Here’s a pitch for
hot new table game

Jan 30, 2007 12:06 AM

This coming Sunday is Super Bowl Sunday. You know what that means? Baseball season is just around the corner. Don’t get me wrong — I love football too. But, alas, my Rams did not have one of their finer seasons, and I have high hopes for my Mets for the upcoming season. Is there anything more American than baseball?

That’s probably what Brain LeClaire and his partner, Bobby Chau, were thinking when they decided to name their new game Bases Loaded Poker. The layout is red, white and blue. The betting area looks like a baseball diamond. The top hand is even called a Grand Slam.

In the end, however, it’s not the name of the game that makes it successful, but how much fun it can be to play. Bases Loaded Poker is a little bit Pai Gow Poker, Three Card Poker and blackjack all rolled up into one. It requires a certain amount of strategy, without burning you out.

To start with, each player makes three equal sized wagers — the Ante, Suited and Jacks Up wagers. The player and dealer each get five cards to make two hands — a 3-card hand and a SUITED 2-card hand. That’s right, the 2-card hand must be of the same suit. As a result, what immediately looks like a good hand may turn out not to be.

After reviewing his cards, the player can either fold, or make an additional wager (the Play bet) to stay in the game. There are three distinct bets at this point. The first is the Jacks Up wager. If the player has a pair of jacks or better in his 3-card hand (NOT in the 5-card total hand), he wins. This wager plays similarly to the Pair Plus wager of Three Card Poker. Only the top hand, the Grand Slam, uses all five cards. For this hand, you need to have 3 Aces in your 3-card hand and a A-10 (or picture card) in your 2-card hand. If you are dealt this, you win 500 to 1.

The other two wagers are head-to-head against the Dealer. For the 3-Card wager, the Dealer must have at least a Queen High to qualify. If he does not qualify, the Play wager pushes and the Ante wager is paid even money. If the Dealer qualifies and beats the player, the player loses his Ante and Play wagers. If the Dealer qualifies and the player beats the Dealer, the player wins even money on both the Ante and Play wagers. The ranking of hands is similar to Three Card Poker, so a Straight BEATS a Flush. Ties on the 3-card hands are pushes.

For the 2-Card (Suited) wager, hands are ranked as they are in Blackjack. So, if the player has an A-7, he LOSES to a Jack-9. If the player’s 2-card hand outranks the Dealer’s the player wins even money on his Suited wager.

The Dealer wins all TIES on the 2-Card wager. This is where most of the house advantage comes from. While ties will happen fairly often, the house rules for setting cards were created to be (relatively) simple, and, as a result they are not always the optimal way to set the cards. This is one way the player can gain back some of that house advantage.

For example, anytime the Dealer has 3-cards of one suit and 2-cards of another suit, he must play the 3 suited cards as a Flush and play the remaining 2-cards as the suited hand.

It is quite possible that he could make a Straight AND a higher suited hand if the Dealer could break them up, but the house rules do not permit the Dealer to do this.

The player, on the other hand, is free to set his cards any way he would like as long as the suited hand remains true to its name.

The end result is a game with a 98+% payback when played properly. The full strategy for the game is beyond the scope of this article, but it is important to review your hand carefully and balance out the 3-card hand and the suited hand.

Remember that you have 2 units wagered on the 3-Card hand and the Jacks Up wager is based on how you actually set your cards. You should only fold about 5% of the time. You should never fold if your 3-Card hand is at least a K-7-X OR your Suited hand is at least a 13. Not every hand which is below these ranks these should be folded, but this is a good place to start.

Bases Loaded Poker is currently playing at the Pala Casino in Southern California. For more information about the game, you can also check out www.basesloadedpoker.com.