Ultimate Texas Hold’em

Ultimate Texas Hold’em is a special table game where you play a hand of poker like Texas Hold’em against the dealer. There’s a lot of strategy involved because of the in-depth and varied selection of betting options. If you’re the type of player who likes a strategic challenge, then this is definitely the kind of game that you would be interested in. Learn all about the game in this tutorial and compare the best online casinos that offer Ultimate Texas Hold’em.

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Introduction to Ultimate Texas Hold’em

The strategy involved in table games is something that attracts a whole lot of players. With Ultimate Texas Hold’em, it’s really the whole point of playing the game because it’s a title with a particularly deep level of strategy involved. In fact, it may be the most strategic of all of the casino poker genre.

With that having been said, players shouldn’t be intimidated by it, especially if they have interest in poker. A common complaint of many poker fans is that casino poker games don’t offer enough depth of strategy, and if you’re one of the people who thinks that, then Ultimate Texas Hold’em is definitely a game that will likely appeal to you because it’s almost as if it’s designed to address that specific criticism.

Ultimate Texas Hold'em

The History of Ultimate Texas Hold’em

Ultimate Texas Hold’em was developed as a game by Shuffle Master, which later became known as Bally Gaming, one of the most popular casino gaming companies in the world. Roger Snow was the man who invented it there, and when it was first introduced, it was only available at video terminals that could “deal” out to several players at once.

One of the reasons for the video terminal approach being used is that it’s a pretty complicated game that was thought to be too experimental and too in-depth to teach to dealers. The amount that would of been spent training dealers is a factor whenever introducing a new game like this, etc. However, it eventually got pretty popular, and a lot of land-based casinos turned it into a table game along these lines.

While this game is considered the intellectual property of Bally, that doesn’t mean that most software providers have permission to use it. However, that doesn’t really stop them, and it’s not on the players to police that type of thing (not that they could if they wanted to). As such, feel free to play away as usual.

Rules and Gameplay

Learning how the gameplay procedure works for Ultimate Texas Hold’em games online can be tricky at first because there’s more to it than other casino poker titles. However, we think the easiest way to learn to play is to read over the rules a couple of times and then try a short session at a free play demo version of the game. If you do that, we think you’ll be able to pick up the flow of the gameplay pretty quickly.

Poker Hand Rankings

Because this is a fairly advanced style of casino poker, we’re going to assume that players go into this title knowing the order of the five-card poker hand rankings. However, we’ll offer a quick refresher here with the poker hands listed from strongest to weakest:

  • Royal Flush – Ace, King, Queen, Jack and Ten of a matching suit
  • Straight Flush – Five other consecutive cards (other than the combination AKQJT) in a matching suit
  • Four of a Kind – Four cards that all have the same rank
  • Full House – Three cards that all have the same rank with two more cards of a different matching rank
  • Flush – Five cards, not consecutive, but that all have a matching suit
  • Straight – Five consecutive cards but that do not have matching suits
  • Three of a King – Three cards that all have the same rank
  • Two Pair – Two cards with a matching rank along with two cards of a different matching rank
  • One Pair – Two cards with a matching rank
  • High Card – No made hand listed above; five unrelated cards

Since this is a Texas hold’em style of game as well, your five-card hand is determined by picking out the five cards from the seven available to you (two holes cards plus five community cards) to make the best possible poker hand from the listing above.

Ultimate Texas Hold’em Play Procedure

The following procedure is for the main ante and blind bets. All side bets, including the trips bet, will be discussed in another section below.

  1. The player starts by putting bets of equal size on the ante and blind spots on the table.
  2. The player and dealer are then dealt two cards each, face-down, and these are the hole cards. At this point, the player can make a play bet of 4x the ante amount. If so, the rest of the cards are dealt, and the hands go to a showdown.
  3. If the player elects to check, no more bets are added for that point in time. The first three community cards are dealt (referred to as the flop), and the player gets the option to make a play bet of 2x the ante amount. If so, the rest of the cards are dealt, and the hands go to a showdown.
  4. If the player elects to check again, no more bets are added for that point in the hand. The final two community cards are dealt (referred to as the turn and river, individually), and the player has the option to make a play bet that’s the same size as the ante, which is referred to as a call at this point, and go to a showdown. Alternatively, the player can fold and give up the ante bet, the blind bet and any chance of winning the hand.
  5. If you get to a showdown, then first it has to be determined if the player opens. This is similar to the idea of qualifying. The dealer opens by having at least a pair, but this can be a pair that’s on the board, so it’s pretty common for the dealer to open.
  6. A combination of whether the dealer opens and if the player’s best five-card hand beats the dealer’s best five-card hand determines the payouts.

There are three bets that have to be reconciled: the blind, the ante and the play bet. The easy way to remember how these work is that the ante bet always pushes if the dealer doesn’t open (aka if the dealer doesn’t qualify), and it wins/loses if the dealer does open. Otherwise, all three bets will win or lose based on which of the two hands is the best. Note that if there’s a tie, then all three bets push no matter if the dealer opens or not.

The Values of Winning Bets

With three different wagers in play with each Ultimate Texas Hold’em hand, it’s critical to know how each of the three is paid out because it’s easy to get mixed up. The ante bet is the easiest to know because it always pays at 1:1 when it’s not a push. However, the play bet is slightly more complicated since it pays at 1:1, but the value can be anywhere from one to four times the value of the ante depending on when you put in your raise or call.

For the blind bet, however, this wager’s value is completely based on the end result of your five-card hand. Generally speaking, you need at least a straight for it to pay out, and all hands three of a kind or lower turn this wager into a push regardless of who won the hand. With that said, here’s the most common pay table for the blind bet:

  • Royal Flush – 500x
  • Straight Flush – 50x
  • Four of a Kind – 10x
  • Full House – 3x
  • Flush – 1.5x*
  • Straight – 1x
  • Three of a Kind or lower – Push

* Because of the 1.5x payout here, it’s best to play with wagers that are of even amounts of the smallest denominations used in the game. Otherwise, your payout will get rounded down, and you’ll lose a small amount of value each time you’re given a flush.

Each of the three bets of the main game are evaluated in different ways, but it’s not to hard to keep up with them once you’ve seen a few sessions.

Trips Bet and Payouts

There’s an optional side bet that’s usually posted up beside of the blind and ante spots on the Ultimate Texas Hold’em tables that’s called the trips bet. This bet is not affected by whether you win or lose the hand. Instead, it’s generally seen as just a standard side bet where the payouts are determined by your final five-card hand. It wins for three of a kind or better, which is why it’s called the trips bet.

You’ll find a number of different pay tables for the trips bet, but most of them pay 50x for a royal, 40x for a straight flush and 30x for four of a kind. From there, there can be a lot of variation, and there is no real standardized option. Bally Gaming actually lists out four different pay tables with house edges ranging from 0.9 percent to 6.2 percent, but there are plenty of other distributions available online. This means that the house edge for this side bet will just depending on where you’re playing.

Ultimate Texas Hold’em Strategy

Strategy for this game is all about the ante and blind bets, and the side bet isn’t really all that important since it doesn’t require any strategic decisions. However, things are broken down for this game into three sets of decisions.

The first is for the pre-flop decision on whether or not you should make a play bet for 4x the size of your ante. If you decline that option, then you have the flop decision on if you should make the bet worth 2x the size of your ante. Finally, if you also decline that option, there is the situation on the river where you can either call for 1x the size of your ante or just fold. Each of these potential decisions is covered separately below.

The Pre-flop Decision

The decision to put in the big 4x raise before the flop depends entirely on the two cards in your hand. More specifically, it depends on the rank of those two cards and whether or not they are of the same suit. When they’re of the same suit, we call those hands “suited” for short, and when they’re not of the same suit, we call them “off-suit.”

The following is a breakdown of all of the situations where you should use the play bet pre-flop:

  • Always raise any pair hand of 33 or higher (check with 22).
  • Any hand with an ace gets a pre-flop raise.
  • Any hand with a king gets a pre-flop except for off-suit hands that have a two, three or four.
  • A queen with an eight or higher is always raised. You’ll also raise with queen-seven or queen-six if they are suited.
  • Jack-ten is always raised. Jack-nine and jack-eight are only raised if they’re suited.

That’s all there is to know for the pre-flop betting round.

The Flop Decision

When you play the flop decision, which is whether to raise with a play bet worth 2x the size of your ante, you only have three cases to keep up with. That makes playing this betting round fairly easy, though you may want to make yourself a note card for reference when you first start out. Here are the three flop raising cases to remember in Ultimate Texas Hold’em:

  • If you have a made hand of two pair or better, you always raise.
  • If you have a pair that includes at least one card in your hole cards, then raise as long as they’re threes or higher.
  • If you have four cards to a flush draw with a hole card for that draw that’s 10 or higher, then you should also raise.

Something worth pointing out here is that you aren’t often going to be raising with draws at all. In fact, you have to have a very strong hand to make that work in this game on any level.

The River Decision

If you put in a check pre-flop and on the flop, you’re left with the river decision to either call for the play bet worth the same size of your ante or to fold and give up your bets and chances of winning. However, the pre-flop and flop decisions are much easier to make than the river decision because you often have to do some counting.

If you have a pair or better that isn’t just two cards on the community board, then you always call. However, if you don’t have a pair and only have a high card hand, you’ll count the number of cards that the dealer can have that can beat you. If that number is 20 or lower, then you call. If it’s 21 or higher, then you go ahead and fold.

That might sound a little complicated at first, but after you try it a couple of times, it becomes pretty straightforward and is a simple fact of counting down the ranks. As a result of this rule, you’ll virtually always fold if there are four cards of a suit on the board and you do not have one of that suit in your hole cards. The reason for this is that there are already nine other cards the dealer can have to beat you with a flush, and that’s before you start counting pairs and other high cards that would give the dealer a better hand.

Live Dealer Ultimate Texas Hold’em

You can find a live dealer Ultimate Texas Hold’em game available at a variety of online casinos with the Evolution Gaming software. This is the most popular software for live dealer casinos out there, so it’s not very hard to find at all.

When you play this game in the live dealer format, you won’t get anything different than the bets we have outlined above. You’ll have the usual ante/blind bet to play, and you’ll also have the trips side bet available with a pretty standard pay table that isn’t all that interesting or different than how we described them up above.

What is different about playing in this environment is that you’ll be able to chat it up with your dealer and the other players at the table. Being able to chat with the other players means that you’ll be able to discuss strategy and how to play your hands, and that means there’s a lot of room for some interesting learning experiences. Players can try to figure out as a group how to play certain betting rounds, or you can just leave all of that to everyone else and play your own hands according to the proven strategies we’ve outlined above.


There’s no doubt that Ultimate Texas Hold’em is a more involved and more complicated game than most of the other casino poker titles. However, that gives it a unique flavor from a strategic standpoint, and that adds a lot to the live dealer style of play as well since it gives more topics of conversation for the chat.

We mentioned this above, but we want to make sure that new players know that even though this game does have a higher degree of complexity than most other table games, you should not be intimidated by it. It’s not an incredibly difficult game to learn by any means, and there’s always the ability to play at very low stakes to get used to the play style before you ramp things up.


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