# Ultimate Texas Hold’em: Basic Strategy

Ultimate Texas Hold’em (UTH) is one of the most popular novelty games in the market. For that reason, it is important to understand the multitude of ways that UTH may be vulnerable to advantage play. Many of my recent posts have concerned some of these possibilities. But the computations are tedious. It took my computer 5 days to run the cycle where the AP sees one dealer hole-card (see this post). Then my computer spent 8 days analyzing the situation where the AP sees one dealer hole-card and one Flop card (see this post). After that, my computer crunched hands for just over 2 days considering computer-perfect collusion with six players at the table (see this post). After all of this time spent on more advanced plays, I decided to take a step back on compute the house edge off the top, using perfect basic strategy and no advantage play. It took my computer three days to run the pre-Flop cycle and another two days to run the Flop cycle. Finally, I have some basic strategy data to present.

This analysis has been done before and has been done better by both Michael Shackleford and James Grosjean. In particular, Michael Shackleford’s extraordinary page on UTH includes a practical strategy for the Flop (check / raise 2x) and Turn/River (raise 1x / fold) bets, which I will borrow here in my presentation.

Now what? Well, either the dealer qualifies or she doesn’t. The player beats, ties or loses to the dealer. Either the player’s hand is good enough to qualify for a “Blind” bonus payout, it doesn’t. The following table hopefully clarifies all of these possibilities and gives the payouts in every case:

The final piece of the puzzle is the Blind bet. As the payout schedule above shows, if the player wins the hand, regardless if the dealer qualifies, then the player’s Blind bet is paid according to the following pay table:

- Royal Flush pays 500-to-1.
- Straight Flush pays 50-to-1.
- Four of a Kind pays 10-to-1.
- Full House pays 3-to-1.
- Flush pays 3-to-2.
- Straight pays 1-to-1.
- All others push.

A spreadsheet you can find in the “downloads” section of this site contains my full combinatorial analysis. It presents the 169 unique starting hands, together with the edge for checking and raising 4x. The sheet also gives the number of hands equivalent to the listed hand (the suit-permutations). For example, because the starting hand (2c,7d) is equivalent to (2h, 7s), only the hand (2c,7d) was analyzed.

In particular:

- The house edge for UTH is 2.18497%
- The player checks pre-Flop on 62.29261% of the hands.
- The player raises 4x pre-Flop on 37.70739% of the hands.
- The player has a pre-Flop edge over the house on 35.29412% of the hands.
- The player should never raise 3x pre-Flop.

__Pre-Flop Strategy__

Here is a summary of pre-Flop basic strategy taken from the spreadsheet above:

- Raise 4x on the following hands, whether suited or not:
- A/2 to A/K

- K/5 to K/Q

- Q/8 to Q/J

- J/T

- Raise 4x on the following suited hands:
- K/2, K/3, K/4

- Q/6, Q/7

- J/8, J/9

- Raise on any pair of 3’s or higher.
- Check all other hands.

__Flop Strategy__

A Flop decision to check or raise 2x is only possible if the player checked pre-Flop. By reference to the pre-Flop strategy above, it turns out there are exactly 100 equivalence classes of starting hands where the player checked pre-Flop. I re-ran my UTH basic strategy program to consider each of these 100 hands and each possible Flop that can appear with that starting hand. For each starting hand where the player checked pre-Flop, there are combin(50,3) = 19,600 Flops to consider. Thus, altogether, I had to evaluate the Flop decision to check or raise 2x for 100 x 19,600 = 1,960,000 situations.

Four spreadsheets you can find in the download section of this website contain the analysis for each of these 1,960,000 possibilities (each contains the full data for 25 starting hands for the player):

To understand the data in these spreadsheets, the following image gives the first few Flop decisions for the player starting hand (8c, Jd):

For example, consider the hand player = (8c, Jd), Flop = (2c, 3c, Jc). Then the EV for checking is 1.267304 and the EV for raising 2x is 1.848414. As is intuitively obvious, because the player paired his Jack, raising 2x is correct here.

Now look at the hand right below that, player = (8c, Jd) and Flop = (2c, 3c, Qc). This is also a hand where the player should raise 2x (the decision is very close), but I have very little intuition for why this might be the case. Perhaps because there is an inside straight draw and a flush draw. Meanwhile, on the very next row, where the Flop is (2c, 3c, Kc), it is correct to check. Any attempt to quantify such subtleties into a full strategy must surely be a painstaking task. The reader is invited to cull these four spreadsheets and create such a complete strategy for himself: I am going to forgo this exercise.

Michael Shackleford’s Flop strategy is simple and smart (give here <link>). The player should raise 2x with two pair or better, a hidden pair (except pocket 2’s) or four to a flush with a kicker of T or higher. We see that the hand given above where player = (8c, Jd), Flop = (2c, 3c, Qc) violates Shackleford’s strategy. It is four to a flush with kicker 8c. Shackleford’s incorrect strategy for this hand corresponds to a very small loss of EV (0.377%) on that hand, and is well worth it given the strategic simplicity it yields.

__Turn/River Strategy__

I have not done the work to create this strategy. I haven’t even looked at it. One can certainly use Shackleford’s very easy strategy for this final decision. The player should raise 1x when he has a hidden pair, or there are fewer than 21 dealer outs that can beat the player, otherwise he should fold (see this thread on WizardofVegas.com for a discussion about the meaning of “21 outs.”) One can also use Grosjean’s more complex strategy from Exhibit CAA, that I won’t repeat here. Good luck getting a copy of CAA. (James, make your book available! Please!).

My method, were I to do it, would be to post the spreadsheets based on which the reader could create his own strategy. By reference to the Flop strategy, of the 1,960,000 Flop possibilities, exactly 1,273,842 of them correspond to the player checking on the Flop. Each of these checking possibilities then gives an additional combin(47,2) = 1,081 Turn/River hands to complete the board, where the player then has to then choose to either fold or raise 1x for each. That is, the complete spreadsheet analysis of the Turn/River decision would mean posting a total of 1,960,000 x 1,081 = 1,377,023,202 hands for the reader to cull for a strategy.

Yeah, well …

__Conclusion__

Here is a summary of the edges for the strategies referenced above:

- Computer-perfect strategy for UTH yields a house edge of 2.18497%.
- Shackleford’s practical strategy <link> for UTH yields a house edge of about 2.43%.
- Grosjean’s strategy for UTH in Exhibit CAA yields a house edge of 2.35%.