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Deal Me In: Ultimate Hold'em 101

7 March 2008

Dear Mark: How about one of your Gambling 101's on a table game called Ultimate Texas Hold'em. I'd like to give it a go, but would love a primer from you before I try it out. David L.

ShuffleMaster's Ultimate Texas Hold'em pretty much has it all, David: aggressive betting, yet the ability to check through the river, optional Trips bonus bet (see question below), and yes, those bad beats and miracle draws. Played on a blackjack style table with a ordinary 52-card deck, Ultimate Texas Hold'em is a poker-based casino game where the players do not compete against one another, but head-to-head against the dealer.

To play, players make equal-sized bets in both the ante and blind circles, and an optional Trips bet if they so choose. Two cards are then dealt face down to each player and to the dealer. Players can then check or make a play bet equal to 4x their ante. Then the dealer turns over three community cards, known as the flop.

The player who had previously checked, can either check again, or make a play bet equal to 2x his or her ante. Any player, who had already made a play bet, can bet no further. The dealer now reveals the final two community cards.

Any player, who had previously checked through the river, must now bet 1x the ante or fold, losing both the ante and blind bets.

The dealer now reveals the two hole cards and the player and dealer both make the best possible hands using any combination of their own two cards and the five community cards.

If the player's hand beats the dealer's, both the play and ante bets are paid at even money. If the dealer's hand beats the player's, the player's wagers lose. If the player and dealer tie, then the ante, blind, and play bets will all push.

There is a kicker, David, and that is that the dealer needs at least a pair to qualify. If the dealer doesn't qualify, he returns the player's ante, but all other wagers receive action. Qualifying only matters for the purposes of the ante bet.

Regarding the blind bet, if the player has the higher hand, the blind bet will pay according to a blind bet pay table posted on the game. If the dealer has the higher hand, the blind bet loses.

The trips bonus bet pays according to the value of the player's hand according to the table's pay table, regardless of the value of the dealer's hand.

As for strategy, David, because you are playing heads-up against the dealer, allow yourself to play a bit looser than you would on a live game of Texas Hold'em.

Also, since you can make just one raise at any allowable time during the course of the hand, the earlier the raise is made, the higher it may be. So, David, make the 4x pre-flop wager with any two-card hand that has a pair of threes or higher, an ace, a king suited with any other card, a queen suited with six or higher, a jack suited with eight or higher, an unsuited king with a five or higher, and an unsuited queen with an eight or higher.

Dear Mark: I'm in love with Ultimate Texas Hold'em. I do have one question, though, regarding one of the bets on the layout. The game offers an optional side bet called the Trips bonus bet. Is it worth playing, and by that I mean is it under your recommended 2% casino advantage? Jim S.

The optional Trips bonus bet you speak off pays odds if the player's final five-card hand is a three-of-a-kind or better regardless of the value of the dealer's hand. Although the pay table listed on the layout varies from casino to casino, if you find one that pays Trips 3 to 1, Straight 5 to 1, Flush 6 to 1, Full House 8 to 1, Quads 30 to 1, Straight Flush 40 to 1, and Royal Flush 50 to 1, the house edge is 1.9%, and obviously under my recommended "only make bets that have less than a 2% casino advantage."

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "In America the ultimate expression is greed is good. Las Vegas shows you that greed is at least fun." --PBS, American Experience.

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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.