My Ultimate Strategy for Texas Hold’em
November 07, 2017 3:10 AM
by Elliot Frome
This week, I continue my discussion of Ultimate Texas Hold’em. Those who have watched others play have noticed a clear pattern of strategy used (or misused) by many players who are too timid about making the 4x wager.
This is understandable as a couple of losses on a hand in which you wagered 4x could wipe out your bankroll. But the strategy exists for a reason and not playing 4x when you should can do a fair amount of harm to your bankroll, just a bit more slowly.
The strategy for Ultimate was developed using a process as complex as any I have used to analyze a game. As I mentioned last week, though, the 4x/check strategy was actually the easiest to develop and the easiest to learn. Up to this point, the player has two cards and the dealer has two cards. There are no community cards exposed up to this point.
The player and dealer each get the same number of cards and neither has an advantage over the other. Before the cards are dealt, the player and dealer will each win 50% of the hands (excluding the ties). Now that the player has his two cards, a new win frequency can easily be determined.
This is done by simulating the game of Texas Hold’em with each possible two-card Pocket Hand given to the player. So, I give a Pair of Aces to the player and simulate 100,000 random hands, giving the dealer his random two pocket cards and five random community cards. As is probably no surprise, a Pair of Aces will win about 85% of the time. The Pairs dominate the top rankings of best hands, down to a Pair of 8’s, which will win 68.5% of the time. Then we have our first non-Pair hand – a suited AK will win 66% of the time.
These hands are clearly the no-brainers in the strategy. Any hand you can win two and lose one in the long run is a hand you want to wager as much as you can on. In most table games you’d bet as much as you can if you win more than you lose. UTH has a somewhat unique betting structure in that if you bet at 4x, you can’t bet again. Thus, it is possible you are better off waiting even if you are a marginal favorite.
From this, we learn any hand the player will win less than 50% of the time is clearly a check. The question is how big is this “gray” area where we want to wait? This gray area was determined by running a simulation of both options after the strategy for 2x/Check and 1x/Fold was completed.
I could’ve run every hand through this process, but I didn’t need to. I started with the lowest “winning” hand that is a suited J-4 and worked my way up the table until it became obvious the hands from that point and above were worthy of the 4x wager. There is about a 5% difference in the win frequency and as it turns out, this is about where the gray area ends. When the player is going to win about 55% (of the non-tied) hands is when the player should wager 4x.
Players clearly either have a tough time with this or simply don’t know which hands win how often. If you’re dealt a suited K-7 it will win 56% of the hands while losing about 40% with the remainder being ties. This is a huge advantage in a casino game. The Play wager is an even-money wager (you get paid as much as you wager) if you win. The payback with an advantage this large is a whopping 115-116%! If I showed you a video poker machine paying back 115-116% and said you could play it for an hour, would you want to play it with pennies or dollars?
No doubt your answer should be dollars. So, given the opportunity in UTH, why would you wait and be able to wager only 2x when you could wager 4x? You shouldn’t! If you’re going to play Ultimate Texas Hold’em, you have to be prepared with a large enough bankroll to withstand a cold streak even on a series of 4x wagers. The lowest suited Ace hand (A-2) has a payback of around 112%. You cannot be giving these hands away and hope to earn anywhere near the 99%-plus payback UTH affords.