Ultimate Texas Hold’em
Ultimate Texas Hold’em, often abbreviated as UTH, is an adaptation of Texas Hold’em to the player-versus-the-house format of casino table games. Two to eight people (including the dealer) can play. Introduced during the height of the 2000s poker craze, Ultimate Texas Hold’em is a more approachable game for players that may be intimidated by the more confrontational style of betting found in traditional poker games.
Like Three Card Poker, Ultimate Texas Hold’em is a proprietary game owned and licensed by Scientific Games. UTH was originally developed by Roger Snow of ShuffleMaster, a manufacturer of card shuffling equipment. As with Three Card Poker, ShuffleMaster created specialized shuffling and dealing machines customized for UTH. ShuffleMaster was later acquired by Bally Technologies, which was later purchased by Scientific Games.
As with Three Card Poker, you won’t usually find the UTH tables in the poker room. Instead, look for them in the pit, alongside the Three Card Poker and Blackjack tables.
Object of Ultimate Texas Hold’em
The object of Ultimate Texas Hold’em is to recognize when you hold a hand that is likely to form a better poker hand than the dealer’s. This allows you to take advantage of opportunities to bet higher (and thus hopefully be paid higher). Alternately, the object is determine when the hand isn’t worth playing and exit the game to avoid a greater loss.
Ultimate Texas Hold’em is played with a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. If you’re playing at home, why not take advantage of the opportunity to get out your Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards? You’ll also need chips for each player to bet with. The dealer should be provided with a generous amount of chips for paying out winning wagers.
Casino UTH tables are covered in a felt surface with betting circles pre-printed on them, to organize the four bets that are available to the players. (An example of such a betting layout is shown at below right.) Unlike public-domain games like Blackjack, you’re unlikely to find UTH layouts available from anyone but Scientific Games. If you’re planning on dealing a home game instead of just playing in a casino, you’ll need to put one together yourself.
Players make their initial bets, as described below in “Making the initial bets”. After each player has bet, shuffle and deal five cards, face down; these will be the board cards. Deal two cards, also face down, to each player, including the dealer. These are the players’ hole cards.
Cards rank in their usual order in UTH, with aces high (although they can be used in an A–5 straight). Hands rank in the typical order; see rank of poker hands if you need a refresher.
Making the initial bets
The basic bets in UTH are the Ante and Blind bets, which most players will usually make. A player must make both bets, or neither of them; the amount placed in each betting circle must be equal.
A player may also choose to make an optional Trips bet. The Trips bet pays based on the best hand a player can make between their two cards and the five community cards. Whether or not the player’s hand is better than the dealer’s is immaterial to the outcome of the Trips bet. A player may choose to bet only the Trips bet, and not the Ante and Blind bets.
The Play betting circle remains empty until later on in the hand.
Play of the hand
After receiving their hand and being allowed to do so by the dealer, the player looks at their two cards. The dealer proceeds around the table, from left to right, giving each player their turn. On their turn, they may, if they wish, make their Play bet, which must be either three or four times the amount of the Ante bet. Otherwise, they check by tapping the table.
After all players have had a chance to bet or check, the dealer reveals the flop (the first three board cards). Each player who has not already made a Play bet gets a turn now. If they wish, they may now place a Play bet equal to twice the Ante bet. They may also check again, if they still do not wish to bet.
The dealer then reveals the last two board cards. Players have one last chance to make a Play bet, which is now limited to be exactly equal to the Ante bet. If a player still doesn’t want to bet, then they fold, surrendering all of the bets they’ve made to the dealer.
When all players have made a Play bet or folded, the dealer turns their hole cards face up. They declare the best five-card poker hand they can make using their two hole cards and the five board cards. If the dealer has at least a pair or higher, they are said to qualify. If the dealer does not qualify, the Ante bet will push, but the other two bets will still be paid out normally.
The dealer now proceeds around the table to each active player in turn, starting with the player to their right and working around to the left. The dealer reveals the player’s hole cards and announces the best poker hand the player can make. This hand is then compared to the dealer’s. If the dealer has a better hand, the dealer collects the Blind and Play bets, the Ante bet if the dealer qualified, and the player’s cards. Should the player have a better hand, they are paid out at even money on the Play bet and the Blind bet, as well as the Ante bet if the dealer qualified. If the player wins and has a straight or higher, they are paid at a higher rate on the Blind bet, as shown in the table below.
If the player made the Trips bet, it is settled regardless of if the player won or not. The Trips bet pays only if the player has three of a kind or better. If they do not, the bet loses and is collected by the dealer. If they do, it is paid according to the table below.
The payouts for the Trips and winning Blind bets are as follows:
|Royal flush||50 to 1||500 to 1|
|Straight flush||40 to 1||50 to 1|
|Four of a kind||30 to 1||10 to 1|
|Full house||8 to 1||3 to 1|
|Flush||6 to 1||3 to 2|
|Straight||5 to 1||even money|
|Three of a kind||3 to 1||even money|
After every player’s bets have been resolved, the cards are shuffled. Players then make their bets for the next hand.
Texas Hold’em is the most popular variant of poker in play today. The vast majority of games spread in casino poker rooms are either limit or no-limit Hold’em, and over half of the events at the World Series of Poker are some form of Hold’em. At the turn of the 21st century, Texas Hold’em quickly gained popularity over older forms of poker like Five-Card Draw because Hold’em offers more betting rounds, increasing the amount of betting action in the game, and the presence of shared cards in the middle of the table adds allows for more strategic play than many other poker variants.
Object of Texas Hold’em
The object of Texas Hold’em is to form the best five-card poker hand from a combination of the two cards in your hand and five shared cards (called board cards), or to bet in such a way as to convince your opponents that you have the best hand.
Texas Hold’em uses a standard 52-card deck. Most casino poker rooms, and an increasing number of home poker games, use plastic playing cards to ensure game integrity and reduce the number of deck changes required. We, of course, recommend Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards.
Prior to game play, establish whether the game is limit or no-limit and the minimum bets. You should also agree on the amount of a buy-in, that is, how much each player’s initial stake will be, and whether you will allow players to deep stack (i.e. buy in for a greater amount).
All players either ante or post blinds, although Hold’em is more often played with blinds. Shuffle and deal two cards to each player. These cards are called the player’s hole cards.
Players inspect their initial hand, and then the pre-flop betting round occurs. The first player to act is the player to the left of the dealer, unless blinds have been posted, in which case the player to the left of the big blind (referred to as being under the gun) has first action. The betting follows the usual pattern of betting in poker. If, at any time, all players but one fold, the pot is awarded to the last remaining player, and the hand ends. No further cards are dealt to “see what would have happened”, and the winning player is not obliged to reveal their hand.
After the betting round has concluded, the dealer discards one card face down (called burning a card) and deals three cards face up to the center of the table. (See “Dealing the flop, turn, and river” for more information on how this is performed). These three cards, called the flop, are three of the five board cards, and are considered part of every player’s hand. After the flop, another betting round occurs, with first action going to the player to the left of the dealer (the player who posted the small blind).
When the flop’s betting round is resolved, the dealer burns one card and deals another card face up, called the turn. As before, another betting round is conducted, after which another card is burned and the fifth and final board card, the river, is dealt. One final betting round is conducted, and then each player reveals their hand. The player who has the best five-card poker hand, using five of the seven cards available to them (the five board cards and their two hole cards), wins the pot.
Dealing the flop, turn, and river
Two of the most popular poker games today, Texas Hold’em and Omaha, both share a defining characteristic—five community cards, dealt face up in the middle of the table. Despite the apparent simplicity of the task—it’s just dealing five cards!—a lot of players do it wrong. Here, we’ll explain the right way to do it, and the most common pitfalls for amateur dealers.
The correct way
Dealing the flop
After the initial betting round has been resolved, the dealer taps the table with their hand. This is to attract the players’ attention and inform them that the flop (the first three board cards) is coming out, so that if betting action is still taking place, the players can speak up. After this, one burn card is dealt, face down. Most dealer procedures advise tucking the burn cards under the chips in the pot for safe keeping, although casinos may have variations on this rule (such as tucking a corner of each burn card under the face-up card it preceded). Three cards are dealt, face down, then the group is moved into position in the center of the table, flipped face up, and spread out all at once.
Dealing the turn and the river
The turn and the river are the cards dealt after the second and third betting rounds, respectively. The procedure for dealing both of these is the same—tuck one burn card under the pot, and turn one card face-up, placing it to the right of the previously dealt cards.
- Mixing the burn cards and the discards. The burn cards should be kept separate from the discards, in order to demonstrate that three cards were burned properly.
- Dealing or flipping up the flop cards one at a time. This may cause players to react to each individual card, which can give some players information about how each individual card affects each player. To prevent this, always deal the three cards face down, and expose them as a unit.
- Dealing the flop, turn, and river ahead of time and leaving them face down until it’s time to expose them. The purpose of burning a card before each segment of the board is dealt is to shield the backs of the board cards until just before they are exposed. This helps to limit the effect of cards deliberately marked by cheaters. Dealing the flop ahead of time defeats the purpose of the burn cards. It’s also possible that the board may be prematurely exposed by errant chips during betting.