ride is a variation of five-card stud poker where the player wagers on a poker hand consisting of three cards in the player's hand and two community cards in the dealer's hand.

Play begins with each player making three bets of equal denomination in spaces labeled (1), (2) and ($). The dealer then gives each player three cards, and two community cards are dealt face down. After seeing his or her first three cards, each player has the option of pulling back their first bet, or, as the game is eponymously named, saying "Let it ride."

The dealer then exposes one of the two community cards. Each player now has the option to remove the second bet or to "let it ride," regardless of the first decision. Finally the second community card is flipped over. Losing bets not meeting the payout criteria are collected, and the winning wagers are paid, based on the ranking of the player's hand and a payout schedule. Typically, a royal flush pays 1,000 to 1; a straight flush, 200 to 1; four-of-a-kind, 50 to 1; full house, 11 to 1; flush, 8 to 1; straight, 5 to 1; three-of-a-kind, 3 to 1; two pair, 2 to 1; and a pair of 10s or better, 1 to 1.

I'll be the first to agree the game is fun to play, slow enough for the gambling neophyte, and does allow you to pull back two of the three bets, but my problem, Tom, is that even when played flawlessly, the casino's edge on Let It Ride is 3.51%, which is almost six times what it is in blackjack when using perfect basic strategy. That's well above my gambling grade. Recall, Tom, my recommendation: "Never make a wager that has higher than a 2% house edge."

Worse yet, Tom, are the Let It Ride side bets where for $1 you are offered an additional payoff with certain paying hands; these bets carry a double-digit casino edge making them, "too good to be true," -- oh, yeah! -- and they should labeled for what they are: sucker bets.

Dear Mark: This weekend I hit my first royal flush ever. What was interesting was that it was dealt naturally to me in hearts. Is there a simple way of figuring out what my odds were of getting it? Chuck F.

Congratulations, Steve, on your first, of -- hopefully -- many more royals to come.

The odds, Steve, of achieving your natural royal in the specific suit of hearts, were 1 in 2,598,960. Here's how it calculates out, compliments of my fifth grade math teacher, Sister Cyrilla: 5/52 x 4/51 x 3/50 x 2/49 x 1/48 = 1/2,598,960. The first fraction, 5/52, is the chance of getting any one of five particular hearts in the deck (10h, Jh, Qh, Kh, Ah) with the 52 representing 52 cards in a poker deck. The second fraction is your chance of getting any one of the four hearts needed as your second card with 51 cards remaining, and so on through the fifth fraction. You multiply them all together to find out what your chances are of getting any hand of pre-identified cards, which in your case was a natural royal flush in hearts.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week:

"Lying about your losses to your friends is minor and harmless compared to lying to yourself." VP Pappy, Midwest Casino Guide
Recent Articles
Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.