Let it Ride

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It will pay off in the long run

Last week I discussed the history of Let It Ride along with the rules of play. While not the most successful game of all time, it has the distinction of being one of the oldest (if not the oldest) successful proprietary table games.

Caribbean Stud Poker might have a few things to say as to which one is truly older and which one could be deemed a ‘success’ first. This week I’ll review some of the strategy along with what you should expect when you play.

While Let It Ride uses a unique betting structure where the player bets three equal wagers at the beginning and then has the option to pull them back, this is really no different than if the player made a single wager up front (the ‘$’ wager) and then could make either of the other two wagers at the player’s option after reviewing his cards.

With a betting structure like this, the player can expect the mandatory wager to be the big loser and the optional ones to be the equalizers. This means that the player MUST learn the right strategy for these wagers or he can expect to have a long day.

When the player has an option to make a wager as is the case with the ‘1’ and ‘2’ wagers in Let It Ride, the strategy depends on answering a simple question. In the long run, does the player expect to win money on this wager? If the answer is yes, then he makes the wager. If the answer is no then he skips it. To develop Let It Ride’s strategy, we can start with the ‘2’ wager which is made after the player has seen 4 of his 5 cards. Once the player has his 4 cards, there are 48 additional cards that could be dealt as the 5th card. We look at each of these possibilities and sum up the resulting payout that might occur if each of these is dealt.

Thus, if the player has a 4-card straight (5-6-7-8), there are 8 cards that would result in a straight – which would be the only way he could win with this hand. A straight pays 5 to 1, which means a payout of 6 for 1 when we include the original wager. Since there are 8 ways for this to occur, the player would have returned to him 48 units over the 48 different possible outcomes for an expected value of exactly 1.0. This is the lowest possible expected value warranting a play. If the 4-card straight included at least one card of 10 or above, the expected value would go up. If the hand were a 4-card inside straight, there would only be 4 ways to complete it, and the hand would not be worthy of a play.

When all the analysis is done, we find that the ‘2’ wager should be allowed to ‘Ride’ when the player’s hand is one of the following:

• 4-card straight (NOT Inside)

• 4 high cards

• 4-card flush

• 4-card straight flush or 4-card inside straight flush incl. a 4-card royal

• Any winning hand (high pair or above)

We let the ‘2’ wager ‘Ride’ about 16% of the time and 90% of these hands will result in a winner. The expected value of just this wager is about 2.4, or in other words, a payback of 240%!

The ‘1’ wager is analyzed in a similar fashion but based on just 3-cards being dealt. In the end, this wager rides only 7% of the time, but 93% of these hands will wind up as a winner. This wager also has a payback of 240%. This is why it is so critical to learn the strategy properly.

For the ‘1’ wager it is as follows:

• 3-card royal (outside, inside, double inside)

• 3-card straight flush or 3-card inside straight flush

• Any winning hand (high pair or trips)

The ‘$’ wager which is always in play has a win frequency of just 24% and a payback of just about 60%. If you play using the strategy described here, the overall payback of the three wagers will come in at about 97.2%.

If you’d like to learn more about Let It Ride, my father authored Expert Strategy for Let It Ride (Second Edition) way back in 1997. It is available for $4.95. Or, if you’d like to become an expert at all the table games, I’m continuing our Expert Strategy special which consists of all 6 table game booklets (Let It Ride, 3 Card Poker, 4 Card Poker, Caribbean Stud, Mississippi Stud and Spanish 21) for just $20. Send a check or money order to Compu-Flyers, P.O. Box 132, Bogota, NJ 07603 if you’d like to order them.

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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