Let It Ride Strategy
There are many games you can play in a casino whose origins are a bit on the mysterious side. For instance, the actual advent of the game of poker is up for debate, and many historians have many different tales about how the game came to be. The same can be said of roulette, as no one can really trace the exact date when the game started. Then you have games like blackjack and craps whose origins are also often in dispute. With some games, however, it's easy to trace their origins, and Let it Ride is one of those games. Let it Ride is a poker-based table game that was invented by the Bally Technologies brand Shuffle Master. It's a relatively new game and is primarily a game you will find at reputable US online casinos. The pace of the game is a lot more relaxed than ordinary poker, and players are basically pitted against a dealer rather than other players at the table. The idea of the game is to use 3 of your cards, plus 2 cards from the community, to form the best 5-card hand. If your hand is better than the dealer's, you win the pot (minus a typical table fee, or rake).
Because Let it Ride is a variation of poker, many people expect instantly that they can consistently win with skill and that luck shouldn't play any role here. Is this true? Unfortunately for Let it Ride players, the house does have an actual edge here, not only due to position but due to the fact that a player must "let it ride" (pushing all of their bets in) before being able to compete. So a loss is 100%, while a win is only 66%, meaning the house will maintain a monetary edge over a player. However, there are different strategic principles you can implement to help you win more at Let it Ride, and like many games, it all starts with understanding the rules and the structure of the game at hand.
The Basic Rules of the Game, for the Uninitiated
To start out with a hand, you first need to make a bet that is divisible by three. This is so a third of the bet can be kept in case you win, and so you will place bets of equal amounts on three different table spots. (e.g. $1, $1, $1). After all bets have been placed, you will be dealt your first card, followed by a community card that's dealt face-down, and then another player card, another community card, and then finally a player card. In the middle of this deal, before the second community card, you have a choice to either pull your bet back or to "let it ride," meaning to put the entire bet in. Now, you can drop a bet and play for only a fraction of the pot, whereby you will then get to see the community cards one at a time, forming the best 5-card hand you can.
The game is broken down into two main stages. After the deal, you can decide to keep or drop. If you drop, you're only dropping one bet and will then get to see one more card. Then you can either keep again, letting it ride, or dropping out completely. While this might sound initially confusing, it's actually great for players who want to develop a strategy because you're never locked into a hand so long as you decide to stay away from that "keep" button if you don't have the goods. We can explain this concept in further detail below.
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How Poker Skills Can Help You Achieve Victory
Understand that Let it Ride is all about making the best 5-card poker hand. It's like a blend of 5-card stud and Texas Hold'em, so players familiar with these popular online poker games, even 5-card draw, can understand how to play and what a good pocket looks like. You will get 3 cards initially, before you have an opportunity to keep or drop a bet for the hand. You have to keep on both turns to win the full pot, but you can still win money even if you drop. You shouldn't be looking at Let it Ride like it's some novelty game and the like; play as if it's a real poker game. As you begin to view this game as a legitimate game of poker, you will start to understand that it's about making a good hand. You don't need much to win at Let it Ride. If you're playing with just the dealer, you can win with 10s or better. That's the payscale: 10s are 1:1, and hand values increase from there. 2 paid pays out 2:1, trips pay 3:1, a straight pays 5:1, a flush pays 8:1, a full house pays 11:1, 4 of a kind pays 50:1, a straight flush pays 200:1, and a royal flush pays 1000:1.
Having some poker skills will certainly come in handy here, as you could lose 8 hands in a row and then keep on both bets en route to a full house, and your losses are not only covered but you end up ahead by a good chunk of change. So knowing how to navigate poker, and your odds of getting certain cards, etc, puts you in a better position to navigate the game.
Can You Beat the House Odds?
Because the house will always keep 1/3 of the bet, and because the majority of wins only pay 1:1 or 2:1, the house maintains an edge of roughly 3.5%. Can you beat this edge? Unfortunately, you're not going to completely cancel this edge out. What you can do, however, is play a skillful game of poker, cross your fingers from some 8:1-or-better type of luck to rear its head every few hands, and walk away with some money. Skill, like you would use at a legitimate poker site, isn't going to get you as far here. It will help, but the house will always maintain that monetary edge. So when it comes to beating the house odds, what you're trying to do here is minimize your risks by dropping out of hands that leave you needing a lucky draw to win.
A Simple Strategy to Help You Win
Dropping Is Your Friend
Don't be scared of dropping here. Let's say you've found a low-limit table where you're only putting down $3 a hand, $1 in each section. You get dealt a 6, 5, 4. What are you going to do with this? If you keep, drawing to a straight, you're likely to end up losing the entire bet. Though if you drop, you minimize your losses and only, at most, lose $1. However, if you do end up drawing lucky and hitting that straight, you get paid 5:1, and if you hit two paid, it's 2:1, or 3:1 for trips. So even though you're dropping out to minimize your risks, you can still draw lucky. The point here is that you do not have to "chase" in the classical sense to chase (more on that below). You can still technically draw out to a good hand with the community cards, without having to put even more of your money at risk to do so.
Never Chase a Hold'em-Style Hand
Let's say you get a 10, 8, 7, all spades, in your hand. Now, which action do you take? You should immediately drop! You have a possibility for a flush, and an outside shot at a straight, but the odds are not in your favor. Just drop the first bet; don't risk the money by chasing here. Chasing will do nothing but suck up your money. Now, let's say the first community card to turn over is a queen of spades. This gives you four spades, so you should risk that other dollar, right? No. Every dollar counts here. If you drop and still hit the flush, you're winning 8:1, so you're still going to come out $5 ahead, whereas chasing and not hitting leaves you in a hole. You cannot treat Let it Ride exactly like a game of Hold'em. You have no leverage here for betting. All you have is an outside possibility to catch a good hand, and the odds are stacked against it. The only time you should bother chasing is if you have either a pair in the pocket or three face cards. Betting the extra dollar just to see the community card will indicate whether to bet again (if you hit something) or if you should drop completely (thus saving your money). Yeah, it's perhaps not the sexy strategy you were hoping for, but it's all about managing your risks here. Money saved on this hand is money you can use to bet on the next. As the old adage states: Live to fight another day.
Now, this isn't exactly a make-or-break proposition of the strategy, but you generally want to play at a table alone. You have full run of every card that comes out, and you get to control the pace of your play, as the action is controlled based entirely on which actions you take. Playing with other players means waiting your turn and having to slow down to a crawl. Plus if they get trips and you get nothing, you're always going to be thinking, "Wow, I wonder if those cards would have been dealt to me?" Save yourself the anguish and just play solo at a table. There's nothing to gain at all by playing with other players.
Tens or Better!
We reiterate the least it takes to win at Let it Ride because you need to understand fully before playing that you're going to need at least a pair of tens to win 1:1. (E.g. to win $15 profit on a $15 bet.) So the cards you get in your three-card pocket need to dictate your action. Unless you have at least a ten, you shouldn't even pay attention to the hand. Just drop and drop again, suffering your 1/3 loss. In the event you get better than a 10, or any pocket pair, now you can start paying more attention and considering keeping the bet(s). But it's all predicated on what you have. Often is the case, unfortunately, that you're going to have to eat that 1/3 loss and just move on to the next hand. Consider it an ante; the cost of doing business. Play for a decent poker hand, never chasing what-ifs on the Let it Ride table.
This is another strategy that focuses more on minimizing your risks to maximize your rewards. The main reason here is that you will not be able to completely cancel out that 3.5% edge the house maintains. You will have to play a lot of hands before you start hitting the better-paying hands such as trips and flushes, and this requires budgeting that stack so that you can afford to stay in the game for an extended period. The more hands you play, the better your odds of hitting a big hand, and limiting your exposure to risk is the best possible strategy in this sort of situation.
Now that you've learned some basic playing strategy for playing this game, check out our list of legal online casinos that offer let it ride poker games.