***Updated: August 24, 2019***
Up until 1961 all card games were dealt from a single deck. That was the year when magician John Scarne, considered one of the world’s master card manipulators, went before the Nevada Gaming Control Board to ask that blackjack be dealt from multiple decks to protect from potential cheating. Oh – it just so happens Scarne had recently invented a device to make using multiple decks very easy, but this probably didn’t have anything to do with the request.
Devices like Scarne’s and others were called “shoes” because they looked similar to a high-heel woman’s shoe. Regular blackjack players weren’t really fond of multiple decks since they made it a lot more difficult to count cards. Also, each additional deck increases the House edge by a fraction, so obviously casinos introduced as many shoe games as possible without running off loyal customers.
One worried observer of this trend was John Breeding, who had broken into the gambling business by developing a machine that automatically shuffled cards using mechanical fingers. These multiple deck shoes were threatening to sweep his company Shuffle Master permanently to the sidelines. He knew survival of his fledgling enterprise would require a good single-deck game that could be sold to casinos: Let It Ride was born.
Breeding developed something kind of like poker but with a hand formed using two community cards and three player ones. The novelty is really in the wagering, which begins by dividing the stake into a trio of betting spots, each one containing an identical amount.
Let It Ride is very unique because individuals are playing against a pre-set paytable of payouts based on the strength of hand and not other people or the dealer. All cards are delivered face-down and after checking the three dealt to them, players have an opportunity to pull back the wager in the “1” spot, or let it ride and continue playing with the 3 remaining bets. The same option is available once the first community card is turned over and then 1, 2, or 3 will stay on the felt when the action is completed.
The lowest-paying result is Tens or Better which returns even money. The highest-paying hand can vary depending on the paytable, and a Royal Flush usually scores somewhere around 1,000 to 1. The odds apply to each stack of chips left, so letting e’m ride is understandably the most rewarding act.
For those who enjoy chasing winning hands, this is going to be a very costly game because constantly “letting it ride” will produce a massive House edge of about 20%. Although sticking to the optimal playing strategy is much more boring, it reduces House edge to a respectable 3.5%.
This accepted strategy dictates someone should only “let it ride” if their cards are:
- Tens or Better, or three of a kind (an instant winner)
- Any three that create a possible Royal Flush
- Three consecutive and suited that offer a straight flush beginning at 3-4-5
- Three suited over a run of four to a straight flush with one high
- Three suited over a run of five to a straight flush with two high
After the first community card is revealed chips should only stay on the table when the hand is a:
- Possible flush
- Possible straight with four consecutive cards
- Four high to a straight, needing one to complete it
The above definitely means there’s not going to be a whole lot of “riding”, if played to the letter. Let It Ride takes longer than other table games so they’re counting on people to play significantly more hands than what the optimal strategy dictates, to make up for the slow rate of action.
Side bets are offered at many places, and the average amount is $1. The most common one is the 3-Card Bonus Bet, which 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 provide a 5-Card Bonus on their Let It Ride tables to increase interest.
Occasionally at offshore internet casinos who accept Americans you’ll find versions called “Let em Ride” or “Ride ‘m Poker“, however these 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 moniker so they just came up with a variation. Rest assured that nothing really changes and there are no deviations from the norm.