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For some of you this may come as a surprise, but Texas hold’em has been played in poker rooms for a very long time. However, it was not the primary game until recently.

When going to play poker, it often meant 7-card stud. Secondary to that were the Texas hold’em and Omaha tables. I’m not really sure what got the Texas hold’em craze going, but I’ve long suspected it was a few famous people who started playing it. All of a sudden, a game barely heard of became the game you had tto play.

Once Texas hold’em became popular, it was no surprise table games for the casino floor would try and capitalize on it. There have been several attempts to create a game that somehow captures the essence of Texas hold’em. The most successful, but not the first out, has been Shuffle Master’s Ultimate Texas hold’em.

UTH was one of the first truly successful games I personally worked on, and hopefully aided in its creation.

What makes UTH so unique is its betting structure. You basically get one chance to make a wager beyond your initial wager. But, you can make this wager at three different points. The earlier you make the wager, the more you can bet.

Another relatively unique feature about UTH is you don’t have to decide if you want to fold until you’ve seen all your cards. To begin play, the player makes an ante and an equal-size blind wager. The player also has the option to make a pay table side bet.

The player is then dealt two cards face down. He can now check or wager 4x his ante. The dealer will then expose three community cards. At this point, if the player has already wagered 4x, he is done. If he checked, he many now check again or wager 2x his ante.

The dealer exposes the final two community cards. The player who has already wagered is done. The player who checked twice must now either fold or make a bet equal to 1x his ante.

The dealer will expose his two cards. If the dealer does not have at least a pair, the ante pushes. If the dealer’s best five-card hand beats the player’s best five-card hand, the player loses all wagers (except the ante).

If the player’s hand beats the dealer’s hand, the player wins even money on the ante (unless the dealer’s hand did not qualify, in which case it pushes). The blind bet pushes, unless the player won with a straight or better, in which case it will pay according to the paytable in use. The play bet (1x – 4x) will pay even money.

UTH hit the casinos about five years ago and now has over 500 tables, making it one of the most successful proprietary table games of all time. The full strategy for the game is extremely complex and somewhat fuzzy. The unique betting structure makes it difficult to determine in all cases whether you are better off betting more now or waiting for more information and betting less.

Also, any game that uses community cards in a head-to-head play creates challenges in determining when to wager. Starting to bet when you have a pair of aces becomes impossible because it might be the community cards that have the pair, while you’re left holding a two and six in your hand!

Your hand is quite worthless at that point!

Ironically, it is the first decision point (to check or bet 4x) that is the easiest one to analyze. With only your pocket cards as your guide, the decision becomes a relatively simple yes or no answer. From talking to many players, one thing has also become very clear. Most players are playing FAR TOO TIMIDLY than they should. Proper strategy for the first wager dictates you should bet 4x a whopping 38% of the time. UTH boasts a payback of at least 99.25%, but if you shy away from betting 4x, you’re going to cut into this significantly.

If there ever was a game where discipline is needed, this is it. Between the ante, blind, play and sidebet, you could easily have seven units on the table – 38% of the time. This is not the game to bring $100 to a $5 table and think you are properly bankrolled. But, the math is the math, and if you choose to wait to see how things play out, you might win more hands, but win less money.

Most Texas hold’em players know the secret to winning is you don’t win a lot of hands, but you win a lot of money when you do. The same can be said for UTH.

So, without further ado, here is the strategy for the first decision point of UTH:

• If you are dealt a pair of 3’s or higher, bet 4x.

• If you are dealt an ace, bet 4x.

• If you are dealt a suited K-X, where X is any card of the same suit, bet 4x.

• If you are dealt a suited Q-X, where X is greater than a 4, bet 4x.

• If you are dealt a suited J-X, where X is greater than a 7, bet 4x.

• If you are dealt an unsuited K-X, where X is greater than a 4, bet 4x.

• If you are dealt an unsuited Q-X, where X is greater than a 7, bet 4x.

• If you are deal an unsuited J-10, bet 4x.

I know I’ve promised for a long time to work on a booklet for UTH and I have finally started. Hopefully, I’ll get it done by the end of the summer.

For more information on UTH and other games, head over to my website at or my blog at

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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