6 Reasons Why Let It Ride Is Better Than Three-Card Poker

By in Poker on
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Let It Ride or Three-Card Poker

While I was among the gambling masses who flocked to the Three-Card Poker tables during its debut phase in the ‘90s, I quickly grew tired of the childlike gameplay.

Let It Ride is still my first stop whenever I hit the pit. I’ve thought this over long and hard. So, here are my six reasons why Let It Ride will always be my ride-or-die game in any casino.

1 – Three-Card Poker Is Boring Compared to Let It Ride

For folks who haven’t played Three-Card Poker (congratulations, by the way), the game can be explained in just a few basic steps.

Place an ante bet (and a pair plus side bet if you want). Get three cards face up from the dealer. Look at them. Decide whether you want to raise with a second play bet equal to your ante bet or if simply folding away the ante feels safer.

Watch the dealer flip over their three-card hand. Beat the dealer with anything, and you get even money on your bets.

Beat them with a great hand, and you’ll get an ante bonus. Pair plus bets also reward players with premium payouts.

Three-Card Poker really just boils down to “my three cards against your three cards.” It’s kind of like the game War that we all played as little kids.

Three-Card Poker does feel a bit childish once you compare it to more challenging alternatives like Let It Ride, which expands the scope in more ways than one.

My favorite game doubles down on the player decision points, giving you two chances to act on your hand instead of one. And rather than having either one or two base game bets (ante and play) on the line, Let It Ride ups the stakes to either three, two, or one wager.

And while the top base game payout in Three-Card Poker is only 7 to 1, Let It Ride puts a potential 1,000 to 1 payoff up for grabs on every single deal, even when you don’t make a single side bet.

The actual gameplay is so much more compelling too, as the script is flipped by placing three ante bets of equal size to start out. Then, after taking three cards face up and two more face down, you get to decide whether to let the first ante “ride” or to bring it back.

The dealer will expose one of your hole cards at that point before asking once again if you want to let the second ante ride. You can bring that bet back or leave it standing, and the final hole card is exposed to complete your final five-card poker hand.

At that point, the hand is scored against the following pay table:

  • Royal Flush = 1,000 to 1
  • Straight Flush = 200 to 1
  • Four of a Kind = 50 to 1
  • Full House = 11 to 1
  • Flush = 8 to 1
  • Straight = 5 to 1
  • Three of a Kind = 3 to 1
  • Two Pair = 2 to 1
  • One Pair (10s or Better) = 1 to 1

As you can see, Let It Ride is just more dynamic for thinking players than Three-Card Poker. You aren’t just taking a random three-card deal up against the dealer, you actually have to assess five-card poker draws a la Texas holdem. Risk management assessment is also integral, as
players can modulate their potential liability by bringing bets back when their back is against the wall.

2 – It Takes Strategic Thinking to Beat Let It Ride

You can take anybody off the street and teach them one single rule about Three-Card Poker. And if they follow it, they’ll instantly become perfect players. When you have Queen/6/ or better, you make the play bet and fold with anything worse.

That’s all there is to Three-Card Poker strategy.

Poker Cards

Conversely, the optimal strategy for Let It Ride involves five guidelines, based on descending hand and draw strength, when you have three cards. With a four-card hand now set, you’ll then have five more hand/draw tiers to gauge before deciding the best course of action.

Learning the details of Let It Ride strategy is all part of the fun, so I’ll leave that step up to you. All I know is I’d prefer to think a little bit before making my move rather than blindly following a one-rule edict.

3 – Let It Ride Set the Standard

Let It Ride inventor John Breeding famously started out as the tinkerer behind Shuffle Master, the first automatic shuffling machine on the market.

When he learned that casinos were shifting toward multiple-deck shoes in real money blackjack, he scrambled to give them a good reason to use his single-deck Shuffle Master. After a bit of prodding from his wife, Breeding set to work designing a new table game that only needed one deck, and more crucially, couldn’t be “hacked” by card counters.

Let It Ride was born, and soon enough, aspiring game inventor Derek Webb took notice. As he told Global Gaming Business magazine in 2017, Webb looked to Let It Ride for direct inspiration when designing Three-Card Poker:

“I wanted to design a three-unit bet game that incorporated what I thought was the best of Caribbean Stud and the best of Let It Ride, and it was going to be naturally faster than Caribbean or Let It Ride.”

Webb’s new addition was an immediate hit, and I’ll be the first to admit that it’s had more staying power than Let It Ride over the two decades since.

Even so, I’ll take the original innovator over the Johnny-come-lately imitator every time out.

4 – The House Edge Rate Is Lower With the Pair Plus Side Bet

My esteemed colleague made sure to mention that Three-Card Poker (3.37%) has a lower house edge than Let It Ride (3.51%). But that framing is disingenuous when you consider the pair plus side bet, one which the overwhelming majority of Three-Card Poker players place like clockwork.

With a high house edge of 7.28%, the pair plus option muddies the waters of expected value considerably. For folks who make all three bets (ante, play, and pair plus) on a given hand, they’re facing an overall house edge of 5.33%.

Let It Ride suddenly looks like a much more favorable option now, doesn’t it?

5 – “Millionaire Maker” Progressive Jackpots Are Lucrative

Most of the big progressive jackpot scores in Three-Card Poker tend to fall within the $200,000 to $250,000 range.

Let It Ride tables come equipped with the “Millionaire Maker,” a progressive jackpot with a starting seed of $1 million. It costs $5 at minimum, and the house edge is especially steep at 20% to 25% (depending on the current jackpot amount), but becoming an instant millionaire is quite the hook.

Poker Chips

6 – Folding Is Just Giving Up Without Any Fight

While patiently folding and biding your time might work for a Texas holdem pro, that’s no way to play table games.

I hate the idea that you can make an ante bet in Three-Card Poker, get three bad cards (“rags” in poker parlance), and immediately lose their money without any recourse at all.

At least in Let It Ride, the player can dial back their betting from three units to one, then take their chances at making something happen on the final card (the “river”). As esteemed World Series of Poker (WSOP) announcer Norman Chad is prone to saying, any poker hand can go “from the outhouse to the penthouse” via a lucky river card.

Folding is merely a fancy word for quitting the battle altogether. Pulling bets back is more akin to staging a tactical retreat, while still keeping the comeback hopes alive.

Conclusion

Three-Card Poker and Let It Ride have both enjoyed seamless transitions from bold new innovations to casino industry staples. Much has changed in the last 25+ years. And to be sure, the games have both waned in popularity just a bit.

I can definitely see why the legions of tourists who favor simplicity and speed like Three-Card Poker. It’s a classic card game without a doubt. Nonetheless, when it’s all said and done, Let It Ride is the smarter, more sophisticated, and potentially more lucrative table game.

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...

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