I’ve been on a kick lately where I’ve been reviewing new casino table games that are based on poker. Chase the Flush is the latest game on my radar. It’s one of the games available from AGS, which is also responsible for Premium Hold’em.
A word about poker-based casino games:
Some people who aren’t as savvy about the casino game industry might not realize how major the difference between a real poker game and a casino table game based on poker is. In a real poker game, you’re competing with other players of varying skill levels. If you’re more skilled than the other players at the table, you have a positive expectation.
With casino table games like Chase the Flush, the house has a built-in edge that can’t be overcome regardless of how skillfully you play. In these games, you use the trappings of poker—the hand rankings, some of the raising rules, and sometimes wild cards—but you compete only with the dealer and maybe a pay table.
Games like Chase the Flush and Premium Hold’em have a built-in mathematical edge for the casino that can’t be overcome. This is true of almost every casino game, in fact.
But don’t get into a game like Chase the Flush expecting to get an edge just because you’re a skilled poker player. That’s not how it works.
Here’s how Chase the Flush’s official website describes the game:
Chase the Flush is an exciting new card game where players and the dealer compete head-to-head using three hole cards and four community cards to make their longest possible seven-card flush. Players win by having more cards in their flush than the dealer. Card rankings Ace (high) – 2 (low) are used to break ties if a player and the dealer have the same number of cards in their flush. Mandatory X-Tra Bonus pays when player wins with four or more cards of the same suit. Optional Same Suit Bonus bet wins if the player has a four-card flush or higher.
I think it’s funny how the marketing departments for all these casino games invariably describe their new games as “exciting.”
Here are the specific rules for playing Chase the Flush:
Like most of these kinds of games, you play Chase the Flush against a dealer, who uses a standard deck of cards. (52 cards, 13 ranks, an 4 suits.)
You start by making an ante bet and an “x-tra bonus” bet. (At this point, the game is just like Premium Hold’em, in fact. They’re from the same company, so maybe the 2 games have the same designer. You can also place an optional side bet called the “same suit bonus” bet.
After you’ve bet, you get 3 hole cards. The dealer also gets 3 hole cards. (So far, it’s still just like Premium Hold’em.)
After you look at your cards, you can make 1 of 2 moves:
If you check, you don’t put up any additional money, but you’re still in the hand. This is how checking works in regular poker, too, by the way—although your opponents have the option to bet into you when you check at the poker table. You don’t have to worry about the dealer doing that in this game.
If you go all in, you must put up another wager equal to 3X the ante that you placed.
Once you’ve decided, the dealer deals the 1st 2 community cards. These work just like community cards in regular Texas hold’em—you use a combination of your hole cards along with the community cards to form your final poker hand.
At this point, you can check or go all in—unless you’ve already gone all in. If you go all in at this point, you’re limited to 2X the size of your ante.
Then the dealer deals 2 more community cards, for a total of 3 hole cards in your hand and 4 cards that are going to be shared.
You now have a final betting round. If you haven’t already gone all in, you again have that option. This time, you’re limited to placing an all in bet of the same size as your ante. At this point, you can also fold. You cannot check on the final betting round. You must bet or fold.
When your betting action is finished, the dealer flips over her 3 hole cards. She needs a 3-card flush with a high card of 9 to qualify. If she doesn’t qualify, the ante is treated as a push. You get your bet back, but you don’t get any winnings.
Then you compare hands with the dealer to see who has the higher flush. The flush with the most suited cards always wins, but if you have the same number of cards, you compare the ranks of the cards in your flush. In this respect, Chase the Flush works just like regular poker.
If you have a better hand than the dealer, you get even money on your ante bet and on your all in bets. You also get a payout for the x-tra bonus bet based on the game’s pay table.
If you tie, all bets are treated as a push.
If the dealer wins, you lose all your bets.
The same suit side bet gets paid off based on the pay table regardless of whether the player or the dealer won the hand.
Here’s the pay table for the x-tra bonus bet:
Anything less than a 3-card flush results in a push for this bet.
Here’s the pay table for the same suits side bet:
|7-card straight flush||2000|
|6-card straight flush||2000|
|5-card straight flush||100|
|4-card straight flush||20|
According to multiple sites, the house edge for Chase the Flush is about 2.65%. I’m uncomfortable with casino table games with a house edge greater than 2%, but that eliminates most of them. Other players are more comfortable with a larger house edge, and 2.65% is significantly better than most of the bets on the craps table or even roulette.
I can’t think of any table-based card game with a side bet where the side bet is anything other than a sucker bet. Chase the Flush is no exception. The same suits side bet has a house edge of 5.67%, making it marginally worse than a bet on an American roulette wheel.
I’d like to point out that you can get a lower house edge playing blackjack with perfect basic strategy, craps if you stick with the best bets at the table, or even baccarat—as long as you avoid the sucker bets. None of those games offer the same poker-based thrills as Chase the Flush, though, so you might find this game entertaining enough to take the higher house edge.
Also, it’s important to remember that it doesn’t matter if the house edge is 1%, 5%, 20%, or 50%–if you play any game where the house has an edge, you’ll lose all your money in the long run no matter what. It doesn’t pay to be TOO snobbish about the house edge, although I think frugal gamblers pay attention to how much entertainment they’re getting for their money.
Chase the Flush is a game where your decisions matter. If you make bad choices, the house edge goes up. This implies that there’s a correct basic strategy for the game, just like there is in blackjack.
In blackjack, the house edge of 0.5% or 1% depends on executing basic strategy perfectly. If you ignore basic strategy, the house edge could be 3% or 4% higher because of the multiple strategy mistakes you’ll surely make.
I think it’s safe to assume that something similar will happen with Chase the Flush. If you’re just playing it by ear, you’ll probably face a house edge of at least 5%.
According to Discount Gambling, the strategy for the game isn’t that hard. He put a lot of work into devising a realistic basic strategy, and you can visit his site for the complete details of that strategy.
Here are some general strategy pointers for those who want to play intelligently but aren’t married to being mathematically optimal:
You’ll call 1X the ante bet on the river more often than anything else—about 35% of the time. You’ll raise with your hole cards about 25% of the time and bet on the flop about 25% of the time, too. You’ll fold about 15% of the time.
When you get your hole cards, you’ll raise any time you have 3 suited cards. You’ll also raise if you 2 suited cards that are higher than Q9.
On the flop, raise if you have 3 suited cards or better.
On the final action, raise with any 3 suited cards. You would also raise if you had 2 suited high cards.
That’s only the roughest approximation of basic strategy, though—you’re probably giving up at least 1% in expectation if those are the only guidelines you follow.
Chase the Flush is a reasonably interesting poker-based casino card game. The house edge is higher than I’m comfortable with (2.65%), but for this kind of game, it’s not that bad. I’d still lean toward playing blackjack or craps instead.
Some people enjoy the concept of a casino table game that’s based on poker. One of the important things to remember in Chase the Flush is that you’re only competing with the dealer, and she’ll never fold. What the other players do has no effect on you and your hand.
This is a dramatic difference from traditional poker, so it’s important to point it out.
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