Ultimate Texas Hold'em Complexity

            This past week, I received 2 e-mails regarding Ultimate Texas Hold'em.  That's a good sign that I have found my topic for the week.  The first e-mail was from a reader who saw my column from several weeks ago about the strategy for UTH for the 4x wager.  I have frequently written that Players are too timid when making that 4x wager.  I understand the reasons why.  If you are at a $10 table, you already have $30 on the table (ante, blind and Trips Bonus).  $40 more will make you a $70 Player and that might not be what you bargained for.  But, the strategy dictates that you should make this wager about 45% of the time, which means you can either be prepared for it, or prepared to earn nowhere near the 99+% payback that UTH can offer.


            The reader wanted to know if I could provide any information on the rest of the strategy.  I'm not sure if I've ever published the rest of the strategy for UTH (I may have).  I have longed promised a booklet on the complete strategy, but just haven't found the time to do it.  I do have the entire strategy as I did the original analysis for Shuffle Master (now Scientific Games) about 10 years ago.  Part of the reason that I may not have published it is because it is FAR more complex than the strategy for the 4x wager.  At the 4x decision point, the Player only has his two pocket cards.


            You'd think it might be easier with five cards now that the flop has been revealed, but it isn't mostly because they are community cards shared between the Player and Dealer.   After the Flop you might have a Pair of Kings, but it is of no value because both of the Kings are on the board and you're holding a 2 and a 3!  Or you might have a Pair of 7's, with one on the Flop and one in your hand.  The other 2 Flop cards might be a 3 and a 4 and your other pocket card is an Ace!  You simply can't define your hand by only its rank.  You need to define it relative to what the board is showing.


            The strategy is so complex that I can't even fully give it here in my column due to space considerations.  I'll do my best to give you some flavor of what the strategy looks like.  First of all, if you have a Two Pair or better after the flop you bet 2x - UNLESS you have a Three of a Kind made up of only the Flop.  That was the easy part.  Now, you may have a Pair or a 4-Card Straight or a 4-Card Flush.  What you can take from this is that if you don't have at least one of these hands, you are checking.  Not even an A-K with a mess of a Flop is worthy of a 2x wager.


            The Player bets 4x with most pocket pairs, so the possibility now is a Pair with ONE of the flop cards.  This Pair might be with the highest Flop Card, the middle Flop Card or the lowest.  Obviously, the hand is more likely going to win if it pairs up with the highest card.  If you Pair with the highest Flop Card, you're generally betting 2x.  The one exception is if the Flop is a 3-Card Straight Flush in which your hand doesn't make a 4-Card Straight or 4-Card Flush.


            You'll bet 2x most of the time when you pair up with the middle Flop Card.  The exception here is a bit more complex, but it still requires the Flop to be a 3-Card Straight Flush or 3-Card Inside Straight Flush.  The Player will still bet 2x if he also makes a 4-Card Straight Flush or a 4-Card Flush. He'll also bet 2x if he makes a 4-Card Straight IF the non-Pair card is Higher than the one that paired.


            If you pair up with the lowest card, you'll still bet 2x most of the time, but there are more exceptions.  If the Flop is any kind of 3-Card Straight, 3-Card Flush or 3-Card Straight Flush that the Player does not turn into a 4-Card Straight, 4-Card Flush or 4-Card Straight Flush, then you don't make the 2x Wager.  Most of the time, the Flop will not be these, so you won't have to worry much about this.


            The strategy for 4-Card Straights and Flushes don't get any easier.  As I said earlier, all 3-card varieties are checks.  Keep in mind that your Play wager is always an even money wager.  You're not deciding to Fold, only to Check.  So, even a 3-Card Royal has limited value.  If you pull off the Royal on the Turn and River, you'll still make your 1x and collect your big payday on the Blind (or the Trips Bonus).  Since we are talking about a 4-Card hand, it means that at least one of your cards is in the mix.  If BOTH of your cards are involved, you almost assuredly making the wager UNLESS your cards are the lowest ranking out there.  If you have a 4-Card Flush, but you're holding onto two suited cards that are the lowest of the four, it is not nearly as good as having at least one of the HIGHEST cards.  In a future column, I'll try to review this part of the strategy in higher detail. 


            The last point I want to make for today is regarding my second e-mail.  It was from someone who has been playing UTH for free on the Scientific Games website.  He was tracking how he was doing after 100 hands and found that he was winning about 20% of the time after this many hands, which is about 3 hours of play.  A game that pays 99+% will provide the Player will a higher win frequency than that.   As I received this e-mail only today, I didn't have a chance to follow up to find out if this included the Trips Bonus and what type of strategy he was using.  But, this only confirms my strong belief that Players are playing too timidly and this is with fake money!