Ultimate Texas Video Interview

Mike: Hi, I’m Mike Shackleford with the Wizards of Odds website and we’re here to talk about Ultimate Texas Hold’em. I’m joined by my student, Angela Wyman. Say hi, Angela.

Angela: Hi.


Mike: And Lamone who is a dealer here in Las Vegas and you are going to learn how to play Ultimate Texas Hold’em properly. Ultimate Texas Hold’em is one of the most successful new poker variants in the casino. It’s a very challenging game, it’s an exciting game because it involves some big raises sometimes and is one of my own personal favorite casino games and if you play it right, the odds are actually pretty good.

Question 1 - [00:00:19]

The house advantage is lower than in Blackjack if you measure house advantage as the ratio of what you can expect to lose to everything that you bet. So do you ever play Ultimate Texas Hold’em, Angela?

Angela: No, I don’t. This will be my first time.

Mike: Okay. Well, I’m excited to teach you.

Angela: I’m excited to learn, so give me the down and dirty.

Mike: Okay. Much like regular Texas Hold’em, the player is going to get two hole cards, the dealer gets two hole cards and there’s going to be five community cards. Both player and dealer are going to make the best five card poker hand out of the five community cards and his or her own two hole cards, best hand wins.

There’s three different bets involved and I’m going to explain all the rules to how to play it. So listen carefully. Okay, can I have some chips please, Lemon? Okay, let’s give some to Angela.

Angela: I like this game already.

Mike: All right, you start by making two equal bets on the ante and the blind. A word of explanation: we’re playing this on a table for a different game called Heads-Up Hold’em. The reason for that is the kind folks at Galaxy Gaming let us use their gaming studio for these videos, but they don’t have an Ultimate Texas Hold’em table because they don’t own that game, but they do own a very similar game called Heads-Up Hold’em which I’ll talk a little bit about at the end. But the game can be played just fine on this table.

So Angela and I have both made our bets on the ante and the blind. Now, Lamone is going to give us each two hole cards, herself two hole cards and five community cards face-down.

Question 2 -[00:02:43]

Angela: Can we look at our hole cards?

Mike: Yes, we may. In fact, let’s just turn them over.

Angela: All right.

Mike: Okay. At this point we can either make a raise equal to four times our ante bet or check. We both have lousy hands, so the odds favor checking. So if you want to check, yes, you go like that. Now, the dealer is going to flip over the flop, three of the community cards. At this point, you have the option to make a raise bet equal to two times your ante bet or check. So let’s see what you’ve got. You’ve got jack high. You’ve got nothing good, so you want to check and I’ve got squat too, or no- wait, I have a hidden pocket pair and I’m going to explain the strategy later, but I have a hidden pair here, so I’m going to make the raise bet equal to $200 or two times my ante bet. And I’m done. You can only raise one time in this game.

Okay and now the dealer’s going to turn over the river and the turn and so, Angela, you’re not looking too good there. I’m going to explain the strategy later, but you’ve just got garbage, so you want to fold.

Angela: All right.

Question 3 - [00:04:05]

Mike: Okay, and then the dealer will take your chips. I already made my raise bet so I have no decision to make. Now, Lamone is going to turn over the community cards and then score the game. Okay, I lost. Because Lamone’s flush beat my pair. So let’s try another hand, shall we?

Angela: Yes, please.

Mike: Again, two equal bets on the ante and the blind.

Angela: Thank you. All right, something better this time.

Mike: Okay. Angela, you want to check and I want to raise. As I’ll explain later, if I’ve got an unsuited queen high hand, I’m going to raise with queen, eight or higher. Queen nine is higher than queen eight so- and most players wouldn’t do this, but the odds favor making the big raise in this situation. Okay, the dealer turns over the flop. Angela, you’ve got squat again so you want to check. Okay, turning the river.

Angela: I’ll explain the strategy later, but take it on faith for now, you want to fold.

Angela: All right, I trust you.

Mike: Okay, I’ve got the big raise down. It’s me against Lemon, let’s—And I’ve got a three of a kind here so I’m looking pretty good. Yes. So I win. My raise pays even money. The dealer qualifies, so my ante pay’s even money and the blind bet pushes.

Okay, so here’s what happened with this hand. The dealer qualified with a pair or better and I beat her, so my ante pays even money. Because I beat the dealer, my raise bet also pays even money and my blind bet is a push. Now, here are the rules to the blind bet. For the blind bet to win, again, I must beat the dealer and it usually is just a push. If I have a three of a kind or less, then the blind bet pushes. If I have a straight, the blind bet pays even money. A flush pays three to two. A full house pays three to one. A four of a kind pays 10 to one. A straight flush plays 50 to one and a royal flush pays 500 to one.

All right, now let’s talk some more about strategy. Okay? So there’s three decision points in this game: the big raise before the flop, the medium raise right after the flop and then the small raise after the river. Now, the strategy is a little bit complicated, so hold on to your hats. Optimal strategy is really, really complicated which I’m not going to get into. I’m going to present to you a simplified strategy to this game that I created myself that’s almost as good as the optimal strategy.

Now, I am going to present to you the optimal strategy for the first decision point on the big raise because there’s only 169 possible combinations.

Angela: Only 169.

Mike: To people like me that’s not that many.

Angela: That’s true.

Mike: Okay, so if you have a pair, you’re going to make the big raise if the pair is threes or greater. If you have an ace high, you make the big raise no matter what the other card is. If you have an unsuited king high, you’re going to make the big raise if you’ve got king, five higher or better. If you have a suited king high, then you’re going to make the big raise no matter what. If you’ve got a queen high, you’re going to make the big raise if you’ve got an unsuited queen eight or higher. If you have a suited queen high, you’re going to make the big raise if you’ve got a suited queen six or better. If you’ve got a jack high, you’re going to make the big raise if you’ve got an unsuited jack 10 or a suited jack eight or better. That’s all there is to it.

Angela: All right.

Mike: Did you get that, Angela?

Angela: I probably need a cheat sheet, but let’s play a few hands and maybe you’ll help me out.

Mike: Well, fortunately, everything I say is all on my website, wizzardofodds.com. I don’t expect everyone to memorize that. Next, let’s talk about when to make the medium raise, okay?

Angela: All right.

Question 4 - [00:09:23]

Mike: There’s three situations where you should, according to my simple strategy. Number one, if between those five cards, there’s a two pair or better. Number two, you have a hidden pair. That means that the pair is composed of one card in your hole cards and one card in the flop. Do not make the medium raise if you have pocket deuces. Finally, number three, make the medium raise if you have four to a flush, including a 10 or higher to that four to a flush in your hole cards. Got it?

Just three things you need to remember.

Angela: I can remember those three.

Mike: Okay and if you forget, again, it’s all on my website. Finally, let’s talk about the small raise. There are just two situations where you should make that small raise. Number one is if again, you have a hidden pair. Number two, we’re going to go by what I call my 21 outs rule. In baseball you get three outs, in Ultimate Texas Hold’em you get 21 outs and 21 is an easy number to remember when it comes to gambling. Now, let me explain how to count your outs in Ultimate Texas Hold’em.

Okay, here is a common situation that illustrates the 21 outs rule. Angela, you haven’t raised yet. Your choice is either to fold or make the small raise. What we’re going to do is we’re going to count the number of dealer cards that are going to beat you. There are three kings left that will pair up the dealer, that will beat you, three nines, three eights, three fives and three fours. Three times five is 15. There’s already 15 outs that will beat you. Also, if the dealer has an ace in the hole, that’s going to beat you as well. There are four aces left in the deck, so there are a total of 19 outs that are going to beat you.

My 21 outs rule says that if 21or more outs beat you, then you fold. In this case, you’ve only got 19 outs, you haven’t struck out yet, therefore make that raise bet and at this time, you can only make it for one time the ante. Okay? Let’s see what happens.

Looks like the dealer doesn’t qualify, so go ahead and adjudicate that. Very good, so again, the ante bet pushed because the dealer did not have at least a pair and the raise bet paid even money and the blind bet pushed because Angela did not have at least a straight.

Angela: Okay.

Mike: Now, another thing I should say is before I said, I called this my 21 outs rule, I have to give proper credit to James Grosjean who created an even more powerful strategy than what I’m trying to explain which I highly recommend and his strategy covers this 21 outs rule as well.

So as far as I know, he was the first one to think about it, so give credit where credit is due. Again, all these strategies are on my website. Let’s talk a little bit about the odds of the game. Under optimal strategy which probably nobody on earth knows, the house advantage is 2.19%. Now, what do I mean by the house advantage you might ask. The house advantage is the ratio of how much you can expect to lose to just the ante bet. For example, you were making an ante bet of 100 and a blind bet of 100. That means that following optimal strategy you can expect to lose $2 and 19 cents a hand. Which is not bad considering you’re betting- actually betting $200 at least, not to mention the raise that you might be making.

Now, for comparing one game to another, I like to use a statistic called ‘The Element of Risk’, that is the ratio of how much you can expect to lose to all the money you bet, including the blind and the raise bet. There, that ratio is under optimal strategy 0.53%.

Question 5 - [00:14:11]

Angela: So what would the odds be under the simplified strategy that you were just showing me instead of this complicated one that you say nobody knows?

Mike: I’m glad you asked. As with any gambling strategy, if it’s not a perfect strategy, it’s going to increase the house advantage by a little bit. In this case it doesn’t by very much for such a simple strategy. The house edge under the simple strategy I just said is 2.43% and the element of risk is 0.64%, so compared to other games that is a very good value. 0.64%, that’s less than 1% of all the money you can expect to bet is going to go to the dealer over the long run. That’s a lower element of risk than many common games like Baccarat and Blackjack, under typical Blackjack rules.

Question 6 - [00:15:11]

Angela: I’m wondering, are there any side bets associated with this game?

Mike: Yes, of course. All new games have at least one side bet and Ultimate Texas Hold’em is no exception. The one side bet you always see is called the trips bet. This bet pays according to the poker value of your final hand, no matter what the dealer has. It only considers your own cards. The usual pay table for that bet goes 50 for a royal flush, 40 for a straight flush, 30 for a four of a kind, eight for a full house, seven for a flush, four for a straight and three for a three of a kind.

The house advantage under that pay table is 3.5%; while for a side bet that’s not so bad, I recommend avoiding side bets in every game. Side bets to put it in a nutshell are sucker bets. Now there are other side bets in this game as well. Lots of times you see a $1 progressive side bet on the player’s final hand that has an even higher house advantage. It’s going to depend on exactly how much is in the progressive meter, but on average, that house advantage is probably going to be about 25%.

If you see any other bet that I haven’t discussed in this video, ignore it, it’s a sucker bet. Okay?

Angela: All right, they should just call them sucker bets then instead of side bets.

Mike: They should. That would be more truthful.

Question 7 - [00:16:40]

Angela: I think I really like this game, but here’s a question. So after I get your simplified strategy perfect, what do I do to take my play to the next level? How do I learn the true optimal strategy?

Mike: Well, I admire your determination. Yes, there are a couple of strategies that I recommend that are even more powerful than what I just said, but of course, they’re a little more complicated. One of them is by James Grosjean. It’s available on this strategy card here. You can purchase this at the website lasvegasadvisor.com. Another strategy that’s free that you can get on the great gambling website discountgambling.net is what I call the nut kicker strategy. This strategy is kind of hard to understand. It uses a lot of poker terminology, but it’s a very strong strategy that comes very close to optimal.

All right, let’s summarize Ultimate Texas Hold’em. This game is a lot of fun, it’s an exciting game. The strategy is quite interesting and the element of risk is quite low especially for a new casino game. Also, if you’ve never played it before, don’t be afraid to try it for the first time. With new casino games like this one, a good dealer should be happy to explain the rules to you, be patient with you, and walk you through it. Right, Lamone?

Lamone: Yes.

Mike: Okay, finally let me say a word about a similar game called Heads-Up Hold’em which is actually this table that we’re playing on right now. This game is the same as Ultimate Texas Hold’em except with the big raise you can only go up to three times your ante bet, not four, but they have some bonuses if you get a high hand and the dealer beats you anyway, called a bad beat. This game is really popular in Washington State right now and I think it’s going to be coming to Las Vegas soon.