Let it Ride a classic

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I’ve always explained to people that the history of table games is not a random walk. The games have taken, in my opinion, a relatively clear evolution.

It started with Caribbean Stud Poker, which was a simple game of poker played against the house. I think that Caribbean Stud has a few significant flaws and that had it been invented after a few other games, it may not have been nearly successful, but I’ll save that for another day.

Next up was Let It Ride which was simple paytable poker game. Perhaps one could argue that Let It Ride should have come before Caribbean Stud if we’re looking at this as an evolution. Or it is possible that someone realized that Caribbean Stud intimidated some people with its head-to- head play and decided to create a simpler version that might appeal to a larger variety of people. 

Ironically, the true goal of the inventors of Let It Ride was to create demand for Shuffle Master’s single deck shuffler. 

I believe that each successful game in the history of table games has had a unique gimmick that has made it memorable for the player. In Let It Ride, it is the fact that you make a wager that you can take back. From a mathematical perspective, this is no different than simply allowing the player to make an optional wager at that same point in the game. 

I guess the name Let It Ride sounded more appealing than Optional Wager Poker. To quickly review how Let It Ride works, the player makes three equal sized wagers called ‘1’, ‘2’ and ‘$’. Each player is dealt three cards and the dealer puts two cards face down as the community cards. 

The dealer has no hand in this game as it is a paytable game. The goal is to get a pair of 10’s or better. The stronger the hand, the more you get paid for each wager still in play at the end of the hand.

After reviewing his three cards, the player can either pull back wager ‘1,’ or let it ride, leaving it in play. The dealer will then turn over one of the two community cards. The player may now pull back the ‘2’ wager or let it ride, leaving it in play. 

Finally, the dealer turns over the second community card and pays all winning hands. The ‘$’ wager stay in play, no matter what. 

Optional wagers are to the advantage of the player. So the ‘1’ and ‘2’ wagers work in the player’s favor, while the ‘$’ wager is the house’s advantage. This mandatory wager has a payback of only about 0.6. The other two wagers have a payback each of about 2.4. 

The ‘1’ wager is only in play seven percent of the time and should only be played with a sure winner 3-cards to a Straight/Royal Flush. 

The ‘2’ wager stays in play a bit more often at 16 percent. The strategy here is also pretty simple. You let the wager ride if you have a sure winner or a 4-Card Outside Straight, 4-Card Flush, 4-Card Straight Flush or 4 High Cards (10’s +). 

What you do for the ‘1’ wager has no bearing on what you should for the ‘2’ wager as they are completely independent of each other. So even if you find you make a mistake on the ‘1,’ you should not compound this further by deviating from the aforementioned strategy. Following this strategy will get you a payback of 97.18 percent.

Relative to many table games out there today, this is a tad low, but it does have a relatively low true average wager per hand, so that actual loss rate will be comparable to many other games. 

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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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