Over the past several years, Texas Hold’em has become the most popular version of Poker played in the world. The game’s growth owes much to televised coverage of the World Series of Poker played in Las Vegas each year, which draws players by the thousands to compete head on for huge financial rewards.
To cash in on the game’s allure, some land-based casinos and a large number of online ones have recently launched a single-player version that can be played against the House by one to seven participants anytime without filling a table, much like Blackjack. Called Casino Hold’em, it differs from its Texas cousin in a number of ways, while providing much of the excitement of the traditional table game.
A standard 52-card deck is used for Casino Hold’em. The object of the game is to win by creating a five-card poker hand that ranks higher than the dealer’s hand. The five cards must be selected from among seven cards, which include two “hole” cards dealt face down to each player and the dealer plus five communal cards that are shared by everyone at the table.
Play begins with the player(s) making an ante wager. Then two cards are dealt face down to each player and the dealer. Players may examine their own cards at this time. The dealer then deals the first three communal cards in the center of the table, which are collectively referred to as “The Flop.”
Based upon the two hole cards and the Flop, each player must next decide whether to fold or call. If the player folds, his/her hole cards are turned in and the ante bet is lost. If the player calls, a wager equal to double the ante bet must be made to play on.
Once all players have declared call or fold, the dealer turns over the final two communal cards, bringing the total to five. At this point, the dealer will also turn over his/her hole cards, revealing the hand held by the House.
If the dealer’s best possible five-card hand is lower than a pair of fours, the hand does not qualify and all ante bets are paid out at least 1-to-1 odds, or higher if a flush or better can be formed by the player (see “Ante Bonus” below). The call bets are returned as a “push,” no winner.
However, if the dealer’s hand is valued at a pair of fours or better, the House qualifies and the resulting hand must be beat in order for the player to win. Hand rankings follow the rules of standard poker, from highest pair to two pair, three of a kind, straight, flush, etc. up to a Royal Flush.
If the dealer’s hand beats the player’s, both the ante and call bet are lost. If the player’s hand beats the dealers, the call bet pays 1-to-1 and the ante bet pays at least 1-to-1 odds. If the dealer’s hand and the player’s hand tie, the result is a “push” and both the ante bet and the call bet are returned, no winner.
As a special aspect of Casino Hold’em, an “Ante Bonus” is paid for winning hands ranked as a flush or higher as follows. The payouts may differ slightly from casino to casino, but they typically are on the order of 2-to-1 for a flush, 3-to-1 for a full house, 10-to-1 for four of a kind, and 20-to-1 for a straight flush. A Royal Flush may pay anywhere from 25-to-1 to 100-to-1. Note that these bonuses are paid only for the ante bet, not the call bet.
Generally speaking, folding is a poor option, justified in only about one in six hands. The player’s best strategy is to follow a sound approach to money management, increasing or decreasing ante bets as opportunity presents itself. Progressive betting is only an option at tables where stakes are sufficiently high.