During the poker boom years (2003–2006), we’ve seen the number of poker players throughout the world double each year. This is mostly due to televised poker tournaments (mainly WSOP and WPT) and other TV shows such as High Stakes Poker, which created celebrities out of professional poker players. All these shows revolved around people playing No-Limit Texas Hold’em, a community card poker variant. You receive two hole cards and then the dealer places five community cards on the board in three takes. Then, you use those seven cards at your disposal to form a five-card hand. It’s a fairly simple game where skill, psychology, and mathematics all play a role.
Since then, seemingly everyone who ever gambled wanted to play Texas Hold’em. In poker rooms, Texas tables are always in the majority. But with such popularity, it was hard to accommodate every player. After all, Texas Hold’em is a game where players compete against each other and, as such, casinos can’t claim a house edge. Yes, they rake in a part of the pot each round, but that’s not substantial for them to ship out slot machines and replace them with poker tables. So how do you solve this situation? Well, cometh the hour, cometh the man!
Ultimate Texas Hold’em
A man by the name of Roger Snow came up with Ultimate Texas Hold’em. When it showed up, it was an electronic game, as you could play it only on a multi-player machine. Ultimate Texas is one of the newest variations of the tried and tested variant, and its rise in popularity was staggering. Soon, it swept the nation and casinos all across the United States had players popping up for a game of UTH.
Casinos soon decided to capitalize on the success of the game and turned it into a table game. Today, virtually every Las Vegas casino has an Ultimate Texas Hold’em table, and it’s quickly becoming a worldwide trend. Consequently, now you can compete against actual dealers. What do you mean “compete against dealers,” I hear you ask?
The biggest difference between Ultimate Texas Hold’em and its parent is that you don’t play against other players. Instead, you compare your hand with the dealer’s. As a result, UTH transformed regular Texas Hold’em into a game with a house edge — 2.18%, to be exact. Admittedly, that’s a lot higher compared to original Hold’em 0%, but it’s low when you pit it up against other table games. For instance, European and American Roulette have house edges of 2.70% and 5.26%, respectively, while slots’ house advantages can vary from 5% to 15%.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term, the house edge represents how much money the casino keeps over time. Consequently, with a house edge of 2.18%, statistically speaking, for every $100 wagered, you’ll lose 2.18, making it rather probable to break even.
Rules of the Game
As we’ve already established, in Ultimate Texas, you go head-to-head with the dealer and your game is not influenced by other players. In this aspect, the dynamics of the game are just like those in Blackjack or Baccarat. The dealer uses a standard 52-card deck which they reshuffle after each round. Then, you have two hole and five community cards like you would in regular Texas Hold’em! The same hand rankings apply, meaning that the lowest hand is High-card and the best you can get is a royal flush! There are four types of bets:
The first two are mandatory and you have to make those bets before the dealing starts. Trips are an optional bet which will give you a payout if you hit a hand of a certain strength (for instance, three of a kind and upwards). On trips bet, the house edge is higher, but the possible payouts are rewarding.
Finally, you have the play bet, which is the crux of this game. Once you’ve made a play bet, you’ve done with your betting for that round, as you can’t raise again during later stages. The point of the game is, as you’d expect, once all community cards are revealed, to have a stronger five-card hand than the dealer. There’s a rule which states that the dealer has to have at least a paired board (meaning that they can use community cards) to open. If they don’t open (i.e., qualify), you don’t compete for the ante, which ends up pushing. However, without at least a pair, you play for other bets on the table (blinds, play, and trips).
Once you’ve placed your blind and ante bets, you receive your hole cards. Then, you have two options — to play (i.e., make a play bet) or check. When you play, you can make a bet worth 3x or 4x your ante. The sooner you play, the better the payouts are. After that, there’s the flop, where the dealer takes out three community cards. Then, you can check again or make a 2x play bet. In Ultimate Texas Hold’em, there are fewer dealing streets, as, after the flop, the dealer places both of the remaining community cards. If you’re yet to make a bet (you’ve checked twice), you can either fold or make a 1x bet.
Concerning blinds, the stronger your hand is, the better the payouts are. Here’s a paytable for blind bets:
- Anything below a straight is a push (you get your bet back)
- Straight — 1:1
- Flush — 3:2
- Full House — 3:1
- Four of a Kind — 10:1
- Straight Flush — 50:1
- Royal Flush — 500:1
Additionally, some casinos also run a progressive jackpot, raking a small percentage during every round to fill the prize pool. For a royal flush, you get the full pot, while for a straight flush, you receive 10% of it. The rest scales accordingly.
Many seasoned players advise against making a trips bet, as it has a higher house edge and, according to them, it’s there to take your money away, similarly to an insurance bet in Blackjack. Nonetheless, here’s the paytable for Trips:
- Royal Flush — 50:1
- Straight Flush — 40:1
- Four of a Kind — 30:1
- Full House — 9:1
- Flush — 7:1
- Straight — 4:1
- Three of a kind — 3:1
Ultimate Texas Hold’em came to be as an answer to the question “How can I play Texas Hold’em on my own?” What started as an electronic game of poker developed into a staple table game in most casinos. The rules and progression of the game, for the most part, stayed true to the original Texas Hold’em game, so if you know how to play that one, it won’t take you long to master UTH. You just have to be aware of possible situations which may occur, and some of them rely on whether the dealer has a qualifying hand or not. To put it simply, here’s a table of possible outcomes, depending on whether who won.
As you can see with this table, it’s a simple game where you know at all times what can happen. But that doesn’t make it dull by any means! If you want to play Texas Hold’em but don’t have the crowd for it, or you find it better when you compete only against one opponent, the UTH is a game for you. Good luck!