***Updated: November 13, 2018***
Up until 1961 all card games were dealt from a single deck. That was the year when magician John Scarne, who was considered one of the world’s master card manipulators, went before the Nevada Gaming Control Board to ask that blackjack games be dealt from multiple decks to protect against any potential cheating. Oh – it just so happens that Scarne had recently invented a device to make dealing from multiple decks very easy, but it probably had nothing to do with the request.
Devices like Scarne’s and others were called “shoes” because they looked a lot like a high-heel woman’s shoe. Regular blackjack players didn’t really like multiple deck games because it was now obviously a lot more difficult to count cards. Also, with each additional deck in play the House edge against the player increased by a fraction, so obviously casinos introduced as many shoe games as they could without running off their regular players.
One worried observer of this trend was John Breeding, who had broken into the gambling business by developing a machine that automatically shuffled cards with mechanical fingers. These multiple deck shoes were threatening to shuffle his company Shuffle Master permanently to the sidelines. He knew that if his fledgling company was to survive he would need a good single-deck game that he could sell to casinos: “Let It Ride” was born.
Breeding came up with a game that was kind of like poker, but with the hand being formed with two community cards and three player cards. The novelty of the game is in the wagering, which begins by dividing the stake into a trio of betting spots, with each spot containing an identical bet.
This game is very unique because you are playing against a pre-set pay table of payouts based on the strength of your five cards, and not against other players or the dealer. A Let It Ride table has seven seats but hands can be dealt to any number of players each time.
All cards are delivered face-down and after checking the three dealt cards players have an opportunity to pull back the wager in the “1” spot, or they can “let it ride” and continue playing with all 3 bets remaining on the table. The same option is available after the first community card is turned over, so players will either have 1, 2, or 3 bets remaining on the felt when the action is completed.
The lowest-paying hand on the board is Tens or Better which returns even money to the player. The highest-paying hand can vary because depending on the house paytable, a Royal Flush can usually score somewhere around 1,000 to 1. The odds apply to each of the wagers remaining live on the betting spots so it obviously pays the most when you let em’ ride.
If you enjoy chasing winning hands, this is going to be a very costly game for you because constantly “letting it ride” will produce a massive house edge of about 20%. Sticking to the optimal playing strategy, which is a lot more boring, reduces the house edge to a respectable 3.5%.
This accepted strategy dictates that players only “let it ride” if the three-card hand is:
- Already Tens or Better, or three of a kind (an instant winning hand)
- Any three cards with a possible Royal Flush
- Three consecutive suited cards that offer a straight flush beginning at 3-4-5
- Three suited cards over a run of four to a straight flush with one high card
- Three suited cards over a run of five to a straight flush with two high cards
After the first community card is revealed your chips should stay on the table only when the hand is a:
- Possible flush
- Possible straight with four consecutive cards
- Four high cards to a straight, needing a fill card
The above strategy definitely means that there’s not going to be a whole lot of “riding”, if played to the letter. Let It Ride takes longer to play than most other table games in the casino, so they’re counting on gamblers to play many more hands than what the optimal strategy dictates to make up for the slow rate of action.
Players will often find side bets offered at many places, with the average amount being $1. The most common side wager is the 3-Card Bonus Bet that wins even money for a pair, and as much as 50:1 for a suited Queen/King/Ace, known as the “Mini Royal“. Others may also offer a 5-Card Bonus on their Let It Ride tables to increase interest.
Occasionally at offshore internet casinos you’ll find versions called “Let em Ride” or “Ride ‘m Poker” which are the exact same game but under different names. Presumably this is because the operators don’t want to have to pay the royalty fees to use the official name.