One of the keys to earning the theoretical payback over the long run of any casino game is to learn the right strategy. Of course, some games make this much easier than others.
Games like blackjack, video poker and Ultimate Texas Hold’em require learning complex strategies. Some other games like Three Card Poker and Four Card Poker require learning a simple rule or two in order to be considered a master. Of course, then there are the games that require no strategy whatsoever – slot machines and the Big Wheel.
Lastly, there are the games that appear to have strategy but actually don’t. Games like Casino War, Boston 5 Stud and Boston 7 Stud would seem to offer the player a choice of how to proceed, but the math renders the “strategy” meaningless.
In Casino War, the player has a choice whether or not to go to war, but in reality he should always choose to. In Boston 5 and Boston 7, the player has the option to fold, but he should never do so. Thus, in these games, unless the player chooses to create strategy that doesn’t exist, he should achieve the theoretical payback the more he plays, without worry of causing his own demise.
In games like Three Card Poker, the strategy is as simple as Queen-Six-Four. If the player is dealt a Q-6-4 or better, he should proceed. If dealt less than this, he should fold. As I’ve discussed numerous times, if this strategy is too difficult, then a player can opt to use a Queen strategy where he will still play hands with a Queen High but below Q-6-4.
There are only a few hands that meet this criteria and they are close calls. Thus, the impact to the player’s payback is relatively small. That said, I have no doubt if you sit at a table for a few hours, you will come across the player who wants to turn the Three Card Poker Strategy into a Casino War strategy – never fold.
This is never a good idea, and even worse in the case of a game like Three Card Poker. When you choose to play with a hand that is below the dealer’s non-qualifying line, you are generally putting yourself in a situation where you are wagering 2 to win 1.
In Three Card Poker, the player makes an initial ante wager and then, if he plays, another equal-size play wager. Thus, he is wagering two units. If his hand is a Jack-9-8, the only way he can win is if the dealer does not qualify. And, if this happens, he will win only 1 unit back. Hence wagering 2 units to win 1.
The only other alternative is that he loses both wagers because the dealer qualifies. Yes, there are a handful of hands the dealer could have in which he beats the player, but because he does not qualify, the player is still paid.
Some players even convince themselves their odds go up if the hand is even worse. Imagine if you choose to play a 5-3-2. Think of how many times the dealer will have a hand better than this, but will still have to pay the player! Unfortunately, this thinking is quite detrimental to the player’s bankroll.
There are still twice as many hands the dealer can have in which he qualifies and wins both the player’s units vs. the number of hands the player can win with because the dealer does not qualify. Why would anyone want to wager 2 units to win 1 when the odds of winning the 1 are about half of those of losing? It would be like betting on the underdog of a game and winning far less than even money.
If players manage to make such blatant mistakes in simple games like Three Card Poker, one can only imagine what goes on in the more complex games. While the only thing I can rely on is anecdotal evidence and my own observations, it seems as if players are playing way too timid when playing Ultimate Texas Hold’em, refusing to wager 4X nearly as often as they should.
We’ve all seen play at the Blackjack table that left us shaking our heads. And what can I say about people’s video poker play? If everyone used Expert Strategy, the casinos would be in deep trouble.
The bottom line is players have a choice as to what strategy to use. They can make errors of omission or commission. Folding when you should play can be as damaging as playing when you should fold. The only way to make sure you use the right strategy is to spend the time to learn it.
Elliot Frome is a second generation gaming analyst and author. His math credits include Ultimate Texas Hold’em, Mississippi Stud, House Money and many other games. His website is www.gambatria.com. Contact Elliot at [email protected].