Mississippi Stud Strategy – How to Play and Win this Poker Game

By Randy Ray
Published on August 01, 2017
mississippi-stud-poker

You’d be forgiven for asking “What is Mississippi Stud Poker?”

After all, Mississippi Stud Poker is a relatively new addition to casino floors. Like its cousins, Caribbean Stud Poker, Let It Ride, Pai Gow Poker, and Three Card Poker, it’s a house-banked game inspired by traditional poker games.

What’s a house-banked game?

Most poker games are banked by the players at the table. You’re competing with other players for their money. And they’re competing for yours.

The casino makes its money by taking a percentage of each pot—the rake. That’s usually about 5% of each pot.

A house-banked game, on the other hand, is a game like blackjack. The house takes all the bets, and the players compete with the dealer—not each other.

What is Mississippi Poker?

It’s a new-ish casino card game from ShuffleMaster that’s popular in Mississippi casinos. It’s also found in some other casinos elsewhere in the country—even Las Vegas.

This post explains the rules for how to play Mississippi Stud Poker, the payouts, and the appropriate strategy to minimize the house edge. I’ve tried to make the information concise and easy to understand so that even beginners can learn how to play.

The Rules: How to Play Mississippi Stud Poker

If you’ve played blackjack, you’re already familiar with some aspects of the Mississippi Stud Poker rules. You sit at a table with other players. On one side of the table is the dealer. On the other side are the players.

The players make bets, and the dealer covers those bets.

You don’t have to beat the other players. You’re playing against the house.

Learning how to play Mississippi Stud Poker is simple.

Here are the rules:

  • You make a bet called an “ante”.
  • You get 2 cards. The other players also get 2 cards. The dealer also deals 3 community cards.
  • All these cards are dealt face-down. You get to look at your cards after all the hands have been dealt.
  • Once you’ve looked at your cards, there’s a betting round. You can make a “3rd Street Bet”. You get to decide how much to bet—1, 2, or 3 times the amount of your ante. Also, if you don’t like your hand, you can fold.
  • After the betting action, the dealer turns over one of the community cards. If you didn’t fold, there’s another betting round, the “4th Street Bet”.
  • You can again bet between 1 and 3 times the ante. You again have the option of folding.
  • The dealer turns over another community card.
  • If you’re still in the hand, you can place a “5th Street Bet” of between 1 and 3 times the ante. You again have the option to fold.
  • The dealer turns over the final community card. Your bets pay off according to the game’s pay table.

It’s important to understand that you don’t have to beat another player’s hand to win. You also don’t have to beat a dealer hand. You get paid on the final value of your hand.

In this respect, Mississippi Stud Poker resembles video poker. Only it’s played with live dealers and real cards.

Mississippi Stud Payouts

Mississippi Stud Poker payouts are based on the poker ranking of your final hand. These payoffs are listed in the table below:

Hand Payoff
Royal flush 500
Straight flush 100
4 of a kind 40
Full house 10
Flush 6
Straight 4
3 of a kind 3
2 pairs 2
Pair of jacks+ 1
Pair of 6s – 10s Push

I need to point out a couple of things related to the Mississippi Stud Poker pay table above.

The first is that this game pays off at 500 to 1, or 100 to 1, or 40 to 1. In video poker, bets would pay off at 500 for 1, or 100 for 1, or 40 for 1.

What’s the difference?

On a video poker machine, you get paid off at X for 1. That means you’re exchanging your bet for the winnings.

On table games, you get paid off at X to 1. If you win, you get to keep your original bet, AND you get your winnings on top of it.

It’s an important distinction to understand, mathematically AND practically. If a bet pays off at 1 for 1, you’re basically breaking even. You’re getting your original bet back, but no profit on top of it. If a bet pays off at 1 to 1, you get your original bet back and a profit of 1 coin.

Also, you’ll notice that standard hand rankings apply.

And any pair of 5s or lower doesn’t pay off.

Finally, with a pair of 6s through 10s, you get a “push”. That means you get your original bet back, but no winnings. (“Push” means tie. If you play blackjack, you already know that.)

Mississippi Stud Strategy

Many casino games, even card games, have no strategic element. For example, baccarat involves no decisions from the player other than betting on the player or the banker. The house edge for one bet is slightly better than the other, so the only strategy is to go with the bet that has a lower house edge.

Other casino games involve decisions. These games have a strategy.  In Mississippi Stud, you must decide whether to fold or play. You also must decide how much to bet. You base these decisions on what you know about the hand as it plays out and what the payouts are.

The math for this kind of thing is beyond most folks, but according to Michael Shackleford, a mathematician named Joseph Kisenwether devised a mathematically optimal strategy for Mississippi Stud Poker.

The first step to understanding this strategy is assigning values to the cards. Any face card (jack, queen, or king) or any ace is worth 2 points. Any card ranked between 6 and 10 is worth 1 point. Cards lower than 6 are worth 0 points.

You then make decisions based on where you are in the hand:

For the 3rd Street Bet:

If you have a pair, you’ll raise the max (3X the ante).

If you have a hand worth 2 points, you’ll bet the ante.

If you have a 5 and a 6 of the same suit, you’ll also bet the ante.

You’ll fold anything else.

Notice that under no circumstances at this point do you bet 2X the ante. It’s either a 3-unit bet (if you have a pair), or a 1-unit bet (if you have a couple of mid-ranked cards or 5/6 suited.)

For the 4th Street Bet:

You’ll bet 3X the ante if you have any of the following hands:

  • Any pat hand. (This means a hand that’s guaranteed to pay out—for example, a middle pair or higher).
  • Any royal flush draw.
  • And straight flush draw that meets the following criteria: no gaps with the lowest card a 5, one gap and a high card, two gaps and two high cards.

You’ll bet one unit the size of the ante if you have any of the following:

  • A flush draw (3 cards of the same suit)
  • A small pair.
  • Any 3 point hand.
  • A straight draw with no gaps if the lowest card is a 4.
  • A straight draw with one gap and 2 mid ranked cards.

Otherwise, fold.

For the 5th Street Bet:

You’ll bet 3X the ante with any pat hand, still. You’ll also raise if you have any of the following:

  • A flush draw (4 card that have the same suit)
  • Any outside straight draw (a hand with four of the five needed cards in sequence and could be completed on either end that might make a straight)

You’ll only place a single unit bet in the following situations:

  • An inside straight draw
  • A low pair
  • A hand worth 4 points
  • Any 3 mid-ranked cards if you raised on an earlier street.

Here are some general observations about this strategy:

  • You’ll only do one of 3 things: fold, raise 3X the ante or raise the ante. Raising 2X the ante is allowed, but it’s never the optimal strategy.
  • Mid-ranked cards are 6, 7, 8, 9, or 10.
  • An inside straight draw is one where only 4 cards can fill the straight. For example, 5689 is an inside straight draw, because you need a 7 to fill the hand. (That 7 is a “gap”.)
  • An outside straight draw is one where any of 8 cards can fill the straight, for example, 5678 is an outside straight draw. A 4 will fill the straight, and so will a 9.
  • The points are only a heuristic construct used to determine the right decision. The dealers and other players won’t know what the points mean.

The overall house edge for the game if you play with the optimal strategy is 4.91%. According to Michael Shackleford, if you use this strategy, you’ll bet an average of 3.59 units per hand.

Also, casinos might offer a different pay table for the game than the one listed above. In this event, the strategy probably remains the same, but the house edge probably changes.

This sounds like a high house edge. Compared to the house edge in blackjack or video poker, it is.

Compared to some of the worse bets at the craps table, or any of the bets at keno or roulette, it’s reasonable. The rate of play is relatively slow, too. This means the amount you’ll lose on average per hour is minimal.

Play Mississippi Stud Poker Online, for Real Money or for Free

Since Mississippi Stud Poker is a ShuffleMaster creation, it’s a trademarked casino game. You can’t copyright or trademark specific game rules, but you can copyright and trademark a new game by name.

As a result, most online casinos don’t offer Mississippi Stud Poker—at least not by that name. That makes it tough to play for real money. Trademark holders frown on other people making money off their intellectual property.

You can, however, find free Mississippi Stud Poker online. You can use such a browser-based game to practice the gameplay so that you’ll know what you’re doing next time you visit a casino offering that game.

What you can’t do when playing free Mississippi Stud Poker online is win money. You can’t lose money, either, but I’m not sure if that’s a fair trade-off. I like to risk money and be able to win money when I play casino games.

Conclusion

Mississippi Stud Poker is an interesting enough casino game. The house edge is high relative to blackjack, but it might make for a nice change of pace if you have some money to spare. I enjoy games where my decisions make a difference.

But even with the correct strategy, the house edge on this game is a little higher than I’d prefer. It’s still a good game to learn how to play.

1 Comments
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C.S. | 11 Jul 2018
I play MS a tad differently. I have a W a P and a L card. Win, Push and Lose. Pat pair of W or P is a no brainer. A pair of Ls is a minimum bet thru hand unless improved obviously. Two Ls is a fold. Player will win this hand from time to time. Chasing this hand is a no no and is a disease in MS. A hand with a W and P is no more than a 2 position bet unless improved. Flush bets require observing other player bets. Two players betting should indicate possibility of same suited hole cards decreasing odds. Inside straight vs open ended are 1 to 2. Note that side bet pots (progressive) are hugely more than hand bet and should sway betting toward not folding with a minimal bet.
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