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Ask the Wizard #212
Matthew from Fort Wayne, IN
I hope you're happy; I watched this scene over and over for at least an hour, trying to make sense of the rules. I’ve played guts lots of times, over many years and locations, and have never seen it played as was done in that movie. Let’s call the first player to act Player 1, and the second player to act (the dealer) Player 2. Here is my understanding of how they played.
- Both players ante (or re-ante).
- Each player gets two cards.
- Player 1 must declare “in” or “check.” If he checks, go to rule 4. If he goes in, go to rule 7.
- Player 2 must declare in or check. If he checks, go to rule 5. If he goes in, go to rule 6.
- Although two checks never happened in the movie, I assume both players would start over from step 1.
- The action goes back to player 1, who must declare in or fold. If he goes in go to rule 8. If he folds, go to rule 9.
- Player 2 must declare “in” or “fold.” If he goes in go to rule 8. If he folds, go to rule 9.
- The two hands are compared; and the higher hand wins. The winner collects the pot, and the loser must match it, creating a new pot. This is equivalent to the loser just paying the winner the amount of the pot. Although there was never a tie in the movie, I assume no money would move. Next, go to rule 10.
- When a player folds, the other player collects the pot. Then repeat with a new hand from step 1.
- An additional card is given to each player, to add to his existing 2-card hand, making a 3-card hand. The third card is dealt face down, on top of the face-up two card hand. I do not know whether straights or flushes counted at the 3-card stage. I prefer to play where they do count (but not at the 2-card stage).
- Steps 3 to 9 repeat. If both playes go "in," then go to rule 12.
- An additional two cards are given to each player, to add to his existing 3-card hand, making a 5-card hand. The fourth and fifth cards are dealt face down, on top of the face-up three card hand.
- Steps 3 to 9 repeat. Then start over at step 1.
If you watch the movie carefully, Huck should have lost $11,000 in total, when he had $10,000 to begin with. I watched the scene lots of times to try to find this missing $1,000. My best guess is that when he went in on the last two-card hand, he should have matched the $4,000 pot, but had only $3,000 left. I assume that, much as in regular poker, he could only stand to win what he was risking. In the last hand, Huck folded. I’m not sure if this was because his three-card hand couldn’t beat his father’s two-card hand on the table, or if he was forced to fold, because he didn't have the money to match the pot if he lost.
If my understanding of the rules or analysis of the scene is in error, I welcome correction.
Ron from St. Louis
Let’s find the breakeven point. The expected value of placing the 6 or 8 is [(5/11)*7 + (6/11)*-6]/6 = -(1/11)/6 = -1.52%.
Let b be the buy bet. The expected value is [(1/3)*(2b-1) + (2/3)*-b] / b = (-1/3)/b
Equating the two bets:
-1/66 = (-1/3)/b
3b = 66
b = 22
So, at a bet of $22 the odds are the same. The odds are better on the buy bet for bets of $23 to $39.
Ed Miller from Banning CA
Thanks. There are 50 cards left in the deck, and 42 of them are not aces or kings. The probability of not seeing any aces or kings in five community cards is combin(42,5)/combin(50,5) = 850,668/2,118,760=40.15%. So, the probability of seeing at least one ace or king is 100% - 40.15% = 59.85%.
Jared from Minneapolis
Yes! That side bet is extremely vulnerable to card counters. As long as the minimum is not too low, you should be using another strategy to exploit it, one that treats aces as a low card. Arnold Synder presents such a strategy in The Big Book of Blackjack. Otherwise, if you are using a standard hi-lo count, Synder says to only make the Over bet in very high counts.
Charlie Masterson from Quincy, MA
According to my two-player Texas Hold ’Em probabilities, the following are the possible outcomes with suited K/2:
My table on Ultimate Texas Hold ’Em shows that the player has the advantage on the Play bet, but a disadvantage on the Ante and Blind bets. In this case, the player is stuck with bad odds on the Ante and Blind. However, his odds are favorable on the Play. So, by making the maximum raise he is getting the most value out of his better than 50% chance of winning. The bad odds on the other two bets bring the overall value under 50%. That value would be even less with a smaller raise.
Pete Braff from Long Beach
The house edge under that pay table is a comparatively low 1.85%. Kudos to the Borgata, assuming your information is correct.
Based on viewer feedback, the Borgata lowered the win on a three of a kind to 30 to 1 sometime during 2008.
Rick from New Orleans
For the benefit of other readers, in Let it Ride the player starts with three bets, and may pull back two of them if his cards don’t look good. If the minimum were $10, he would start with $30 in bets. If the player has a possible royal flush, proper strategy says to always stay in the game. A royal flush pays 1000 to 1. With a royal flush, the player would win 1000 to 1 on three bets of $10, or a total of $30,000 on bets of $10. However, the maximum aggregate payout is $25,000, so the 1000 to 1 is impossible to achieve, unless the player deviates from proper strategy, and doesn’t raise with hopes of royal.
I completely agree with your point. In my opinion it is false advertising to offer a win that is impossible to get under proper strategy. So, to Harrah’s I say “shame on you.” They can afford to pay a $25,000 jackpot.
Here in Nevada, an aggregate payout rule must be in plain view, and it cannot apply to wins less than 50 to 1 (Nevada Revised Statute 5.190). So, unless there is another statute I don’t know about, this would be legal here too. However, I am not aware of the same kind of impossible jackpot here. The maximum payout is also usually $25,000, but some of the classier casinos have higher maximum payouts. For example, the Wynn is at $75,000. The minimum bet here is usually $5, so as long as you stay at bets of $8 or less, the win for a royal will stay under $25,000. With a $1 side bet, the win would be exactly $25,000, so they would be allowed to deduct any wins of other players against you. My advice is to never bet so much that the aggregate payout rule might apply, on principle alone.