Whenever I’m in a casino for the first time or the first time in a long while, I like to take a long walk around the casino floor to get the lay of the land.

Among the things I’m looking for are table games outside the usual mix. One that recently drew me in for a few hands is a poker-based game called Flop Poker.

Flop Poker has been around a while, mostly in Mississippi. I found it during a northwest Indiana stop, and a website check since has found it listed by Atlantic City’s Borgata and Harrah’s casinos.

It’s a stud poker variant in which you get six cards to make your best five-card hand. There’s a hybrid nature to the game — main play is against a pay table with no dealer hand to beat, but there also is an element of competition with other players.

You start play by making an ante and a pot wager. The ante, which kicks off your play against the pay table, can be any size within table minimums and maximums. The pot wager, in which you’re up against other players, is always the table minimum.

Players each get three cards face down, and three community cards are dealt face down in front of the dealer for the flop.

After you look at your three cards, you can raise with a flop bet equal to your ante, or you can fold. Folding means you lose your ante and takes you out of the running for any returns on the pay table, but your pot wager remains in action.

Once all players have either raised or folded, the dealer turns the three-card flop face up. For each player, the dealer determines the best five-card hand using all three player cards and two of the flop cards.

Winners are paid according to the following pay table: pairs of Jacks or better, even money; two pairs, 2-1; three of a kind, 4-1; straight, 11-1; flush, 20-1; full house, 30-1; four of a kind, 100-1; straight flush, 500-1, royal flush, 1,000-1.

Finally, the pot wager is settled. The dealer checks to see which player has the best five-card hand, and gives all the pot wagers to that player.

There is no house edge on the pot wagers since all the bets are distributed to winning players.

As for the ante-raise combination, Michael Shackelford at WizardOfOdds.com calculates the house edge at 5.4 percent of the ante or 2.9 percent of the ante-raise combination with optimal strategy.

As in nearly all poker-based games, there is an alternate pay table and some casinos may pay only 10-1 on straights. If the casino uses the weaker pay table, the house edge rises to 6.5 percent of the ante.

Optimal strategy for Flop Poker is to raise if your three cards include at least one Jack or higher; a pair; three parts of a flush; or three parts of a straight. You fold only 13.6 percent of hands.

By getting the house edge to 2.9 percent of total action, that strategy puts Flop Poker in the 2-3 percent range with Three Card Poker (2 percent); Caribbean Stud (2.6 percent); Let It Ride (2.8 percent), but higher than Four Card Poker (1.3 percent) and Mississippi Stud (1.4 percent).

That’s offset by the no-edge pot bet. If your ante and pot bet are of equal size, the house edge on the ante-raise-pot bet combo is 1.9 percent. The larger your ante relative to your pot bet, the more the house edge on total action rises between the 1.9-to-2.9 percent parameters.

Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).

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