John Grochowski

John Grochowski John Grochowski John Grochowski John Grochowski

A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. I tried playing Ultimate Texas Hold’em and kind of liked the game, but I was a little confused about when I should make the play bet and when I should check or fold. Do you have any strategy advice.

A. My best piece of strategy advice would be to check out Michael Shackelford’s strategy for Ultimate Texas Hold’em at

All players must start with an ante, then there are three opportunities to bet. After you’ve seen the two cards that are dealt face down to you, you may either check or bet three or four times your ante. After you’ve seen the first three community cards, those who previously checked may either check again or bet twice the ante. After the final two community cards are turned up, there is no more checking. Those who previously checked twice must either make a play bet equal to the ante or fold.

Note that you may bet only once in the three opportunities. If you’ve already bet after seeing your first two cards, you’re in for the hand and may not bet again.

One key tip is that after the first two cards, you should always bet four times your ante on a pair of 3s or higher or with no pair if your higher card is an Ace, and always check if the higher card is 10 or lower.

If the higher card is King, Queen or Jack, whether to make the 4x bet depends on the lower card. With a King, bet if the lower card is 5 or higher or if a 2, 3 or 4 is the same suit as the King. With a Queen, bet with an 8 or higher or with a suited 6 or 7. And with a Jack, bet with a 10 or a suited 8 or 9.

For a more detailed strategy chart, including when to bet after you’ve seen the first three community cards and after the final two community cards have been turned up, go to

According to Shackelford, using the betting strategy he describes leaves a house edge of 2.43 percent of the ante or an element of risk of 0.58 percent. The element of risk is the house edge when total action, including the play bets, have been taken into account.

Q. My wife and I play slots, and her dad gave us an old book that recommends setting win goals and loss limits and leaving when you reach either. What if I hit my win goal on the first spin? I don’t want to leave so fast.

A. You might consider a system of floating win goals and loss limits. In winning times, the ceiling rises on your win goal but the floor also rises on your loss limit.

Let’s say you start with a win goal of $50 and a loss limit of $100, and you quickly reach your $50 win goal. You and your wife aren’t ready to leave, so you recalibrate your parameters. Perhaps you increase your win goal to $100, but also move your loss limit to $50. That assures that even if the games turn ice cold, you will leave with at least $50 more than your original floor.

If you win more, you recalibrate again. The adjustments don’t have to be in the same increments. You can move by $10 or $25 if you want. But the key is to keep raising your floor so you are assured of taking increasing amounts of money home. 

If the wins never come, stick to that original loss limit. Never bet money you can’t afford to lose.

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