Most poker players will agree that casino games are all luck-based. While that is certainly true of slots and roulette, there is a skill element in blackjack that will bring the house edge right down to 0.5%.
But did you know good poker players, the type who study poker books, can also improve their chances while playing casino hold’em? You don’t play this hold’em game against other players. Instead, you must try and get a better poker hand than the dealer.
Novices who don’t understand how poker hand rankings work, or the basics of the probabilities of making particular poker hands when the community cards are dealt, will be rubbish at casino hold’em.
But poker players will be at a distinct advantage because they know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em (please don’t start singing), and therefore have a more than decent chance of winning.
To learn more, we need to tell you how to play casino hold’em; then you can judge for yourself if it’s a game you could get good at playing.
How to Play Casino Hold’em
If you know your way around a poker game, you’ll easily pick this up. First, you must pay your ante, which is the cost of entering a round. You then get dealt two cards, just as you would in a normal game of Texas Hold’em, while the dealer, who is your only opponent, receives two cards face down. The flop (first three community cards) is then dealt.
This is when you need to make your key decision. Based on the strength of your hole cards and how they either match up to the flop or have the potential to improve, you must elect to play or fold. But here’s the catch – to play on, you must pay double your ante.
If you play on, then the turn and the river, the last two community cards, are dealt out. You must now hope that your best five-card poker hand, taken from your two cards and the five community cards, beats the dealer’s best hand. As an advantage to you, the dealer must have a pair of fours or better to qualify.
Should you win, you get an even money return on your bet. But if you win with a nice poker hand, you will be paid out more. The exact payouts may vary from one casino to another, but a typical example might be:
Royal Flush: 100/1
Straight Flush: 20/1
Four of a Kind: 10/1
Full House: 3/1
Straight or less: 1/1
Casino hold’em, like other casino games, will have side bets available. In most cases, this is called the AA Bonus bet. If you match your ante by adding a chip on the AA Bonus before the cards are dealt, you will win additional money if you make particular winning hands. For example, you might get 25/1 on flushes or better, or 7/1 on a pair of aces up to a straight (hence the name AA Bonus).
Some mathematicians will tell you not to play side bets in casino games because these increase the house edge, which is how the casino is expected to win any game. Talking of which, the standard house edge in casino hold’em is 2.16%, meaning that for every $100 you bet, you are expected to lose $2.16.
There is no doubt that, as an experienced poker player, you will bring down that house edge a little bit. But even if you are the World Series of Poker champion, you will never eliminate it since the odds are formed so that the casino always wins in the long term (otherwise they would go bust fairly quickly), but it’s good to know that, like in blackjack, a good playing strategy can pay dividends.
Just like in normal poker, don’t be the casino hold’em fish – paying to play on and see every turn and river, no matter how weak your cards are. Pick your moments to double your ante and play on, and you will be better off for it.
Nothing Beats Video Poker
While casino hold’em is fun and a ‘slow burner,’ meaning you won’t have lots of wild swings like you might in, say, roulette, video poker has the lowest house edge in the casino – around 0.46%. You again need a basic understanding of hand rankings to play video poker, otherwise your decision on which cards to draw or hold will be complete guesswork.
Happily, you can try out many of these casino games for free so that you can get to grips with how they work and how you can apply your poker skills to improve your chances.