Along for ride

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The year is 1992. Shuffle Master has just started selling its first shuffler. John Breeding, the founder of Shuffle Master realizes that if he wants to sell more of them, one of the best things he can do is increase the demand by inventing a brand new table game that uses a single deck of cards.

Up to this point, the shuffler was mainly used for single-deck games of blackjack. While many inventors try over and over again and yet fail, John was rather successful in one of his first (if not his first) try. If Three Card Poker is the king of table games, then Let It Ride is surely the great granddaddy of them all!

Few people know how close Let It Ride came to being a dismal failure. This was not because of the game itself, but because of a mistake in the math. Just as Shuffle Master was getting ready to launch Let It Ride, John Breeding and another company executive came to my father’s house to show him the game. At this point, my father had already made quite a name for himself with video poker analysis. The math on Let It Ride was already completed, or so they thought. After playing several dozen hands, my father looked at the two executives and said “something isn’t right.” I don’t remember if my father thought the problem was that the house edge was too big or if it was non-existent, but he was fairly certain that it wasn’t playing the way Shuffle Master thought it should.

John and his associate huddled and decided to have my father reanalyze the game. As it turned out, my father was right! Some changes were made to the paytable and Let It Ride was ready to head out of the showroom again. No one can know for certain what the impact would have been had the game been released with the original paytables. If the house edge was too big, the players would have gotten killed and perhaps the game never takes off. If the game doesn’t take off, do the shufflers become as popular as they did? Or, perhaps due to the mistake, players would’ve slaughtered the casinos, and Shuffle Master would have lost all credibility with the casinos while in its infancy. Fortunately, John had the foresight to bring the game to the top man in the field before releasing it to the public. The rest, is as they say, history. Today there are hundreds of Let It Ride tables, and Let It Ride has opened the door to literally dozens of other games.

Let It Ride is a simple 5-card paytable game. The player makes three equal wagers – “1”, “2” and “$.” The player is dealt 3 cards and can review them. He can then decide to take down the “1” wager or “Let It Ride” by leaving it in play. The dealer then turns over the first of two community cards. This time the player can either pull back the “2” wager or “Let It Ride” by leaving it in play. The ‘$’ wager always stays in play as there is no folding in Let It Ride. The dealer then reveals the second community card and pays the player according to the paytable in use for each wager that was left in play. If the player’s hand consists of at least a pair of 10’s, he wins.

As always, there may be variations in the paytables out there. The most common one is shown above.

All payouts are “to 1,” meaning the original wager is returned as well.

With this paytable, the payback is 97.18%, which is in-line with other games of its type. The strategy is not overly complex and can easily be memorized. I’ll review some of the key points of the strategy next week.

 

About the Author

Elliot Frome

Elliot Frome’s roots run deep into gaming theory and analysis. His father, Lenny, was a pioneer in developing video poker strategy in the 1980s and is credited with raising its popularity to dizzying heights. Elliot is a second generation gaming author and analyst with nearly 20 years of programming experience.

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