Discount Gambling

A Week Of Ultimate Texas Hold’em

Posted in ultimate texas hold'em by stephenhow on October 12, 2009

I finished my first week of playing Shuffle Master’s Ultimate Texas Hold’em in 4 of the casinos in Temecula Valley, and thought I’d post my take on the game. Of course, I was playing as I always do: grinding out minimum bets ($5 Ante and $5 Blind) and near-optimal EV decisions. I played every day, drove a lot, stayed up late, and probably logged around 40 hours of playing time. Usually when I play some game like this, I end up losing some amount near the house expected house edge. But UTH played so well, I just kept accumulating winning sessions, and I ended up net +$2000 for the week.

I’ve never had as much success with a game as I have with Ultimate Texas Hold’em. I notice the game plays very well, since you bet when you’re ahead (either with a good starting hand, or with a made hand), and you check otherwise. But I was really surprised that I won like this. Some of it’s due to session management. I’d end a session when I was up a few hundred. I might drive down the road to another casino and start another session, but I’d make a point to log a session win.

I saw that no one else played correctly, and they preferred to bet the bonus Trips bet instead of raising 4x preflop with good hands. They all thought I was crazy playing basic strategy. Of course they lost, not because of their Trips bets (only a 1.9% house edge), but because they wouldn’t bet their hands (Play bet). They refuse to raise 4x preflop without some monster like QQ or AKs. When you show them a basic strategy card (raise K5s, JTo, Q6s, 33, etc.), they just think you’re crazier. They don’t want a copy of the card, they just want your seat when you leave a winner.

I’d sit for hours and play. On the weekend sessions, I’d play all day, and find a time to leave when I was up. I never got stuck worse than $200 in a session, and that was rare.

While I just grinded away, I played two sessions with my friend G, a high-limit blackjack player (average $100-$200 bets). In UTH, he played $25 Ante bets, and grinded out one session for an $800 win. In the other session, he grinded for a few hours at this level, but at the end pressed his bets to $50 Antes. He hit a good streak of winning a few 4x ($200 Play bet) hands, then cashed out $1450 ahead.

So, my take on the game is that its good for the grinder, using session management. The game plays well, with a lot lower variance than blackjack, because you bet more when you have a good hand. It’s also good for hit and run play, for the same reason. And with an overall element-of-risk of about 0.5%, it’s a better game than blackjack, even though the house considers it a carnival game.

UTH is my new favorite game. I’ve never had success with a table game like this. Unfortunately, I have to drive about 50 minutes to reach the game, so I probably will stop playing it during the week. It’s not like the game is +EV or anything, I just got lucky, and cashed out winners. But if I do go, I’ll choose to play at Casino Pauma, essentially a tiny local’s casino, because the hand rate is much, much faster there, as you’re typically heads-up with the dealer. The worst thing about UTH at a busy casino is the game is slowed down tremendously by people entering and leaving the game, buying in and coloring out, and by inexperienced dealers and players. It can get painfully slow at a table full of these delays. Otherwise, I highly recommend you learn basic strategy, and try the game out.

8 Responses

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  1. Ted said, on October 21, 2009 at 11:54 am

    That’s great. Congratulations on getting against so much, so fast. However, I would warn you not to be surprised if you experience a long losing streak. I respectfully disagree with you that the game is not volatile. If you lose a lot of big (4x) bets, you can be down a lot, very quickly. I have played the game on and off for a year or so and have yet to log any winning sessions. (I’ve just had one small since using your strategy).

  2. stephenhow said, on October 21, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    Yes, I expect to “regress to the mean”, and eventually lose it all back. I’m a lifetime winner so far, and hope it lasts for another month 🙂 I’ve definitely encountered some big swings sessions since my first lucky week. Yes, winning/losing 4x bets makes all the difference.

    I hope you log some good wins soon. If you stick to basic strategy and minimum bets, you should enjoy your fair share of variance too.

  3. Ted said, on October 21, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    Do you ever bet the trips?

  4. stephenhow said, on October 21, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Usually, I make a minimum Trips bet a few times per dealer “push”. I use it to piggyback a $1-2 Toke bet for the dealer. I’m warming up to the bet though. I think it’s a good place to press your action, since you increase your upside at a small risk and vig. I think an occasional oversize Trips bet is a good idea, and can make your night if you hit it.

  5. Steve Robinson said, on November 23, 2009 at 9:44 pm

    Assuming the game offered in Vegas has the same pay table, I have to think playing your optimal strategy at a full table would be an excellent way to play the Comp City game!

    In my mind, a slow game is a HUGE plus, especially if the house overestimates its expectation to be in the 3 to 5 percent range, AND it thinks the hands played per hour is also higher than actual play.

    If proper play means the actual house edge is only 0.5%, this could be a real winner!

    I’d be interested to hear yours and other Comp City advocates’ thoughts on this concept!

  6. Steve Robinson said, on November 23, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    A follow-up to my post on comps. Here are some calcs using some guesses as to how one might be rated versus actual play:

    House’s Est PC 4.0%
    Hands / Hour 80
    Average Bet 100
    House’s Est Action 8,000
    House’s Exp Win 320
    Comp Value (40%) 128

    Actual PC 0.5%
    Hands / Hour 30
    Average Bet 40
    Actual Action 1,200
    Expected Loss 60
    Comps Earned 128
    Difference / Hour 68

    Comps (8 hours) 1,024
    Cost of Comps 544

  7. stephenhow said, on November 24, 2009 at 9:10 am

    Yes, the casino rates $5 Ante play as $35/hand, which is pretty generous. They probably come up with this figure assuming most people play the Trips bet (which I generally don’t). And most people play very, very wrong, and give up huge 20%+ edges to the house. But they’re overrating my action by a factor of 1.75. Of course, it depends on how much the casino comps for your play, but yesterday, I picked up $140 in free-play chips from casinopauma.com.

  8. richardbridger said, on January 7, 2015 at 6:47 pm

    Have you come accross Fast Action Hold’em?


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