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What is Ultimate Texas Hold’em? Rules & Basic Strategy

Ultimate Texas Hold’em is a casino card game that borrows elements from traditional Texas Hold’em.

One key difference – Ultimate Texas Hold’em pits the player against the house in a game where the house has a mathematical edge. The Texas Hold’em games played in a poker room, by contrast, pit players against other players.

While Ultimate Texas Hold’em resembles traditional poker is some ways, keep in mind that it’s a game where the house has an advantage, and belongs in the same category as casino games like blackjack, roulette, craps, Let It Ride, and other games you’ll find in the casino pit.

The player can trim down the house edge by applying a sound basic strategy.

Let’s dive into the rules and some basic strategy for Ultimate Texas Hold’em:

Ultimate Texas Hold’em Rules

When you sit down at an Ultimate Texas Hold’em table, you’ll see a layout that looks something like this (image courtesy of Table Games Online):

What is Ultimate Texas Hold'em? Rules & Basic Strategy

Each hand begins with the player posting bets in the Ante and the Blind spots on the table. The minimum and maximum allowed for these best can vary depending on where you play.

The Ante and the Blind must always be equal to each other. So for example, if you want to post a $100 Ante bet, you must also post a $100 blind bet.

After posting the Ante and Blind, the player and the dealer each get two face-down hole cards. Ultimate Texas Hold’em uses a standard 52-card deck.

Once your hole cards are dealt, you get the option to do one of these three things:

  • Place a Play bet that’s 3x the amount of the Ante
  • Place a Play bet that’s 4x the amount of the Ante
  • Check, placing nothing in the Play spot

If you place the 3x or 4x Play bet before the flop, the dealer puts out five community cards, and there’s no further betting. If you can make a better five-card poker hand than the dealer, you win.

If you check after looking at your hole cards, the dealer put out just three cards (aka the flop). After seeing the flop, you can place a Play bet that’s 2x the amount of the Ante. The dealer then puts put the final two cards (the turn and river), and both the player and the dealer turn their hole cards face up.

You win if you have a better five-card hand than the dealer according to standard poker hand rankings.

If you check preflop and also check after the flop, the dealer puts out the turn and river. At that point you must either place a Play bet that’s 1x the amount of the Ante, or fold, surrendering your Blind and your Ante.

Scoring Rules and Payouts

If your best possible five-card hand beats the dealer’s hand, you win. The only scenario where this showdown between your hand and the dealer’s doesn’t come into play is if you check preflop, check on the flop, and fold after the turn and river.

The amount you win or lose in a hand depends on a variety of factors.

One facet of the Ultimate Texas Hold’em payout rules is the dealer’s hand. The dealer must make a pair or better as their final hand in order to “open” or “qualify” for the hand.

The general payout rules go as follows:

Ultimate Texas Hold’em Pay Table

What is Ultimate Texas Hold'em? Rules & Basic Strategy

Any time the dealer doesn’t qualify, the ante is a push, whether the dealer or the player ends up with the best hand.

When the dealer does qualify, you win 1-to-1 on the Ante and Play bets if you have the best hand. You win the Blind bet as well, and payouts for that bet go according to the Blind Payout table, which we’ll look at later in this article.

If the dealer qualifies and ends up with a better hand than you, you lose the Ante, Play, and Blind bets.

If you and the dealer end up with the same hand, all bets push, whether the dealer qualifies or not.

The Ante and Play bets always pay 1-to-1 if you win. The Blind bet pays out using a different pay table, and only pays if you end up with the winning hand vs. the dealer’s hand (regardless of whether the dealer qualifies or not).

The Blind payout table can vary depending on the casino, but generally looks something like this:

  • Royal Flush: 500-to-1
  • Straight Flush: 50-to-1
  • Four of a Kind: 10-to-1
  • Full House: 3-to-1
  • Flush: 3-to-2
  • Straight: 1-to-1

The Trips Bet

We’ve discussed the Ante, the Blind, and the Play bet, all of which come into play in every hand of Ultimate Texas Hold’em. There’s one more possible bet you can make, however, known as the Trips bet.

The Trips bet is a side bet you can make before each hand begins. Much like the Blind payout table, the Trips bet uses a payout table that awards payouts based on the absolute rank of your hand according to standard poker hand rankings.

The Trips bet pays out less for a Royal Flush or Straight Flush compared to the Blind payout table, but pays more for the other made hands on the table.

A typical Trips pay table could look like this:

  • Royal Flush: 50-to-1
  • Straight Flush: 40-to-1
  • Four of a Kind: 30-to-1
  • Full House: 9-to-1
  • Flush: 7-to-1
  • Straight: 4-to-1
  • Three of a kind: 3-to-1

The Trips bet pays out whether your hand beats the dealer or not.

Basic Ultimate Texas Hold’em Strategy

If you play Ultimate Texas Hold’em, you can reduce the house edge significantly if you employ an optimal strategy. Your gameplay can go many different ways in a hand, based on your starting hand and preflop strategy, your decisions on each street, the board cards, and whether you make the Trips side bet or not.

According to Wizardofodds.com, the player can reduce the house edge to 2.43% by playing an optimal Ultimate Texas Hold’em strategy. The right strategy, along with a proper bankroll, can help you enjoy this poker game while going against one of the lowest house advantages you’ll find at any casino poker game in Las Vegas or an online casino.

Let’s take a look at some basic strategy tips:

Preflop Strategy

Remember, once your hole cards are dealt, you get the opportunity to either bet 3x the Ante, 4x the Ante, or check and see the flop.

If you’re going to bet, you can use these guidelines:

  • Always bet 4x if you’re going to bet. Don’t use the 3x size
  • Bet all Ax hands
  • Bet all suited kings, and all offsuit Kx that are K5 or better
  • Bet Q7/Q6 suited, and all offsuit queens Q8 or better
  • Bet J9/J8 suited, and JT offsuit
  • Bet all pocket pairs 33 or higher (check pocket deuces)
  • Check all other hands not on this list

Strategy After Checking Preflop

If you make a preflop bet, the dealer puts out all five community cards, and the hand pays out based on all relevant payout tables.

If you check preflop, the dealer puts three cards (the flop) on the board. At that point, you get the opportunity to be 2x the Ante, or check.

Use the following guidelines on the flop after checking preflop:

  • Bet with two pair or better
  • Bet any hidden pair higher than deuces (where your hole cards and the board make a pair)
  • Bet with four to a flush with a hidden Tx or better

If your hole cards plus the flop don’t meet one of the requirements, check.

Strategy After Checking Preflop and Checking the Flop

If you choose to check preflop and check again on the flop, the dealer puts out the turn and river.

You then must make a Play bet equal to 1x the Ante, or fold, losing both the Ante and the Blind bet. If you fold, the hand ends.

A good strategy for this spot included these guidelines:

  • Bet with a hidden pair or better
  • Bet if less than 21 dealer outs beat you

If your hand doesn’t meet either of these criteria, just fold and move on to the next hand.

The Trips Bet

The Trips Bet (or any other side bet outside of the Ante and Blind) is a -EV bet, and should just generally be avoided if you want to play an optimal strategy.

Final Thoughts

Ultimate Texas Hold’em can be a fun casino game, and you can prolong your time at the table by following the guidelines for optimal play.

Remember, however, that Ultimate Texas Hold’em, as with all vs.-the-house casino games, are -EV in the long run. This differs from the version of Texas Hold’em played in the poker room at a casino, where you compete against other players and can definitely play a +EV game.

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