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The 3 Best Let It Ride Tips

By Randy Ray in Casino
| February 14, 2017 12:00 am PDT
Let It Ride Feature

When the Shuffle Master company released a new hybrid table game known as Let It Ride in 1993, even the famed gambling equipment manufacturer likely had no clue as to the impact their creation would have on the casino industry.

24 years later, Shuffle Master is known as SHFL Entertainment. As part of the Scientific Games gambling conglomerate, the company is still producing innovative new gaming concepts.

But even given another two decades or more, game inventors there would have trouble coming up with another design quite like the now ubiquitous Let It Ride.

Today it can be easy to think games like Let It Ride – which combines central elements of both poker and blackjack to create an entirely new gameplay experience – are natural extensions of the casino game family. Hybrid table games like Three Card Poker and Caribbean Holdem are a dime a dozen, but until Let It Ride provided the always important proof of concept, combining two or more games to devise another was not an accepted practice within the casino gambling world.

Players like me who have been around the block once or twice can remember those days, and despite the nostalgic yearning for the “Old Las Vegas,” I for one am glad to have entered a new era. Back then, before upstarts like Let It Ride set the standard for hybrid table games, players were offered a standard lineup of tables to choose from.

Blackjack, baccarat, craps, and roulette formed the “Big Four,” and aside from sucker games like keno and the Big Six wheel, casinos didn’t offer much else in the variety aside from the machine based games like slots and video poker.

For table game fans, players who prefer the personal touch provided by a dealer, cards, chips, and the other tools of the trade, those four major games were pretty much it. Now, those are great games to play, and I’m happy to say I’ve spent countless hours in casinos around the country doing just that. But as the years go by, even the most grizzled of gamblers can appreciate a little variety from time to time.

Enter the Let It Ride tables coined by Shuffle Master. For the first time, players who loved to play the classic card games of poker and blackjack could put their hands together, so to speak. Using the traditional player versus dealer format found in blackjack, Let It Ride inserts basic poker gameplay to the equation. The result is a truly unique hybrid table game, one that established a tried and true template for how new additions to the casino floor should be modeled.

Players begin a hand by placing three mandatory Ante bets, before receiving three random cards from a 52 card deck. From there, the objective is to assess the relative strength, or drawing potential, of your first three cards, before deciding to take one of your Ante bets back – or let it ride. A community card used by all players at the table is dealt out, the Let It Ride process repeats one last time, and a final community card is revealed.

With five cards now in hand, between the three starting cards and two community cards, players then score their best five card poker hand against an escalating pay table. With the chance to bag a massive 1,000 to 1 payout for forming the mother of all poker hands, the royal flush, Let It Ride manages to offer that crucial jackpot element most quality casino games thrive on.

Throw in a pair of common side bets, one based on your first three cards and another on the final five card poker hand, and Let It Ride lends itself to action and swings. What makes the game so special, however, is how easy it is to learn and play.

At one point back in the proverbial day, casinos weren’t the welcoming adult wonderlands they’ve transformed into, and new players had trouble navigating the waters. Without possessing a certain sense of expert knowledge on a game like craps, casino rookies would invariably watch along the rail, wanting to play, but choosing to walk away for fear of looking like a fool. After all, it’s not much fun betting money if you don’t know the strategic import of the wagers on the board.

Games like Let It Ride nipped that issue in the bud by creating extremely simple rule setups. New players need only watch a hand or two play out before sitting down to try things out for themselves. And when it comes time to play the game correctly, Let It Ride’s optimal strategy is nothing more than a hard and fast system of hand strength guidelines used to decide when to pull back Ante bets or let them ride.

All told, the easily accessible gameplay and quickly mastered strategy – combined with the potential to turn $15 into $15,000 on a single hand – made Let It Ride one of the casino industry’s bona fide classics. The game spread to casinos far and wide, become a staple offering alongside the Big Four mentioned above. Today, the game’s popularity is waning a bit based on the crowded competition within the hybrid table game market, but even so, you’re still bound to find a Let It Ride table running at most major casinos.

If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about the game before trying your hand, this page is the place for you, because below I’ll run through my three best Let It Ride tips.

I’ll assume you’re already familiar with the basic rules and gameplay, so my tips will cover essential aspects of playing well, such as shopping for the best pay tables, avoiding the side bets added to entice suckers, and understanding the odds and probabilities underpinning Let It Ride’s unique structure. Finally, because Let It Ride has spread throughout the realm of online casinos just as rapidly, my tips will cover both the brick and mortar and online versions.

1. Play Your Cards Right

Let It Ride is a fusion of blackjack and poker, two of the more strategically challenging games on the casino floor.

Fittingly, this game also involves a fair share of strategic thinking based on the two player decision points that occur during each hand. Simply put, unless you know exactly when to let those bets ride, and when to take them back, you’ll find yourself spewing money away at a rapid rate.

The goal of the game is to assess your first three cards, judging them based on “made” poker hands like pairs or three of a kind, or on “draws” like three of one suit (to make a flush) or three connected ranks, to make a straight. For experienced poker players who have a keen card sense, taking any three cards from the deck and deciding instantly whether or not they’re valuable enough to warrant three bets, or weak enough to warrant pulling one bet back, is a piece of cake.

But for beginners, three cards alone aren’t enough to make accurate appraisals of hand strength, which is why I see newbies letting it ride with inferior hands like 9 10 J unsuited. For them, three cards to a straight seem like a nice hand to bet big on, especially knowing they can just make one pair to secure a minimum payout.

As you’ll learn by studying this simple Let It Ride strategy guideline, however, the old 9 10 J just isn’t good enough to keep all three bets intact. Take a look at the list below to see the only hands you should be letting it ride with at the first decision point (holding three cards):

  • Any paying hand (a pair of 10s or better, or three of a kind)
  • Any three to a Royal Flush
  • Three suited cards in a row except 2 3 4 or A 2 3
  • Three to a straight flush with at least one high card (10 or greater)
  • Three to a straight flush with at least two high cards

This list is short and sweet for a reason: leaving that extra bet at risk without a good enough three card starting hand is bankroll suicide. It’s hard enough to complete quality five card poker hands in formats like Texas holdem, when you have five community cards to work with, or video poker, which allows players to swap out bad cards for replacements.

In Let It Ride, you only have two shots in the dark, the pair of community cards, to complete a paying hand. So when starting with anything less than three to a straight flush, or a hand that is already payable, is just too steep of a hill to climb.

One you’ve received the first community card to work with, increasing your current hand to four cards altogether, the following hand strength thresholds should be applied for the second let it ride decision:

  • Any paying hand – tens or better, two pair, or three of a kind
  • Any four flush, or four cards of the same suit
  • Any four to an outside straight like 7 8 9 10 or 10 J Q K with at least one high card
  • Any four to an outside straight with no high cards like 3 4 5 6 or 6 7 8 9
  • Any four to an inside straight with 4 high cards like 10 J K A

In this case, the list of qualifying hands still seems to be quite short, but in reality, you’ll find many combinations that create a four card straight draw or four card flush draw. Along with several payable hands that you can land by now, from one pair to two pair and three of a kind, this stage of the hand should allow you to be a little more liberal when deciding to let that last bet ride.

By applying these relatively straightforward poker hand guidelines to your own decision making, you’ll ensure that the lowest house edge of 3.51 percent is offered during a Let It Ride session. Fair warning though, as deviating from optimal strategy and playing by gut instinct or feel will cause that house edge – already a tad high for hybrid table games – to climb even higher as a result.

2. Slow Things Down a Notch

One aspect of casino game strategy that many players, beginner and veteran alike, tend to overlook concerns a concept known as “pace of play.”

Basically, every game uses different rules and mechanics, down to the way cards are dealt, how many decisions players face, and the way winning wagers are settled. The sum of these variables is that some games move quite briskly, with players taking several dozen hands (or plays) per hour, while others offer a more leisurely experience.

Knowing how your favorite games stack up when it comes to pace of play is important, because the house edge you’re attempting to overcome is applied on every single hand. Therefore, seeing more hands in a given hour when you have a very low house edge working against you should be the goal – as most advantage play blackjack and video poker players know quite well.

But when you find yourself sitting in a game like Let It Ride, which offers a much higher house edge than those games – and most hybrid table games in fact – the objective is reversed. Rather than trying to play more hands per hour, savvy players should be trying to take fewer hands over the course of a session.

The table below illustrates just how different common casino games can be when it comes to the pace of play, showing how many hands (or spins, rolls, etc.) per hour players can expect to see:

Casino Game Pace of Play Chart

GAME HANDS / HOUR
Big Six Wheel 10
Pai Gow 30
Pai Pow Poker 34
Single Zero Roulette 35
Double Zero Roulette 38
Sic Bo 45
Craps 48
Caribbean Stud 50
Let It Ride 52
Casino War 65
Blackjack 70
3 Way Action 70
Baccarat 72
Mini Baccarat 72
Midi Baccarat 72
Spanish 21 75

As you can see, Let It Ride ranks right near the middle when compared to more than a dozen casino game competitors. You won’t be stuck in the mud like Pai Gow Poker players and their 34 hands per hour, approximately one every two minutes, but you won’t be blazing like Spanish 21 players who see more than one hand per minute.

At 52 hands per hour on average, Let It Ride games offer players just under one hand per minute, which all things considered, is a decent pace of play.

The problem is though, Let It Ride doesn’t carry a particularly player friendly house edge. At 3.51 percent – six times that of blackjack when played with optimal strategy – players are already facing an uphill climb as it is. By seeing more hands per hour, you’ll simply be taking a negative expectation wager more frequently.

For this reason, I advise new Let It Ride fans to become saboteurs of sorts. When I’m playing, I do everything I can to decrease that pace of play, hopefully down to 40 hands or so per hour. Cutting a dozen hands out of the equation over an hour’s time may not seem like all that much, but when each of those hands incurs a 3.51 percent house edge, removing them from my ledger entirely is a great way to save a few bucks.

At this point, you probably realize that I have a fatalistic view about gambling. I’d prefer the term realistic, but that’s splitting hairs I suppose. In any event, you’re correct, because I readily admit that nearly every wager in the house will put me on the wrong end of probability over the infinite long run.

And for higher house edge games like Let It Ride, that’s simply a mathematical fact. I will lose more than I win on this game – if I play it over long enough duration. That’s why I advise short and sweet sessions, usually of just an hour or more before moving on to more player friendly games like blackjack or baccarat.

Along with shortening the session, I also try to stretch it out to see fewer hands over the interim. This strategy isn’t cheating, or anything of the sort, so don’t be afraid to use it yourself. Just take your time with every action, from sliding the chips forward, checking your three starting cards, and informing the dealer about letting bets ride.

Doing so will immediately grind the game’s gears and slow things down, thereby decreasing your hands per hour rate – and your expected hourly loss as a result.

As for that dealer, they won’t be too happy with a player stalling like this, because they earn an income based on higher hands per hour rate. More hands dealt equals more tips received, plain and simple. So whenever I play Let It Ride, I come equipped with an extra stack of white $1 chips for tipping purposes.

The dealer might shoot a few frowns your way while you play slow, but if you keep feeding them extra tips throughout the session, they’ll eventually understand your strategy.

3. Side Bets are for Suckers

That’s not a blanket statement on all table game side bets of course, as many are reasonably constructed and add entertainment value to the equation.

Let It Ride’s side bets aren’t reasonable at all though, and they should be avoided at all costs. The 5 Card Bonus side bet, which pays out extra jackpots for forming high quality poker hands upon showdown, carries a 13.77 percent house edge – at best. The presence of alternative pay tables used by various venues, both live and online, further muddies the waters, because slight adjustments to the payouts can wreak havoc on a player’s expected return rate.

The table below highlights the various pay table iterations you can expect to encounter during your Let It Ride tour of duty, along with the overall house edge offered by each pay scheme:

Let It Ride 5 Card Bonus Side Bet Pay Tables and House Edges

HAND Table 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Royal Flush 20000 20000 20000 20000 20000 10000 20000 20000 25000
Straight Flush 2000 1000 2000 2000 1000 2000 2000 1000 2500
4 of a Kind 100 100 100 400 400 100 300 300 400
Full House 75 75 75 200 200 75 150 150 200
Flush 50 50 50 50 50 50 50 50 50
Straight 25 25 25 25 25 25 25 25 25
3 of a Kind 9 4 8 5 5 8 5 5 5
Two Pair 6 3 4 0 0 4 0 0 0
10s or Better 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

The house edge rates offered by each of these pay tables is shown below:

PAY TABLE HOUSE EDGE
1 13.77%
2 23.73%
3 25.39%
4 25.53%
5 26.92%
6 26.93%
7 35.14%
8 36.52%
9 24.07%

As the data reveals, the best pay table for the 5 Card Bonus side bet offers 20,000 to 1 for a royal flush, 2,000 to 1 for a straight flush, and the familiar 25 / 9 / 6 pay scheme for making straights, three of a kind, and two pair, respectively. Any alterations from this pay table immediately increase the house edge by nearly 10 percent – which is simply absurd from a casino gambling strategy standpoint.

And like I said before, even that “optimal” pay table for the 5 Card Bonus side bet runs a 13.77 percent house edge, which is purely unbeatable and on par with the classic sucker games like the Big Six wheel.

As for the 3 Card Bonus side bet, which pays out smaller rewards for landing quality three card poker hands to begin with, my advice remains the same. Just ignore this bet and act like it’s not even there, as the standard 50 / 40 / 30 / 6 / 3 / 1 pay table carries a high house edge of 7.09 percent.

In fact, the only time you should ever tango with the 3 Card Bonus side bet when playing Let It Ride is at the Borgata casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. There, the wager uses a slightly better 50 / 40 / 30 / 6 / 4 / 1 pay table, and that single alteration from 3 to 4 lowers the house edge all the way down to 2.14 percent.

Conclusion

Thousands of players enjoy Let It Ride, but none of them have figured out a way to beat the game in the long run. But if you use these tips you have the best chance to keep the house edge low so you can play longer.

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  1. Phil J July 26, 2021 at 3:57 pm

    Good article- especially on avoiding sucker bets with Let It Ride

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