This may come as a surprise to some of you, but Texas Hold’em has been played in poker rooms for a very long time. However, it was not the primary game until recently. When you said you were going to play Poker, it mostly mean 7-card Stud. Secondary to that were the Texas Hold’em and Omaha tables. I’m not really sure what got the Texas Hold’em craze going, but I’ve long suspected it was a few famous people who started playing it and all of a sudden, a game barely heard of became the game you had to play.
Once Texas Hold’em became popular, it was no surprise that table games for the casino floor would try and capitalize on this popularity. There have been several attempts to create a game that somehow captures the essence of Texas Hold’em. The most successful, but not the first out, has been Shuffle Master’s Ultimate Texas Hold’em (UTH). UTH was one of the first truly successful games that I personally worked on, and hopefully aided in its creation.
What makes UTH so unique is its betting structure. You basically get one chance to make a wager beyond your initial wager. But, you can make this wager at three different points. The earlier you make the wager, the more you can bet. Another relatively unique feature about UTH is that you don’t have to decide if you want to Fold until you’ve seen all your cards. To begin play, the Player makes an Ante and an equal-sized Blind wager. The Player also has the option to make an paytable sidebet wager. The Player is then dealt 2 cards faced down. He can now check or wager 4x his Ante. The Dealer will then expose 3 community cards. At this point, if the Player has already wagered 4x, he is done. If he checked, he many now check again or wager 2x his Ante. The Dealer exposes the final 2 community cards. The Player who has already wagered is done. The Player who checked twice must now either Fold or make a bet equal to 1x his Ante.
The Dealer will expose his two cards. If the Dealer does not have at least a Pair, the Ante pushes. If the Dealer’s best 5-card hand beats the Player’s best 5-card hand, the Player loses all wagers (except the Ante as just described). If the Player’s hand beats the Dealer’s hand, the Player wins even money on the Ante (unless the Dealer’s hand did not qualify, in which case it pushes). The Blind bet pushes, unless the Player won with a Straight or Better, in which case it will pay according to the paytable in use. The Play bet (1x – 4x) will pay even money.
UTH hit the casinos about 5 years ago and now has over 500 tables, making it one of the most successful proprietary table games of all time. The full strategy for the game is extremely complex and somewhat fuzzy. The unique betting structure makes it difficult to determine in all cases whether your are better off betting more now or waiting for more information and betting less. Also, any game that uses community cards in a head-to-head game creates challenges in determining when to wager. Stating to ‘bet’ when you have a Pair of Aces becomes impossible because it might be the community cards that has the Pair, while you’re left holding a 2 and 6 in your hand! Your hand is quite worthless at that point!
Ironically, it is the first decision point (to check or bet 4x) that was the easiest one to analyze. With only your pocket cards as your guide, the decision becomes a relatively simple yes or no answer. From talking to many Players, one thing has also become very clear. Most Players are playing FAR TOO TIMIDLY than they should. Proper strategy for the first wager dictates that you should bet 4x a whopping 38% of the time. UTH boasts a payback of at least 99.25%, but if you shy away from betting 4x, you’re going to cut into this significantly.
If there ever was a game where discipline is needed, this is it. Between the Ante, Blind, Play and sidebet, you could easily have 7 units on the table – 38% of the time. This is not the game to bring $100 to a $5 table and think you are properly bankrolled. But, the math is the math and if you choose to wait to see how things play out, you might win more hands, but win less money. Most Texas Hold’em players know that the secret to winning is that you don’t win a lot of hands, but you win a lot of money when you do. The same can be said for UTH.
So, without further ado, here is the strategy for the first decision point of UTH:
q If you are dealt a Pair of 3’s or higher, bet 4x.
q If you are dealt an Ace, bet 4x.
q If you are dealt a suited K-X, where X is any card of the same suit, bet 4x.
q If you are dealt a suited Q-X, where X is greater than a 4, bet 4x.
q If you are dealt a suited J-X, where X is greater than a 7, bet 4x.
q If you are dealt an unsuited K-X, where X is greater than a 4, bet 4x.
q If you are dealt an unsuited Q-X, where X is greater than a 7, bet 4x.
q If you are deal an unsuited J-10, bet 4x
I know I’ve promised for a long time that I’m working on a booklet for UTH and I have finally started the work. Hopefully, I’ll get it done by the end of the summer.
For more information on UTH and other games, head over to my website at www.gambatria.com