Ultimate Texas Hold'em
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Ultimate Texas Hold’em
Thanks to extensive television coverage since the early 2000s, Texas Hold’em has become easily the most popular poker game in the world, and might just be the most glamourized game in casinos today. A test of skill, nerves, and experience (mixed with a healthy dose of luck), this variant has made true celebrities of elite poker players, and now millions play the game for big or small stakes every day.
However, actually competing against other players in a casino setting can be a bit intimidating, and the action in poker can be a bit too slow for some gamblers. That’s why many companies have developed table games based on poker that offer some of the same gameplay with simplified rules and a brand of one-on-one competition against a dealer. One of the best of these games is Ultimate Texas Hold’em, which allows players to win big on every hand – if they’re willing to commit themselves early on.
Ultimate Texas Hold’em is a table game that pits the player against the dealer in a one-on-one poker matchup. Like the game it is based on, each hand is dealt out of a standard 52-card deck. While it helps to have a basic understanding of how Hold’em works, it is not entirely necessary, and we’ll cover the relevant rules you need to know here.
At the start of each hand, the player must make two equal-sized bets, one known as the Ante, and the other known as the Blind. There is also an optional bet known as “Trips,” which we will talk more about in a bit. Once the bets have been made, both the player and the dealer will receive two face down cards, with the player being allowed to look at their hand.
The player has the choice to check – meaning that they pass on the option to make a bet – or make the Play bet. This bet can be for either three or four times the size of the Ante. It’s worth noting at this point that after the player has made that Play bet, they are done with making decisions in the hand; the rest of the cards will be dealt out, but no more bets will be made.
Once the player has made their decision, three community cards will be dealt in the middle of the table. If the player checked in the last round, they now have another chance to make a play bet, though this time it will only be twice the size of the Ante. The player also has the option to check once again.
Finally, the last two community cards will be dealt. If the player has checked up until this point, they now have a decision to make. They have one last chance to make a Play bet – this time equal to the size of the Ante – or to fold, thereby forfeiting their Ante and Blind wagers.
At this point, the player and dealer will reveal their hands. If the player has not yet folded, then the hands are compared. Each side will make the best five-card poker hand they can using any combination of their two cards and the five community cards. This game uses standard poker hand rankings, meaning that hands rank from best to worst in the following order:
- Royal Flush/Straight Flush
- Four of a Kind
- Full House
- Three of a Kind
- Two Pair
- High Card
The dealer will need at least one pair to qualify. If the dealer fails to qualify, then the Ante bet will be a push. If the dealer does have a strong enough hand to qualify, then the player will win even money on the Ante if they have the better hand, and lose the bet if the dealer’s hand is higher. Both the Blind and Play bets win when the player wins, and lose when the dealer has the superior hand, regardless of the dealer qualifying. In the case of a tie, all bets push.
The Ante and Play bets pay out rather simply: if the player wins, they receive even money on their wagers. The Blind bet, however, is a bit more complicated. If the player has made a winning hand of less than a straight, then the bet will only push. However, all stronger hands pay the player based on their strength, according to this pay table:
- Royal Flush: 500-1
- Straight Flush: 50-1
- Four of a Kind: 10-1
- Full House: 3-1
- Flush: 3-2
- Straight: Even Money (1-1)
You can also make an optional Trips bet at the start of each hand. This bet pays out based solely on the strength of your hand, and doesn’t require you to beat the dealer in order to win. In fact, even folding your hand does not prevent you from winning money on this side bet. The Trips pay table can vary, but one popular one looks like this:
- Royal Flush: 50-1
- Straight Flush: 40-1
- Four of a Kind: 30-1
- Full House: 8-1
- Flush: 7-1
- Straight: 4-1
- Three of a Kind: 3-1
In some casinosIn some casinos, there is also a progressive side bet that players can play for one dollar. The specifics of these bets vary, but they will usually require a royal flush in order to win the full jackpot – sometimes on the first five cards the player sees (their hidden cards plus the first three community cards), or at the end of a hand.
Know When to Hold’em
Much like the poker room version of the game, Ultimate Texas Hold’em offers players plenty of chances to flex their strategic muscles. The fact that there are several decision points during each hand complicates things greatly, and perfect, optimal strategy can be rather complicated.
However, it’s fairly simple to come up with a plan that will stop you from making any major mistakes. We’ve presented one here that should help you get started, allowing you to approach the table with confidence, knowing that you are playing well enough to avoid leaving very much money on the table in the long run. This framework is based on one created by the Wizard of Odds, though we have smoothed out some of the marginal plays in order to make it even easier to memorize.
First, we need to decide whether or not we are going to make the initial 4x raise with our initial hand. We recommend raising with any of the following hands:
- Any Ace
- King-Three or higher
- Queen-Seven or higher
- Jack-Nine or higher
- All Pairs, Except for Twos
With all other hands, the best play is to check.
If you get to the flop (the first three community cards) without raising, you’ll have another chance to make a Play bet for 2x your Ante. You should do so any time you have the following:
- A pair that uses at least one of your hole cards (again, excepting the case where you have a pair of twos as your hole cards and nothing else)
- Any hand of two pair or better
- Four cards to a flush, if one of your hole cards is at least a ten
Finally, if you still haven’t made a bet by the time you get to the river (when all five community cards are dealt), you’ll need to decide whether or not to fold or make the small Play bet. At this point, it is safe to make the bet if you have at least a pair that uses at least one of your hole cards. If you do not have that strong a hand, try to count how many single dealer cards could possibly beat you. If the total number of possible cards is 20 or less, you should make the bet; if it is 21 or more, it is time to fold.
If you are having trouble doing the math on this final decision, it is okay to estimate; anything around the cutoff point will be a fairly marginal situation. However, you do not want to pass up a situation where you have a big edge, or bet one when it is almost certain that the dealer has you beaten, so try to at least make a rough assessment of where you stand if you did not connect with the board at all.
Overall, the house edge in this game is only about 2.19%, which is very competitive when compared to the whole range of casino games. Using this strategy won’t get the casino’s advantage quite that low, but we’re confident that it will keep it well under 3%, meaning you won’t be giving up much by following only these simple suggestions.
Ultimate Texas Hold’em is one of the most faithful adaptations of poker that we’ve seen on the main floor of the casino. Sure, it’s not really like playing against other gamblers, but the idea that you evaluate your hand as it goes forward and make bets based on your hand strength gives this creation a realistic vibe that you might not get from something like Three Card Poker.
Throw in the fact that this game comes with a very reasonable house edge, and you have something that should appeal to players of all stripes, be they poker fans looking for something to do while their friends play blackjack, or experienced gamblers who want to take on a new game of strategy. It’s not quite like playing for a bracelet at the World Series of Poker, but it’s about as close as you can get while playing against a dealer.