Ultimate Texas Hold’em Strategy Explained
Ultimate Texas Hold’em is a very popular poker-based table game that offers more in-depth betting than most. The action is pretty serious as a result, and you can increase your bet sizing in multiple ways. Here we break down the strategies you need to get the most out of your experience.
An Introduction to Ultimate Texas Hold’em Strategy
In the world of casino poker games, the amount of strategy involved can vary quite a bit. On one end of the spectrum, you have games that you can learn to play perfectly in a few moments. Ultimate Texas Hold’em falls on the other end of that strategy spectrum.
You need to know a bit of information about this game to play it well. This is because it’s a bit more complicated than most other casino poker games.
With that said, it’s not overly complicated to the point of being a burden to learn. It’s nowhere near as involved as something like most video poker or black variations. However, you will need to know a bit, and you will need to pay attention to the hands involved. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself getting a much worse payout percentage than what you could be getting.
How This Game is Played
To start off, let’s look at the basic rules of how a single hand is played and how that affects strategy. You have three potential betting decisions, and because they all involve different cards and betting amounts, they have different guidelines and ideas to follow.
- You begin by placing bets on the ante and blind, which are the same size.
- The dealer and player are given two cards face-down. A play bet is available here worth four times the ante, or you can check.
- The flop is dealt, which consists of three community cards. At this point, if you checked before, you have the option for a play bet worth twice the ante.
- The turn and river are dealt to give a total of five community cards. If you checked twice before, you have the final option to make a play bet worth the same size as your ante. However, if you don’t want to make that bet, you can also fold.
- After that decision, the cards are turned over, and a winner is determined.
These are the basics of how a hand is played, and they illustrate the three potential betting decisions. These decisions are the core of Ultimate Texas Hold’em strategy. However, they each require different considerations because the sizing and number of cards are different. Note also that you’ll only be making one of these decisions on each given hand.
A Note on Payouts
You have three different wagers happening at the same time in this game. The blind, the ante and the play bet are all wagers that can happen.
Payouts for these three bets are affected by a few things. Your cards are only one of them. If the dealer doesn’t make at least a pair, then your ante bet will always push, for example. The blind will pay a prize only if you get at least a straight as well (with higher hands getting higher payouts).
While the size of the play bet is the wager affected by when (and if) you raise, the fact of the matter is that folding loses all three bets. That means that the math involved can be pretty complicated and anti-intuitive. This is problematic for players who try to play based on their gut feelings from playing other Texas hold’em games.
We’re bringing this up to point out how important it is to rely on strategies for Ultimate Texas Hold’em specifically. Knowing how to play other versions of this game will not actually help you to play well here. In fact, it can actually hurt you sometimes if it leads you away from the strategies that we’re going to break down in the following.
The betting decision for when you have just two hole cards is called the pre-flop decision. In this part of the game, a lot is on the line with the large 4x raise for the play bet. However, you have very limited information to go off of.
For this betting street, you’ll decide when to raise based purely off of the two cards in front of you.
As a result, you can play based on a simple strategy that you memorize. Raise when you have the following only:
- A pair of threes or higher
- Any ace
- KQ-K5 of any suit, K4-K2 if suited
- QJ-Q8 of any suit, Q7-Q6 if suited
- JT of any suit, J9-J8 if suited
Outside of these hands on this list, you should never raise at this stage of the game. There is no wiggle room or flexibility in this strategy. If you raise a hand that’s not on this list, you’ll be increasing the house edge on average.
In Ultimate Texas Hold’em, the flop is the easiest betting street to play. There are only a few simple guidelines to follow about when to raise. Note that you won’t have an option to raise here or on the river if you raised pre-flop. This is because you only get one raise per hand.
If you have any of the following, go ahead and raise on the flop:
- A made hand of at least two pair
- One pair where one of the cards is in your hole cards (do not raise pocket 22)
- Four cards to a flush as long as one of the cards is in your pocket cards and is 10 or higher
That’s really all there is to it. Raising with a flush draw by itself may seem a bit too aggressive here. However, when it’s combined with the high card power and bonus payouts, it’s definitely worth it. In fact, failing to do so will lose a significant amount of value overall.
The last available betting street is also the most difficult to learn to play. It’s not because there are a lot of cases to learn, however. Instead, it’s because what you have to pay attention to is a little more complicated.
At this point in the game, you have seven different cards to pay attention to. Moreover, you have a decision between adding a wager worth one unit or folding. All of your other wagers are on the line here, so you have to play this decision correctly. Otherwise, you’re going to be in a world of trouble.
All of the hands that get to this point will consist of three cases. Which of these three cases you have will determine how you have to go about making your decision:
- If you have two pair or better, then you always raise.
- With one pair, you’ll only fold if your pair doesn’t include at least one card from your pocket cards.
- With less than one pair (ie: high card hands), you’ll have to learn to count outs. You’ll raise when the dealer has 20 or fewer outs, and you’ll fold when the dealer has 21 or more.
The first two cases are pretty straightforward. However, a significant number of hands will end up with you making your decision based on the third case. For that reason, we’re going to break down the process down below.
Counting Outs on the River in Ultimate Texas Hold’em
This is the most complicated part of Ultimate Texas Hold’em strategy. However, it’s not difficult once you see how it works.
The essence of this idea is that you’re counting the number of cards that would cause the dealer to beat you.
It’s hard to explain without a concrete example. Suppose we have JT on a board of Q9422 in a hand where the suits don’t matter. Consider the following outs for the dealer:
- Any ace or king the dealer has will give him a better high card hand. (8 outs)
- Any queen, nine, four or two will give the dealer a pair or trips. (11 outs)
This comes to 19 outs total. Since this number is 20 or less, then we go ahead and raise. Notice that this is a borderline case that’s really close, but you’ll run into a lot of those. That’s why learning to count outs properly is so important in this game.
Strategy for Ultimate Texas Hold’em requires learning how to play three distinct decisions. None of the three decisions are that hard on their own. However, learning all three and keeping that information straight in your head is another task altogether. Overall, it provides enough of a challenge for strategically minded players to have a lot of fun. However, it’s not as heavy as something like blackjack or video poker in terms of the amount of information that you have to learn.