The great trend in successful new table games has been toward familiarity and ease of play.
In the last decade, three games based on stud poker - Caribbean Stud, Let It Ride and Three Card Poker - have carved out niches in the casino market. The other big success among new table games has been Spanish 21, which is based on blackjack.
All of the poker-based games give the player the feeling he or she can sit down and play immediately. Anyone who has played poker with friends around the kitchen table can feel pretty confident at sitting down to play a few hands of Caribbean Stud, Let It Ride or Three Card Poker.
Strategies aren't difficult to pick up. We discussed strategy for Caribbean Stud last month. Now, in continuing this series looking at the basics of how to play casino games, let's try Let It Ride.
Let It Ride is dealt from a single 52-card deck. Each player has three betting spots, and each hand starts with players making equal bets on all three spots. If your betting unit is $5, you start with $15 in play. That's not as potentially expensive as it sounds. In the course of play, you may take back up to two bets, leaving one bet as your real risk.
After bets are placed, each player is dealt three cards face down. Two more cards are dealt face down in front of the dealer. Those cards belong to all players in common and are used along with each player's three cards to make a five-card poker hand.
After all cards are dealt, players may pick up their cards. If they don't like what they see, they may scratch the table with their cards to signal the dealer that they want to take back their first bet. The dealer then returns the bet to the player. A player who wants to leave the first bet in action slides the cards under the chips in the first betting spot.
The first community card is then turned face up, and players have a chance to signal the dealer that they want the second bet taken down. The third bet must remain in play.
After the second community card is turned face up, the dealer settles remaining bets, turning up each player's cards in turn and paying according to a video pokerlike pay table.
Players don't have to beat the dealer--there is no dealer's hand. At most Let It Ride tables, the payoff is even money if the player's final five-card poker hand is a pair of 10s or better, 2-1 on two pair, 3-1 on three of a kind, 5-1 on straights, 8-1 on flushes, 11-1 on full houses, 50-1 on four of a kind, 200-1 on straight flushes or 1,000-1 on royal flushes.
There is some variation in pay tables. Some casinos drop the payoff on royal flushes to 500-1. Others place an aggregate limit on the size of the payout on one hand. I've seen casinos with a $15,000 maximum payout.
That's fine if you're betting just $5 on all three spots. A 1,000-1 payoff on three $5 bets would leave you with $15,000. But what if you're a bigger bettor, wagering $10 per spot? A royal flush with bets on all three spots should give you $30,000, but if there's a $15,000 maximum, you won't get that full payout.
Two recommendations: Do not play Let It Ride if the pay table is reduced, and be sure to ask the dealer, floor supervisor or pit boss if there is an aggregate maximum payout. If there is such a maximum, bet accordingly. If there's a $15,000 maximum, do not bet more than $5 per spot. With a $30,000 maximum, never bet more than $10 a spot.
When should you pull back a bet and when should you let it ride? After you've seen the first three cards, leave your first bet in action if you have three of a kind, a pair of 10s or better or three cards to a straight flush or royal flush. Otherwise, pull back the bet.
After you've seen the first community card, leave the second bet in action if you have three of a kind, two pair, a pair of 10s or better, four cards to a flush, straight flush or royal flush or four cards to a straight that's open on both ends, such as 6-7-8-9 of mixed suits.
The house edge is about 3 percent of the wager on one betting spot. That's moderate as casino games go, not as low as the house edge at baccarat, the best craps bets or against blackjack basic strategy players, but lower than the house edge at roulette or slots.
John Grochowski is the author of five books on gaming.