Play-Check scenario comes down to math
April 11, 2017 3:05 AM
by Elliot Frome
There are cases where the choice is between making a wager and checking – or simply not making a bet and continuing. This type of wager is rarer than the other. But, there are a number of games that feature it and it is very important to understand the differences between them. The math behind them dictates very different strategies.
The Play-Check scenario is one that is completely in the player’s favor. It is an optional wager where the player should make it only when the net result is that he will win money. In the Play-Fold scenario I discussed last week, you are frequently playing defense, making the wager in order to lose less than folding.
In the Play-Check scenario, you choose between wagering more money or doing nothing. Since doing nothing cannot result in losing money, the math equation simply comes down to whether you have more money returned on this specific wager than was wagered.
All that matters is the particular wager in question at that moment.
In Texas Hold’em Bonus Poker, there are Play-Check wagers after the flop. These wagers should be made when we consider all possible outcomes that we will win money on. We do not take into consideration either the amount of money the base wager will win or lose, or the earlier play wager made as part of a Play-Fold decision.
Also we do not take into consideration the other optional wager. We could just as easily check in this situation and all the other wagers will still resolve in the same manner as if we were to make the additional one. What we do take into consideration is if we might be paid according to a pay table since we are not looking at how often we will win, but how much.
The ultimate example of how these two different type of wagers can affect a game can be demonstrated by two games that are actually rather similar. The first is one of the granddaddies of table games – Let It Ride. The other is what I refer to as Let It Ride on speed – otherwise known as Mississippi Stud.
They are both 5-card stud poker games against a paytable. Let It Ride uses its unique construct of making the wager and then pulling it back, but this is really just a gimmick. The game would be the same, mathematically, if you simply made the “$” wager and then had the opportunity to make the “1” or “2” wager if you chose to make it.
These are both Play-Check wagers. We only make these wagers when the end result shows we will win moneys. We make the 1 wager only 7% of the time, but it has a payback of almost 240%. The 2 wager is made 16% of the time with a payback also of about 240%. Once you make these wagers, you will win about 93% and 90% of the time respectively.
These wagers are what makes the game “close.” The $ wager has a payback of only about 60% and a hit frequency of a mere 24%! In Let It Ride, you are always still in the game until you see all five of your cards (although a small portion of the time, you have no chance to win after four cards!)
Mississippi Stud, on the other hand, is made up of nothing but Play-Fold decisions. You get two cards and need to decide to bet 1x, 3x or fold. Now, technically, the 3x portion is sort of a Play-Check decision. You would only make it if you are going to be a net winner. In these cases, once you know you are going to be a net winner, you go for the throat and bet as much as you can.
Similar to what happens in Ultimate Texas Hold’em, I’m guessing many Mississippi Stud players play 1x when they should play 3x. They win less than they should, but win and they are happy. The focus here is on the 1x-fold portion of the wager.
We need to know how likely you will fold further down the line in order to properly compute your return. The bottom line is that the player will fold more than 31% of the hands after only the first two cards are dealt. That’s a significant fold rate for so early in the game.
That leaves a lot of time the player is watching the others play. The overall fold rate is about 44% for Mississippi Stud compared to Let It Ride’s zero fold rate. In Mississippi Stud, the player gets his advantage because he can make a 3x wager. When he is dealt a pair of 6’s or better, he can go in 3x the whole way and hope for a big winner.
If you’re simply going to memorize the strategy for these games, you don’t really need to fully understand the differences between the types of wagers. But, I believe it is important to have some understanding of this so if you’re in a situation where you forget or don’t know the strategy, you can at least do your best to make an informed decision.