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I don’t get jealous of a lot of things or people. I think I’m quite fortunate in my personal and business life. But one thing that gets me a bit “green” is coming across a gambling related article published on Yahoo that doesn’t really say anything special.

This past week there was a column about table games and why you should play Three Card Poker over Let It Ride and Caribbean Stud Poker. I don’t know if there is anything I could really write that would make a case for one of these games over the other. This author cited two major reasons. The first, Three Card Poker is fun while the others aren’t. The second was about the payback of the games.

On the first topic, I really don’t know what to say. The definition of fun is highly subjective. So, what is fun to you may not be fun to me and vice versa. The irony is these three games are not so vastly different. Two of the games (Caribbean Stud and Three Card Poker) are against the dealer. The betting structures are fairly similar.

You make an initial wager, review your hand, make another wager (2x for Caribbean Stud). The dealer looks at his cards. He qualifies or not. He pays the player. The average wager for Three Card Poker is about 1.67 times the Ante and for Caribbean Stud Poker it is 2.07. I’ve played both and can’t say one is vastly superior to the other. No doubt Three Card Poker has been more popular than Caribbean, but that doesn’t by definition make it more fun.

I like Three Card Poker because I don’t like the part of Caribbean Stud where your 2x wager is pushed when the dealer doesn’t qualify. The fold rate is also a bit higher, just under 50% instead of the 33% rate for Three Card. So if I had to vote, I’d go with Three Card, but it wouldn’t be to the point where I’d tell you to avoid the other.

Now, Let It Ride is a paytable game. Some might consider this to be less fun. But, you’re still playing poker. You’re just sort of playing a sidebet the entire time. The advantage is a big hand means a major win for your base wager. In the other two games, you have to make an additional sidebet wager to get paid big money. In Caribbean Stud, you can get a big hand and a big payout if the dealer qualifies (and doesn’t beat you).

There are clear differences between these games. But when you compare them to some other games out there (Ultimate Texas Hold’em or Mississippi Stud), they have more in common with each other than these games. If you felt Three Card Poker should be played over UTH for some reason, I might get it. But as far as I’m concerned, on the fun scale, the three games are close enough that I couldn’t question someone’s sanity based on which game he chooses to play.

So, that brings us to the payback side of things. For those who have read my column, you know part of Expert Strategy is to pick the right games and that means the one with the highest payback. But if we go strictly by that here, you’d be playing blackjack (at least among table games).

Three Card Poker has a payback of 97.98% (of total ante/play wager), Let It Ride 97.18%, Caribbean Stud about 97.3% (of total wager). Not vastly different, but unlike video poker machines we need to take into account the average wager size here. Not all $5 tables are created equal. These games are not nearly as disparate as others, but they are not identical.

Three Card has an average wager of about 1.67, Caribbean Stud 2.07 and Let It Ride 1.23. We can use these values to calculate an average loss rate for a $5 table per hour. Assuming 30 hands per hour, we find that while playing Three Card Poker we can expect to lose $5.06 per hour, Caribbean Stud $8.38 and Let It Ride $5.20.

So, playing Caribbean Stud will clearly cost us the most per hour. Is $3.32 per hour a reason to not play a game if you find it fun to play? That is a decision you have to make for yourself. I consider gambling a form of entertainment. Would you go see a movie you don’t really want to see because it is playing at the theater for $5 as opposed to seeing the one you really want to see that costs $8?

When you compare Let It Ride to Three Card Poker, the difference is about a quarter. I can’t discount the value of having fun while playing so all I can say is you have to decide if 25 cents is worth it to play a game that provides you with more fun.

Whichever game you choose, use the right strategy. I’ve got a booklet for each of these games that will explain all the strategy, what to expect and why. You can get the three-book set for just $12 (they list for just under $17), with postage and handling included. Send a check for $12 to Gambatria, P.O. Box 36474, Las Vegas, NV 89133.

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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