How to Pick a Game?

            I don't get jealous of a lot of things or people.  I think I'm quite fortunate in my personal and business life.  If there is one thing that gets me a bit 'green', it's when I come across a gambling related article that gets front page exposure on Yahoo that doesn't really say anything special.  Now, this doesn't mean the article is useless.  I'm just wondering how come that article gets on Yahoo and my articles don't?


            This past week there was a column about table games and why you should play Three Card Poker over Let It Ride and Caribbean Stud Poker.  I don't know if there is anything that I could really write that would make a case for one of these games over the other.  This author cited two major reasons.  The first is that Three Card Poker is fun while the others aren't.  The second was about the payback of the games.


            On the first topic, I really don't know what to say.  The definition of 'fun' is highly subjective.  So, what is fun to you may not be fun to me and vice versa.  The irony is that these three games are not so vastly different.  Two of the games (Caribbean Stud and Three Card Poker) are against the Dealer.  The betting structures are fairly similar.  You make an initial wager, you review your hand, you make another wager (2x for Caribbean Stud).  The Dealer looks at his cards.  He qualifies or not.  He pays the Player.  The average wager for Three Card Poker is about 1.67 times the Ante and for Caribbean Stud Poker it is 2.07.   I've played both and I just can't say that one is vastly superior to the other.  No doubt that Three Card Poker has been more popular than Caribbean, but that doesn't by definition make it more fun.


            I personally, like Three Card Poker because I don't like the part of Caribbean Stud where your 2x wager is pushed when the Dealer doesn't qualify.  The fold rate is also a bit higher at just under 50% instead of the 33% rate for Three Card.  So, if I HAD to vote, I'd go with Three Card Poker, but it wouldn't be to the point where I'd tell you to avoid the other.


            Now, Let It Ride is a paytable game.  Some might consider this to be less fun.  But, you're still playing poker.  You're just sort of playing a sidebet the entire time.  The advantage of that is that a big hand means a big win for your base wager.  In the other two games, you have to make an additional sidebet wager to get paid big money.  In Caribbean Stud, you can get a big hand and a big payout IF the Dealer qualifies (and doesn't beat you). 


            There are clear differences between these games.  But when you compare them to some other games out there (Ultimate Texas Hold'em or Mississippi Stud), they have more in common with each other than these games.  If you felt that Three Card Poker should be played over UTH for some reason, I might get it.  But as far as I'm concerned, on the 'fun' scale, the three games are close enough that I couldn't question someone's sanity based on which game he chooses to play.


            So, that brings us to the payback side of things.  For those who have read my column, you know that part of Expert Strategy is to pick the right games and that means the one with the highest payback.  But if we go strictly by that here, you'd be playing blackjack (at least amongst table games).  How far apart are the paybacks of these three games?


            Three Card Poker has a payback of 97.98% (of total ante/play wager).  Let It Ride has a payback of 97.18% (of total wager).  Caribbean Stud has a payback of about 97.3% (of total wager).   As you can see, the paybacks are not vastly different.  But, unlike video poker machines, we need to take into account the average wager size here.  Not all $5 tables are created equal.  These games are not nearly as disparate as others, but they are not identical. 


            Three Card Poker has an average wager of about 1.67.  Caribbean Stud has an average wager of 2.07 and Let It Ride comes in at 1.23.  We can use these values to calculate an average loss rate for a $5 table per hour.  Assuming 30 hands per hour, we find that while playing Three Card Poker we can expect to lose $5.06 per hour.  Caribbean Stud will cost us $8.38 per hour and Let It Ride will leave us $5.20 short.  So, playing Caribbean Stud will clearly cost us the most per hour.  Is $3.32 per hour a reason to not play a game if you find it fun to play?  That is a decision you have to make for yourself.  I consider gambling a form of entertainment.  Would you go see a movie you don't really want to see because it is playing at the theater for $5 as opposed to seeing the one you really want to see that costs $8?


            When you compare Let It Ride to Three Card Poker, the difference is about a quarter.  I can't discount the value of having fun while you're playing so all I can say is that you have to decide if 25 cents is worth it to play a game that provides you with more fun - IF you find LIR to be more fun that TCP.


            In the end, the MOST important thing is that whichever game you choose, use the right strategy.  The good news is that I've got a booklet for each of these games that will explain all the strategy, what to expect and why.  For a limited time, you can get the 3-book set for just $12 (they list for just under $17), with postage and handling included.  Send a check for $12 to Gambatria, P.O. Box 36474, Las Vegas, NV 89133.