Discount Gambling

Champion Poker @ Circus Circus, Las Vegas

Posted in champion poker by stephenhow on July 30, 2011

On a Vegas trip a few years ago, I saw a non-standard Hold’Em based carnival game at Circus Circus. My friend played a few hands and won, without knowing anything about the basic strategy. I called up and found it’s still there, and it’s called Champion Poker. It’s a simplified version of Texas Hold’Em Bonus, where you only make one real decision, whether to bet 1x on the flop, or check. The house edge is a little high, and it’ll cost you about 7.8% of the Ante to play (i.e., $0.39/hand for a $5 Ante bet). However, this includes a mandatory bonus bet (that pays odds), so the “element-of-risk” is arguably lower, at 7.8%/(avg 3.5 Antes bet) = 2.2%. The per hand cost is comparable to a $5 UTH game, when playing the 8-7-4-3 Trips bet (2.3% + 3.5% = 5.8%/hand).

The Rules

The game is played as follows:

  1. Before starting, the player must make an Ante bet and an equal, mandatory Bonus bet.
  2. The players and the dealer each receive 2 hole cards.
  3. The player looks at his hole cards, and decides to either 1x Play his hand, or to fold his Ante bet (the Bonus bet is never folded.)
  4. The flop (3 community cards) are dealt.
  5. The player decided to either bet his hand (1x Raise bet), or to check.
  6. The turn and river community cards are dealt.
  7. The dealer and player determine their best 5 card Hold’Em hands.
  8. The player’s 1x Ante, 1x Play, and 1x Raise bets receive even-money action against the dealer hand (no qualifiers).
  9. The player receives a Bonus for Trips or better, depending on the Bonus bet paytable.

Basic Strategy

The player always makes the 1x Play bet. He never folds his hand. Even 23o is worth -0.6 if played (vs. -1 if folded), so play anything.

The flop (1x Raise bet) is played exactly the same as for Texas Hold’Em Bonus. Read the flop strategy on the Texas Hold’Em Bonus page; it’s too long to reproduce here. The theoretical return for the even-money bets (Ante+Raise+Play) is +16.66%. My strategy yields about +16.3%, which isn’t too bad, considering the complexity of the types of possible hands.

As you’ve noticed, the even-money bets are +EV, which is why the Bonus bet is mandatory. Depending on the paytable, it’s return is about -24%. The following paytable is currently on the floor at Circus Circus, and returns -24.1%.

Champion Poker Bonus Paytable @ Circus Circus
Hand Return
Royal Flush 100-to-1
Straight Flush 25-to-1
Four-of-a-Kind 15-to-1
Full House 7-to-1
Flush 5-to-1
Straight 2-to-1
Three-of-a-Kind 3-to-1

So the net of the Bonus plus the even-money bets (Ante, Raise, Play) is -24.1% + 16.3 = 7.8% overall house edge.

The 1x Raise bet itself has a +EV of 33.3%, and any improvements due to collusion add directly to the bottom line, since there’s no qualifier on the dealer hand. I’ll look into the collusion gains in a later post.

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