Mississippi Stud Is Like ‘Let It Ride On Speed’

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Comparing Let It Ride to Mississippi Stud gives us a great opportunity to understand how a subtle difference in betting structure can greatly alter the strategy of a game and thus radically change a game that is otherwise rather similar.

The subtle difference in this case is that in Let It Ride the “1” and “2” wagers are completely optional (essentially, they can be “checked”) and in Mississippi Stud the choice is to play or fold. No checking allowed.

To best compare these games we need to realize the idea that you can take your wager down in Let It Ride doesn’t change the game. The rules of the game could have simply made the “1” and “2” wagers simple optional bets. You can either “check” or make the wager.

Mississippi Stud also differs in that your first decision is after seeing only two cards instead of three as in Let It Ride. Mississippi Stud’s paytable also goes down to a pair of 6’s, whereas Let It Ride goes to a pair of 10’s.

After two cards, the Mississippi Stud player must decide whether to make at least an additional 1-unit wager or fold. Mathematically, this is vastly different than the decision to check or play. When we have the decision to check or play the question becomes one of whether or not the player will win more than he loses on THAT specific wager.

Prior and future wagers play no part in the equation. When the choice is to play or fold, the question becomes one of whether we can win back at least the amount we are about to wager when we consider all other bets – both those already made and the ones we might make during the hand. This is because if we choose not to play, we are forfeiting all past wagers and the right to make future bets.

The impact to this becomes most evident when we compare the “1” wager in Let It Ride to the 4th Street wager in Misssissippi Stud. In this case, both hands consist of three cards and we are deciding whether to wager on the 4th card and, if so, how much.

In Let It Ride, we find ourselves making the wager very infrequently. We are willing to leave the wager in place only on sure winners (pair 10’s or better; trips), three-card royals and three-card straight flushes (open or inside, not double inside). We make this wager only 7 percent of the time.

In Mississippi Stud, by the time we get to three cards, we have already bet our ante and at least one unit on the 3rd Street wager. If we fold, we are forfeiting both of these wagers. We will also end our hand right then and there.

So, we also forfeit the right to potentially benefit from our next wager (5th Street). The decision to play 3x is similar to our Let It Ride decision. Once you are going to win more than lose on a specific wager, wager as much as the house will allow.

So, we find that wagering 3x on all sure winners, three-card royals and a variety of three-card straight flushes. We still go ahead and wager 1x on a whole lot of hands that sound like they’re going to need some help to become winners.

This includes all low pairs, three-card flushes and hands with the right combination of high and medium cards. The net result is that we very rarely fold at this decision point.

The overall fold rate for Mississippi Stud is 44 percent. Thirty-one percent (or nearly 75 percent of the total folds) occur after you see the first two cards. Of the remaining 69 percent of hands that go to three cards, you will fold only 12 percent of the time.

In Let It Ride, you will let the “2” wager stay up 16 percent of the time. In Mississippi Stud, you will make a wager at 5th Street on more than 90 percent of the hands that go that far. This happens for two major reasons.

The weakest hands were folded very early on. A hand that started as two low cards was dropped early, which makes weaker hands that much less frequent later on.

In Let It Ride, even the weakest hands have a chance to make it to the end of the hand. The second reason is that when you have three units already wagered and you are compelled to either fold or make another 1-unit wager, it does not take a high win frequency to make it worthwhile for additional 1-unit bets.

With just one high card and two medium or two high in hand, it still pays to make this wager. With two high cards, the player still has six chances to draw a high pair which will return eight units.

With 48 cards remaining in the deck this amounts to an expected value of exactly 1.0, which is the cutoff for determining whether or not to make the wager. Throw in a medium card as well and he gets three more chances to pick up four units. The expected value is now 1.25.

If this were a check or play decision as in Let It Ride, the decision would clearly be to pull it back with these types of hands.

There is a reason why I’ve coined Mississippi Stud to be “Let It Ride on speed.” The games are very similar in how they play but vastly different in strategy and size of bankroll needed to sit and play.

Check my Gambatria website for my two booklets on the game.

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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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