Last Updated: March 20, 2013

Let It Ride — analysis and expert strategy

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Introduction

Let it Ride is among the first of the wave of new casino games, starting in the late nineties. It is a simple poker-based game where the player is paid based on his five card hand only. No dealer hand to worry about. The twist is that as the cards are revealed the player has the opportunity to decrease his bet if he doesn't like his cards. As of 2013 Let it Ride is still out there, but its numbers are decreasing.

Rules

  1. Player makes three bets of equal size.
  2. Dealer gives player three cards.
  3. Player may pull his first bet back or "let it ride."
  4. Dealer deals the first community card, to be used by all players.
  5. Player may pull his second back or "let it ride."
  6. Dealer deals the second community card, to be used by all players.
  7. Player is paid according to the poker value of his five cards, remaining bets, and the posted pay table.
  8. Side bets are usually available, which are explained below.

The following is the standard pay table most casinos follow. All wins are on a "to one" basis.

Let it Ride — Standard Pay Table

Hand Pays
Royal Flush 1000
Straight Flush 200
Four of a kind 50
Full House 11
Flush 8
Straight 5
Three of a kind 3
Two pair 2
Tens or better 1
Loser Loss

The pay table for this and 15 other known Let it Ride pay tables can be found in my Let it Ride appendix 3.

Strategy

The following strategy is for the standard pay table.

With three cards you should only "let it ride" if you have:

  • Any paying hand (tens or better, three of a kind)
  • Any three to a royal flush
  • Three suited cards in a row except 2-3-4, and ace-2-3
  • Three to a straight flush, spread 4, with at least one high card (ten or greater)
  • Three to a straight flush, spread 5, with at least two high cards

With four cards you should only "let it ride" if you have:

  • Any paying hand (tens or better, two pair, three of a kind)
  • Any four cards of the same suit
  • Any four to an outside straight with at least one high card
  • Any four to an outside straight with no high cards (zero house edge)
  • Any four to an inside straight with 4 high cards (zero house edge)

A lot of people have asked me what I mean by "inside straight", "outside straight", "spread 4", and "spread 5."An inside straight is one in which an 'inside' card is missing, such as (4,5,7,8). An outside straight is one in which an outside card is missing, such as (4,5,6,7). Outside straights are much better because there are 8 cards that can complete them as opposed to 4 for an inside straight. Spread4 means that the cards in question span 4 ranks in a row,for example a (5,6,8). Spread 5 means the cards in question span 5 ranks, for example a (5,7,9).

Aggregate Payout Warning:

The table will probably have a maximum payout. At Casino Niagara in Niagara Falls the maximum aggregate payout is $75,000 per round. As a result the player should not bet more than the maximum payout divided by 3000. Any bet above this quotient will not pay the full odds on a royal flush, thus increasing the house edge.

Analysis

Let it Ride — Standard Pay Table

Hand Pays Bet Win Combinations Probability Return
Royal Flush 1000 3 3,000 80 0.000002 0.004617
Royal Flush 1000 2 2,000 0 0.000000 0.000000
Royal Flush 1000 1 1,000 0 0.000000 0.000000
Straight Flush 200 3 600 352 0.000007 0.004063
Straight Flush 200 2 400 368 0.000007 0.002832
Straight Flush 200 1 200 0 0.000000 0.000000
Four of a kind 50 3 150 7,872 0.000151 0.022717
Four of a kind 50 2 100 4,608 0.000089 0.008865
Four of a kind 50 1 50 0 0.000000 0.000000
Full House 11 3 33 33,408 0.000643 0.021210
Full House 11 2 22 41,472 0.000798 0.017553
Full House 11 1 11 0 0.000000 0.000000
Flush 8 3 24 10,008 0.000193 0.004621
Flush 8 2 16 92,152 0.001773 0.028366
Flush 8 1 8 0 0.000000 0.000000
Straight 5 3 15 4,464 0.000086 0.001288
Straight 5 2 10 88,656 0.001706 0.017056
Straight 5 1 5 110,880 0.002133 0.010666
Three of a kind 3 3 9 364,560 0.007014 0.063122
Three of a kind 3 2 6 328,968 0.006329 0.037973
Three of a kind 3 1 3 404,712 0.007786 0.023358
Two pair 2 3 6 574,128 0.011045 0.066272
Two pair 2 2 4 682,776 0.013136 0.052542
Two pair 2 1 2 1,214,136 0.023358 0.046716
Tens or better 1 3 3 2,571,636 0.049474 0.148423
Tens or better 1 2 2 2,647,560 0.050935 0.101870
Tens or better 1 1 1 3,228,804 0.062117 0.062117
Loser -1 3 -3 53,076 0.001021 -0.003063
Loser -1 2 -2 937,824 0.018042 -0.036085
Loser -1 1 -1 38,576,700 0.742156 -0.742156
Total 51,979,200 1.000000 -0.035057

5-Card Bonus Bet

I don't know if this bet even has a name, so I am titling it the "3-Card Bonus Bet." It is a $1 side bet, which pays based on the poker value of the final five-card hand. This is a sucker bet, that should be avoided. Based on a small sampling of casinos in Las Vegas and Laughlin, the house edge varies from 13.77% (Lady Luck) to 36.52% (New York, New York). Below are some casinos, their payoff table, and their house edge, in order from best to worst.

Let it Ride Side Bet Pay Tables

Hand Table 1 Table 2 Table 3 Table 4 Table 5 Table 6 Table 7 Table 8 Table 9
Royal flush 20000 20000 20000 20000 20000 10000 20000 20000 25000
Straight flush 2000 1000 2000 2000 1000 2000 2000 1000 2500
Four of a kind 100 100 100 400 400 100 300 300 400
Full house 75 75 75 200 200 75 150 150 200
Flush 50 50 50 50 50 50 50 50 50
Straight 25 25 25 25 25 25 25 25 25
Three of a kind 9 4 8 5 5 8 5 5 5
Two pair 6 3 4 0 0 4 0 0 0
Tens or better 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
House edge 13.77% 23.73% 25.39% 25.53% 26.92% 26.93% 35.14% 36.52% 24.07%

The following is a list of which casinos have which pay tables based on my small sampling. Unless otherwise stated all casinos are in Las Vegas:

  • Table 1: Lady Luck
  • Table 2: Las Vegas Club, Freemont, Californian,Plaza, Main Street Station, Ballys, Circus Circus,Hilton, Grand (Biloxi), Beau Rivage (Biloxi), Horseshoe(Tunica), Grand (Tunica)
  • Table 3: Golden Gate
  • Table 4: Bellagio, Excalibur, Mandalay Bay, Harrah's,Imperial Palace, Paris, Venetian
  • Table 5: MGM Grand, Golden Nugget
  • Table 6: Colorado Belle (Laughlin), Sky City (New Mexico)
  • Table 7: Four Queens, Flamingo Hilton
  • Table 8: New York New York
  • Table 9: Rivers casino in Pittsburgh, PA

The next table shows the probability and return for every hand under pay table 2 above. The return of 76.27% reflects a house edge of 100.00% - 76.27% = 23.73%.

5-Card Bonus

Hand Pays Combinations Probability Return
Royal flush 20,000 4 0.000002 0.030782
Straight flush 1,000 36 0.000014 0.013852
Four of a kind 100 624 0.000240 0.024010
Full house 75 3,744 0.001441 0.108043
Flush 50 5,108 0.001965 0.098270
Straight 25 10,200 0.003925 0.098116
Three of a kind 4 54,912 0.021128 0.084514
Two pair 3 123,552 0.047539 0.142617
Tens or better 1 422,400 0.162527 0.162527
Loser 0 1,978,380 0.761220 0.000000
Total 2,598,960 1.000000 0.762730
Total 2,598,960 1.000000 0.762730

3-Card Bonus Bet

Some casinos offer a side bet based on the value of the player's three cards, similar to the Pair plus bet in Three Card Poker. The main difference is in Let It Ride the bet has a separate win for a "Mini Royal", defined as a suited ace, king, and queen. The following table table shows the most common pay table for this bet.

3-Card Bonus

Hand Pays Combinations Probability Return
Mini Royal 50 4 0.000181 0.00905
Straight flush 40 44 0.001991 0.079638
Three of a kind 30 52 0.002353 0.070588
Straight 6 720 0.032579 0.195475
Flush 3 1096 0.049593 0.148778
Pair 1 3744 0.169412 0.169412
Nothing -1 16440 0.743891 -0.743891
House Edge 22100 1 -0.070950

The next pay table shows other possible variants of the Three Card Bonus bet.

3-Card Bonus

Hand Table 1 Table 2 Table 3 Table 4 Table 5
Mini Royal 50 50 200 100 50
Straight flush 40 40 40 50 40
Three of a kind 30 30 30 30 30
Straight 6 5 6 6 6
Flush 3 4 3 3 4
Pair 1 1 1 1 1
Nothing -1 -1 -1 -1 -1
House edge 7.10% 5.39% 4.38% 4.20% 2.14%

The only casino I am aware of that offers pay table 5 is the Borgata in Atlantic City (source).

Seeing Extra Cards

Although players are not supposed to share information, you can often accidentally see other player cards, or this rule is ignored and players voluntarily show each other their cards. Seeing other cards can make the difference in borderline plays, namely the zero house edge straights listed under the 4-card strategy above. In his book Mastering the Game of Let It Ride, author Stanley Ko offers a strategy for these situations. He doesn't state how much it lowers the house edge, but James Grosjean does in his book Beyond Counting (Exhibit CAA). According to Grosjean, if you can see every player card in a 7-player game, and made perfect use of the information, it would lower the house advantage from 3.51% to 2.34% only.

  • Appendix 1: Details on how the strategy and expected return were determined.
  • Appendix 2: Details on the Isle of Capri (Black Hawk, Colorado) rules.
  • Appendix 3: Analysis of 16 different Let it Ride pay tables.

German translation of this page.

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