Texas Hold’em surprisingly rose to the top of poker

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It was about 10 years ago that the Texas Hold’em craze was starting to take over poker rooms everywhere. I used to play a lot of poker in college (won a lot of spending money).

I don’t think we played a single hand of Texas Hold’em. We played 7-card Stud, Guts, 5-card Draw and a whole host of other strange games like nighttime baseball. It’s what you get when you play Dealer Choice poker for several hours. But, not one hand of Texas Hold’em.

I had no idea what the game was until I saw signs for it in Las Vegas poker rooms. Even then, I paid it very little attention.

Somehow, in the 21st century, Texas Hold’em became the game you had to play. I personally think it happened when some popular young actors started playing it.

Once the craze happened, it was only a matter of time before inventors were going to try and replicate the feeling of Texas Hold’em in a casino table game against the Dealer. There were several entries, but for the first couple of years, the market was dominated by Texas Hold’em Bonus Poker. This was owned and invented by a company called Progressive Gaming aka Mikohn (now defunct).

This put a lot of pressure on Roger Snow of Shuffle Master to come up with something that could compete with THBP. I’m not sure how many iterations we went through before we started zeroing in on a version we liked. My recollection says it was 20 or 30 variations.

I remember it was 2 a.m. on a Saturday in New Jersey when the idea of the 4x, 2x, 1x betting strategy came up. We liked it a lot. I spent the next few days proving out the math and it worked. Ultimate Texas Hold’em was born.

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That 4x, 2x, 1x betting pattern was unique to UTH. You could bet only once in the game. The earlier you bet, meaning the less information you had, the more you could wager. You could check all the way until you saw the entire hand, but then it was bet or Fold. To this day, I think it was a stroke of genius.

At the time, I don’t think we realized just how beautiful it really was. It wasn’t just that the Player can bet only once, or the earlier he bets the more he bets. It was the 4x that was the real beauty.

That scares the daylights out of most players. If you tell them they have to bet 2x (or even 4x), they learn to live with it. But give them a choice to bet 1x, 2x, 4x or check and the Player becomes far more timid.

Look at blackjack where players have the option to Double Down. I submit that you see players not double down when they should, far more than doubling down when they shouldn’t. Players are more timid than we realize except for that guy who still insists on splitting 10’s/faces!

If Players are scared to wager 2x when they should, imagine what 4x does to them. In UTH, you are already playing $10-$15 at a $5 table (Ante, Blind, Sidebet). Now you have to put up an additional $20 if you decide you want to go 4x. If you come in with a $100 bankroll, it might be one-third gone in one hand. To most players, it makes sense to simply wait a few seconds, get three more cards and if the hand pans out, bet 2x.

The problem with this is the game math was all designed to assume the player is not timid, but plays mathematically correct. Ironically, the 4x wager is the easiest of the three potential strategy points to learn. Also, at 4x, it accounts for a very large amount of our payback.

UTH offers over 99% payback. But, playing it timid can easily double or triple the house advantage. Wagering more or less does not impact whether you will win the hand or not. So, if the player wins only 2x, he still feels like he won and is happy. If he loses betting 2x (after thinking about betting 4x), he’s happy not to lose more.

It’s a win-win situation only for the casino. Ultimate Texas Hold’em has one of the smallest house advantages in the casino yet boasts one of the highest holds. A good deal of this is simply because so few people have any idea of any of the strategy.

A good portion of this also comes from people who probably have figured out the right 4x strategy (or know it from reading my articles) and still shy away from playing it.

This is the truly amazing part of the betting structure. On the one hand, the players are happy they have the choice and frequently are happy even when they make the wrong decision. The casinos love being able to offer a game that boasts a 99% payback yet holds like a game with a 97% payback.

Players should wager 4x 38% of the time. Here is the right strategy:

• If the Player is dealt any Pair except for 2’s, he should Raise 4x.

• If the Player is dealt an Ace, he should Raise 4x.

• If the Player is dealt a suited K-X, where X is a card of the same suit.

• If the Player is dealt a suited Q-X, where X is greater than a 4.

• If the Player is dealt a Suited J-X, where X is greater than a 7.

• If the Player is dealt an unsuited K-X, where X is greater than a 4.

• If the Player is dealt an unsuited Q-X, where X is greater than a 7.

• If the Player is dealt an unsuited J-10.

Buy his book now!


Elliot Frome is a second generation gaming analyst and author. His math credits include Ultimate Texas Hold’em, Mississippi Stud, House Money and many other games. His website is www.gambatria.com. Contact Elliot at [email protected].

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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