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 game is played as follows:
- Before starting, the player must make an Ante bet and an equal, mandatory Bonus bet.
- The players and the dealer each receive 2 hole cards.
- 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.)
- The flop (3 community cards) are dealt.
- The player decided to either bet his hand (1x Raise bet), or to check.
- The turn and river community cards are dealt.
- The dealer and player determine their best 5 card Hold’Em hands.
- The player’s 1x Ante, 1x Play, and 1x Raise bets receive even-money action against the dealer hand (no qualifiers).
- The player receives a Bonus for Trips or better, depending on the Bonus bet paytable.
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%.
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.