HorseJeff
HorseJeff
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November 2nd, 2012 at 7:23:23 AM permalink
As a profitable Texas Hold Em player yet one who has only played the Ultimate table game on the companion site with a large degree of success, I must proffer this very unscientific and very non-mathematical question: "How much of the house edge in UTHE is comprised of people's simple refusal to fold terrible hands?"

I know, I know, I've asked a question for which there is no answer ultimately. But based on my play of a fair sampling of sessions, being conservative in my estimate of my own hand strength, being aggressive when I have decent holdings, and mucking the garbage, I've been going up one unit on all my sessions, then ending the session after that.

I am convinced that if the measurable mathematical edge on the game is ~2.6% then it's exponentially higher in reality due to the basic human nature of a LOT of gamblers, which is: "Ride it til the end and hope something good happens." Thoughts?
The only thing more pathetic than watching a gambler who's afraid to lose is watching a gambler who is afraid to win. And I've seen plenty of both.
rdw4potus
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November 2nd, 2012 at 7:31:36 AM permalink
Quote: HorseJeff

"Ride it til the end and hope something good happens." Thoughts?



You can do that for free in UTH. Just check to the river & bet one unit if you think you'll beat the dealer. Some (most) people don't make the right choice at this stage in the game, but I think the biggest differentiating factor comes much earlier. Almost nobody raises correctly before the flop. It seems wrong to raise 4x with Q8 offsuited, but that's the right play. Same with K5, same with J10, same with any ace, same with 33 or better. People who don't make that raise are giving up a lot to the house.
"So as the clock ticked and the day passed, opportunity met preparation, and luck happened." - Maurice Clarett
HorseJeff
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November 2nd, 2012 at 7:37:51 AM permalink
Quote: rdw4potus

Just check to the river & bet one unit if you think you'll beat the dealer.

Right, but I think that many will simply call even when they KNOW they have garbage. That is the crux of the incalculable question. i.e. the player who's holding, say, 6-7 offsuit with 4 overcards on the board, no flush and not even a pair. I think the casinos count on the simple robotic "call" on the part of a lot of players (I'm thinking slot machine mentality here)
The only thing more pathetic than watching a gambler who's afraid to lose is watching a gambler who is afraid to win. And I've seen plenty of both.
DJTeddyBear
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November 2nd, 2012 at 7:42:41 AM permalink
It's hard, if not impossible, to calculate.

House edge is always calculated with the assumption that the player uses optimal strategy. When the player doesn't do that, how can you calculate based upon an unknown variable?

For example, go to BlackJack page. Near the bottom is a section where the Wiz calculates the edge, based upon popular bad strategies. Each of those strategies includes the comment, "For my analysis of this strategy I assumed the player would ..." In other words, he assigned a value to that unknown variable, and then did the calculation.

Without knowing that variable, you can't calcualte.
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Paigowdan
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November 2nd, 2012 at 7:49:05 AM permalink
Quote: HorseJeff

As a profitable Texas Hold Em player yet one who has only played the Ultimate table game on the companion site with a large degree of success, I must proffer this very unscientific and very non-mathematical question: "How much of the house edge in UTHE is comprised of people's simple refusal to fold terrible hands?"


This can be approximately reversed engineered/"ballparked" by using the long term table hold.

Quote: HorseJeff

I am convinced that if the measurable mathematical edge on the game is ~2.6% then it's exponentially higher in reality due to the basic human nature of a LOT of gamblers, which is: "Ride it til the end and hope something good happens." Thoughts?


The house edge is nominally 2.185%, and when accounting for the element of risk, the house edge is 0.526%, according to This analysis.

To get back to ballparking a game's house edge, a ballpark formula that is used is "10% of the table hold." That is, if the nominal house edge of the game is 3%, the general table hold over time hovers around 30%; if it is 1.2%, the general table hold is 12%. If we examine a lot of data that the table hold of UTH is 25%, we can assume that the [effective] house edge of the game is about 2.5% as it is played IRL.
Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes - Henry David Thoreau. Like Dealers' uniforms - Dan.
HorseJeff
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November 2nd, 2012 at 7:51:20 AM permalink
Quote: DJTeddyBear

It's hard, if not impossible, to calculate.

When the player doesn't do that, how can you calculate based upon an unknown variable?

Without knowing that variable, you can't calcualte.

Yeah, that was why the word "incalculable" was in the title.
The only thing more pathetic than watching a gambler who's afraid to lose is watching a gambler who is afraid to win. And I've seen plenty of both.
dwheatley
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November 2nd, 2012 at 7:53:28 AM permalink
No part of the "house edge" is comprised of bad play. The house edge assumes perfect play. The practical house edge that players experience (and the table hold) will be worse, of course, if they don't fold their bad hands. Like rdw said, I think this is a minor problem compared to the resistance to 4x raising.

Looking at Stephen's analysis of the game, it looks like calling when you should really really fold costs at most 0.22 antes, and in many cases is less. That's a fairly sizable mistake (~10%), but look at the pre-flop raise mistakes:
Not raising with A2suited costs 0.23 antes
Not raising K8o costs 0.17 antes
These are some of the borderline cases, imagine what not raising better hands does to people.
Wisdom is the quality that keeps you out of situations where you would otherwise need it
rdw4potus
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November 2nd, 2012 at 7:58:54 AM permalink
Quote: dwheatley


These are some of the borderline cases, imagine what not raising better hands does to people.



My point exactly.
"So as the clock ticked and the day passed, opportunity met preparation, and luck happened." - Maurice Clarett
HorseJeff
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November 2nd, 2012 at 8:00:49 AM permalink
Quote: dwheatley

No part of the "house edge" is comprised of bad play.

Agreed. I was using "house edge" in the sense of factoring the human element. The math is what it is, no question. My point was simply that I suspect that factoring the human factor (i.e. knowing many calling stations from live poker games, ring games in particular) that UTHE is a great game for the casinos; that on top of their built in house edge they are likely getting a few % pts more from the gambler who heads over to the UTHE table. That's all.
The only thing more pathetic than watching a gambler who's afraid to lose is watching a gambler who is afraid to win. And I've seen plenty of both.
jml24
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November 2nd, 2012 at 9:27:17 AM permalink
Quote: dwheatley

Looking at Stephen's analysis of the game, it looks like calling when you should really really fold costs at most 0.22 antes, and in many cases is less. That's a fairly sizable mistake (~10%), but look at the pre-flop raise mistakes:
Not raising with A2suited costs 0.23 antes
Not raising K8o costs 0.17 antes
These are some of the borderline cases, imagine what not raising better hands does to people.



Yes, there are lots of players that never raise even with premium hands, and many more that will raise 3x only IF they have AA,KK, or AK. I always make the 4x raise according to the strategy but after a few unlucky hands in a row it is easy to see how many don't like making this play. Also IME many dealers advise players to not raise.

I think this is part of the reason this game is popular. It offers decent odds and entertainment value for the knowledgeable player. The casino is able to boost profits due to the bad play of the average player. The bad players don't know any better and sometimes they hit big bonus bets. Everybody's happy!
teddys
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November 2nd, 2012 at 9:59:03 AM permalink
I think your intuition is correct. This is a very well-designed game. The math might say it is a 2.2% house edge, but in reality it is much higher. Hold percentages are in the high 20s/low 30s. That's Let-it-Ride/Mississippi Stud territory. So while the odds are very close to true poker and the game SHOULD be a cheap gamble, in actuality it is very expensive for most people (to the delight of the house). I would ballpark a effective 5-7% house edge for the typical player on the ante bet.
"Dice, verily, are armed with goads and driving-hooks, deceiving and tormenting, causing grievous woe." -Rig Veda 10.34.4
Ibeatyouraces
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November 2nd, 2012 at 10:04:43 AM permalink
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tringlomane
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November 2nd, 2012 at 10:08:00 AM permalink
Quote: Paigowdan

This can be approximately reversed engineered/"ballparked" by using the long term table hold.


The house edge is nominally 2.185%, and when accounting for the element of risk, the house edge is 0.526%, according to This analysis.

To get back to ballparking a game's house edge, a ballpark formula that is used is "10% of the table hold." That is, if the nominal house edge of the game is 3%, the general table hold over time hovers around 30%; if it is 1.2%, the general table hold is 12%. If we examine a lot of data that the table hold of UTH is 25%, we can assume that the [effective] house edge of the game is about 2.5% as it is played IRL.



This ballpark method estimates the "element of risk" best for a game like this? Because no way in hell players are playing this game better than blackjack. I could believe the average player is playing with an element of risk of 2.5% though.
AxiomOfChoice
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November 2nd, 2012 at 11:13:20 AM permalink
Quote: HorseJeff

As a profitable Texas Hold Em player yet one who has only played the Ultimate table game on the companion site with a large degree of success, I must proffer this very unscientific and very non-mathematical question: "How much of the house edge in UTHE is comprised of people's simple refusal to fold terrible hands?"

I know, I know, I've asked a question for which there is no answer ultimately. But based on my play of a fair sampling of sessions, being conservative in my estimate of my own hand strength, being aggressive when I have decent holdings, and mucking the garbage, I've been going up one unit on all my sessions, then ending the session after that.

I am convinced that if the measurable mathematical edge on the game is ~2.6% then it's exponentially higher in reality due to the basic human nature of a LOT of gamblers, which is: "Ride it til the end and hope something good happens." Thoughts?



I'm convinced that the house has a double-digit edge over an average player.
98Clubs
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November 2nd, 2012 at 3:38:34 PM permalink
I think there's quite a bit of merit in this discussion. UTH is an odd kind of gambit. Holding say Q8-off which is a 4x bet, looks bad to most TH Table Players, but not so bad played heads up. I think (my opinion is) that if an error in strategy is made, it favors "seeing the flop", for a 2x gambit, as opposed to the 4x Showdown. Once the Customer bets, the House calls.

I've played the free version at WoO, and generally do well, though I'm sure I'm not using Optimal Strategy. I tend to play UTH like I would play poker with a title on the line.
Some people need to reimagine their thinking.
rdw4potus
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November 2nd, 2012 at 3:41:50 PM permalink
Quote: 98Clubs


I've played the free version at WoO, and generally do well, though I'm sure I'm not using Optimal Strategy. I tend to play UTH like I would play poker with a title on the line.



if you have java installed, you can use the WoO strategy advice. It's pretty helpful. And I think playing with a title on the line is a good analogy. The hardest part for me to get over in the live game is that it's pretty much just heads up hold'em, only everybody gets cards.
"So as the clock ticked and the day passed, opportunity met preparation, and luck happened." - Maurice Clarett
HorseJeff
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November 2nd, 2012 at 4:49:50 PM permalink
Quote: AxiomOfChoice

I'm convinced that the house has a double-digit edge over an average player.

YUP! And with the "No Hold Em Fold Em" mentality most players bring to the game (much as they bring to a low-limit poker game) why shouldn't they? ;P
The only thing more pathetic than watching a gambler who's afraid to lose is watching a gambler who is afraid to win. And I've seen plenty of both.
tringlomane
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November 2nd, 2012 at 6:49:59 PM permalink
Here is a simple analysis that I was able to compute from the wizards calculated optimal strategy table without having to recompute hand probabilities:

If the player never raises but folds optimally, the house edge is 32.5% of an ante, about 15x higher than optimal. Optimal strategy is 2.185% of an ante. 32.5% of an ante is roughly the house edge gained from the blind bet paytable itself (31.5%). So a double digit edge on the ante for the house is definitely not out of the question.

Also another thing to keep in mind for UTH players, Royal Flushes account for 1.61% of an ante as well, so for all the hands you are unlucky and don't hit a royal, the game acts closer to a 4.8% edge on the ante. :( That being said, I think the RF payout in the game helps gives the game a big appeal. A cheap $5 player like me could get lucky and win $2500 on a single hand!
1arrowheaddr
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November 2nd, 2012 at 9:19:50 PM permalink
I think people fold too much on the river. A couple of people at the table didn't understand that you could win without having a pair or better and folded every time they didn't. Few others were folding Queen and King high.
Ibeatyouraces
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November 2nd, 2012 at 10:06:42 PM permalink
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Commish
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January 5th, 2013 at 12:12:21 AM permalink
Over the past 3 months I have a profit of over $22,000 using almost perfect strategy. This is without hitting a royal flush and I do not play the trips. As far as this thread discussing folding at the river I need to have at least 6 cards and preferably 7 that the dealer could have to make me a winner or a push. This means that I can sometimes stay with a 9 and sometimes fold a queen, depending on the board.
Paigowdan
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January 5th, 2013 at 2:02:43 AM permalink
Quote: Commish

Over the past 3 months I have a profit of over $22,000 using almost perfect strategy. This is without hitting a royal flush and I do not play the trips. As far as this thread discussing folding at the river I need to have at least 6 cards and preferably 7 that the dealer could have to make me a winner or a push. This means that I can sometimes stay with a 9 and sometimes fold a queen, depending on the board.


Clearly you have defeated this game, just like the rest of the AP players have done here, here at this board.
Keep up the fine work!
Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes - Henry David Thoreau. Like Dealers' uniforms - Dan.
Ibeatyouraces
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January 5th, 2013 at 6:00:30 AM permalink
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Commish
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January 5th, 2013 at 7:02:35 AM permalink
I look forward to the challenge.
Ibeatyouraces
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January 5th, 2013 at 7:04:53 AM permalink
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AxiomOfChoice
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January 5th, 2013 at 2:18:55 PM permalink
Quote: Commish

Over the past 3 months I have a profit of over $22,000 using almost perfect strategy. This is without hitting a royal flush and I do not play the trips. As far as this thread discussing folding at the river I need to have at least 6 cards and preferably 7 that the dealer could have to make me a winner or a push. This means that I can sometimes stay with a 9 and sometimes fold a queen, depending on the board.



Congrats!

Of course, if the game is properly dealt (no dealer mispays or cards flashed) the house has an edge of around 2.3% of the ante (significantly more if you play poorly) However, dealer errors are not that uncommon and it doesn't take much to overcome the edge. Against a dealer who, once every hour and a half, pays the ante instead of pushing it, you are around break-even. If the dealer occasionally misreads the board and pays losers as winners (even if this only happens once every several hours) you have an edge. I'm not sure if that's your situation or not -- I know people who have exploited weak dealers for a lot of money in this game.

If the dealers are competent, you may simply be lucky. Without knowing how big you are playing, it's hard to say just how lucky. If you are playing $500 on the ante and blind, this is a normal swing (although, a nice one, to be sure!) If you are playing $10 it's massive.

I'm not sure about your statement about how you play the last card. When you say "6 or 7 cards", you mean ranks, not cards, right? You should get into the habit of counting cards rather than ranks, because, for example, when there is a 4-flush on the board, and you don't have a flush, that is 9 cards that can beat you (not particular ranks). There are two situations to consider: one where you are playing the board, and one where you are not:

  • If you are not playing the board (ie, if at least one card from your hand plays) call unless there are 21 or more individual dealer cards that can beat you.
  • If you are playing the board, call unless there are 18 or more individual cards that the dealer could have to win.
Commish
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January 6th, 2013 at 8:59:20 AM permalink
I generally play a $50 ante. Part of my winnings can certainly be attributed to dealer error. You are correct in saying that the smallest errors will make the player a favorite. When I mentioned playing the board after the river I can best give you the following example. On the board is AKQ10,9. Dealer could have 7 cards (2-8) that would give you a push even if you have nothing. I would stay with nothing.
AxiomOfChoice
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January 6th, 2013 at 9:55:44 AM permalink
Quote: Commish

I generally play a $50 ante. Part of my winnings can certainly be attributed to dealer error. You are correct in saying that the smallest errors will make the player a favorite. When I mentioned playing the board after the river I can best give you the following example. On the board is AKQ10,9. Dealer could have 7 cards (2-8) that would give you a push even if you have nothing. I would stay with nothing.



Calling here is suboptimal. There are 19 individual cards that the dealer could have which would beat you (3 each of AKQT9 + 4 J's = 19 cards. The cutoff is 18.

(actually, on an unpaired board, Grosjean says to never play the board, but this is the same thing since on an unpaired board there are always 19 or more cards that can beat you)
dwheatley
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January 6th, 2013 at 10:20:24 AM permalink
Calculator says fold xx against rainbow AKQT9. Cost of calling: 0.124 antes, or $6.20
Wisdom is the quality that keeps you out of situations where you would otherwise need it
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