Let it Ride is a popular casino table game that is based on traditional poker. The history of the game is quite interesting and dates back to the early 1980s. It started when truck driver John Breeding read an article about how casinos were having issues with card counting in Blackjack.
This prompted him to take out a $30,000 loan to develop an automatic shuffling machine that would enable each hand to be dealt from a new deck. Such an invention would neutralize card counting. Breeding founded Shuffle Master in 1983 and went to work on his idea.
Shuffle Master’s automatic shuffler finally hit the market in 1992. However, there initially wasn’t much demand for a single-deck shuffler. You see, casinos had started using multiple decks for games like blackjack by then to counter card counting. This prompted Shuffle Master to come up with a way to fuel demand for its product. The solution was to invent single-deck card games that could be featured in casinos. One of the first casino games Shuffle Master invented was Let it Ride which was introduced to casinos in 1993.
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The Oversimplified Basics of Let it Ride
The game is quite simple. It starts with players placing three bets upfront. One of them is the ante and the other two are Let it Ride bets. The dealer proceeds to issue three cards to each player and then place two community cards face down on the table. The object of the game is to make the best five-card poker hand possible.
One thing you must understand is that those who play Let it Ride aren’t competing against the dealer or other players. Instead, they are just trying to get a winning hand that pays out according to a paytable. In many ways, Let it Ride is more akin to video poker than it is traditional poker.
After examining their cards, players can either pull back their first Let it Ride bet, or they can, well, let it ride. The dealer flips over the first community card and the players must once again decide whether to pull back the Let it Ride bet or let it stand. The second community card is revealed and the players assess their hands. Winners are paid out according to the paytable. Here’s what the pay table looks like.
|Royal Flush||1,000 to 1|
|Straight Flush||200 to 1|
|Four of a Kind||50 to 1|
|Full House||11 to 1|
|Flush||8 to 1|
|Straight||5 to 1|
|Three of a Kind||3 to 1|
|Two Pairs||2 to 1|
|Pair of 10s or Better||1 to 1|
As you can see by looking at the payout table, you need at least a pair of 10s to win. Anything less results in a loss.
Let it Ride House Edge and Odds
The payout rates and the true odds are two completely different beasts. For instance, the odds of pulling off a Royal Flush with only five cards is a minuscule 0.000154%. Yet the payout for such an incredible feat is merely 1,000 to 1. You can expect to hit a Full House a little over 2% of the time, but the payout is just 8 to 1. As for getting a pair of tens or better? It will happen about 25% of the time. Here’s a complete list of the real odds.
|Let it Ride Odds|
|Four of a Kind||0.026%|
|Three of a Kind||2.113%|
|Pair of 10s or Better||25.42%|
While the discrepancies in the true odds and payouts seem significant, it’s important to remember that one of the most important keys to this game is how you bet. You have absolutely no control over the cards you get. You can only control your betting.
After learning of the true odds as they relate to Let it Ride, you may be surprised to learn that the house edge is just 3.51%. That means you can expect to lose an average of $3.51 for every $100 you bet over a given period of time. Remember, that’s just an average. You might lose more than that, break even, or come out ahead. After all, it’s gambling.
In terms of relativity to other casino games, Let it Ride’s house edge lands somewhere in the middle. It’s higher than it is in games like blackjack, baccarat, and craps, but it favors the player more than games like Caribbean Stud and American Roulette.
An Example of a Let it Ride Hand
We will delve deeper into some of these concepts further below, but for now, let’s just walk through a sample hand and see how a typical round plays out.
- Place Your Bets: Before play begins, you must place bets in each of the three betting circles in front of you. The first betting circle gets the ante while the other two circles are used to place the Let it Ride bets. These bets must all be of equal value. So, if you ante $10, the other two bets must also be $10 each for a total of $30.
- Get your Three Cards: After the bets are placed, the dealer gives you three hole cards and then places two community cards face down on the table. Let’s say you were dealt the 10 of Clubs, Jack of Hearts, and Ace of Spades.
- Decision Time: Now it’s time to decide whether you want to do. You have only two options. If your hand is weak, you can opt to pull back your bet which means you get your first Let it Ride bet returned to you. This doesn’t mean you’re folding. You play all hands out until the end. The other option is to let it ride which means the first bet remains. With three high cards and the possibility of a straight, you probably want to let it ride with your 10, Jack, and Ace in the hole.
- First Community Card Revealed: Now that you have made your decision to let it ride, the dealer turns over the first community card. It’s the King of Hearts. Now you have four high cards and the straight is still alive.
- Decision Time: With the first community card revealed, it’s time to either pull back the second bet or let it ride. While you haven’t got a winning hand yet, you certainly have a lot of possibilities. In this case, we’ll let that second bet ride.
- Second Community Card Revealed: After you’ve made your betting decision, the dealer turns over the second community card. It’s the Ace of Diamonds.
- Assess Hand: Well, you missed out on the straight, but you still ended up with a pair of aces which is a payable hand. According to the payout table, you’ll get a 1 to 1 return on your total bet. In this case, you get $30 on top of your $30 in wagers for a total return of $60. If you had lucked out and hit the straight, that would have paid out 5 to 1 which would have netted a total return of $180 including the original stakes.
Bet Structure and Betting Options
In the above sample hand, you were introduced to the betting aspect of Let it Ride. Again, this is the most crucial element of the game. Let’s go back to the beginning of the round and go over the initial bets which are mandatory. First, there’s the ante bet which must stay. Then, there are the first and second Let it Ride bets which you can either pull back or let stand during each betting round.
The ante, first bet, and second bet must all be of equal size. If you have a weak starting hand, you can pull back the first bet leaving the ante and the second Let it Ride bet on the table. If your hand is still weak after the first community card is turned, you can pull back your second bet leaving only your ante on the table.
Another scenario might have you starting with a King, a 2, and a five. Now, we’ll say you pull back that first bet leaving the ante and the second bet on the table. The first community card winds up being another King. Now you’ve got a payable hand with a pair of Kings. You will let that second bet ride. Assuming that the second community card didn’t help you improve your hand, you finish with your pair of Kings for a 1 to 1 payout. Seeing you pulled back the first bet, you have only $20 on the table which means you get 1 to 1 on the $20.
Let’s examine a third possibility. With the same starting hand as above, you pull back the first bet and the first community card is a Jack. That leaves you with a 2, 5, J, K. Feeling uninspired, you pull back the second bet too leaving just the ante on the table. As luck would have it, the second community card is another Jack which pairs you up. This would result in a 1 to 1 payout on the ante. You still come out ahead despite pulling back both of your Let it Ride bets.
You can let all your bets ride and play out every hand if you wish. However, that approach isn’t conducive to winning. You need to employ a basic strategy if you want to maximize your chances of making money. Fortunately, the strategy for playing Let it Ride is very simple and straightforward. There is no strategy or skill involved with your starting hand. That part of the game is controlled by the gambling gods. The strategy begins with your first decision.
The First Bet
Let the first bet ride if:
- You have a payable hand with your first three cards.
- You are holding three suited cards.
- You are holding a three-card straight flush higher than a 2, 3, 4.
- You have three cards of a straight flush with one gap plus a ten or higher.
- You have three cards of a straight flush with two gaps plus two cards that are 10 or higher.
- You have a straight draw with at least one card that is 10 or higher.
- Pull back anything else.
The Second Bet
Let the second bet ride if:
- You have a payable hand.
- You have four cards to a straight flush.
- You have four cards of a flush.
- You have an outside straight draw.
- You have an inside straight draw and all cards are high.
- Pull back anything else.
What to Do With Suited Cards
Letting your first bet ride is a no-brainer if the cards in your starting hand are suited. In fact, you should keep letting the bets ride as long as the hand continues to flush. If you are still suited after four cards, your chances of completing the flush sit at a little under 25%. Because a flush pays 8-1, the value is definitely there.
A Few More Sample Hands
You take your seat and place your mandatory three $10 bets. The dealer issues the cards and you look down to see you’re holding and unsuited 5, 8, 10. Not much. According to the basic strategy as described above, we should definitely pull back the first bet. The three hole cards don’t contain a payable hand and your cards are neither suited nor showing any hope of a straight. The only thing you have going is the possibility of pairing up your tens.
The first community card is a five giving you a low and unpayworthy pair after four cards. You correctly pull back your first bet. The second community card is another five giving you backdoor trips for a 3 to 1 payout on your ante bet of $10. You may have pulled back both bets, but the ante is still there.
Bets are placed and the next hand commences. You have a suited 10, Jack, Queen. Nice start. We have a three-card Royal Flush draw which warrants letting it ride. The first community card is an unsuited seven eliminating the possibilities of both the flush and the straight. Suddenly, according to the strategy, we’re in a pullback situation. The second community card is a two making your once-promising hand go up in flames like the Hindenburg. That will cost you your $10 ante plus the $10 let it ride bet you opened with. At least the one wise pullback saved you $10.
The next hand is going to be kinder. You know that because you have a pair of Kings and a nine which is already payable. You can’t lose so you do the obvious and let your first bet ride. The dealer flips over another nine giving you two pairs. You’re guaranteed 3 to 1 at this point. Of course, you must let it ride. The last community card is yet another nine. That’s a 9s over Kings full house which pays a satisfying 11 to 1. You got your full $30 into the pot and it paid off to the tune of $330 plus the full $30 stake.
The point of these hand examples goes beyond winning and losing. You had no control over what cards you had. That was blind luck. What matters is that you made the best betting decisions by adhering to a basic strategy. You minimize your losses and maximize your gains. You are free to explore and develop your own strategies for Let it Ride, but you should abide by the basic ones first.
Three Card Bonus Bet
Do you think you’re ready to hit the Let it Ride table with confidence? You’ve got the gameplay down? The basic betting strategy? Great! But just hold on for a moment. Here’s a couple of twists that will add a new dimension to the game. The first twist is the Three Card Bonus Bet which is an optional wager that you can make when you’re placing your ante. You can’t take it back once it’s made.
The outcome is determined by the strength of your three hole cards. The community cards don’t count. Because you only have three cards, the hand rankings change. Check out the Three-Card Bonus hand rankings and payout scales below.
|Mini Royal||50 to 1|
|Straight Flush||40 to 1|
|Three of a Kind||30 to 1|
|Straight||6 to 1|
|Flush||4 to 1|
|Any Pair||1 to 1|
To summarize, this is an optional side bet you can place at the beginning of a hand. To win, your hole cards have to make a pair or better.
The Bonus Bet
Don’t confuse this with the Three Card Bonus bet. The Bonus Bet is yet another optional bet that you may come across while playing Let it Ride or similar versions of the game. You can bet it at the same time as you make your ante and Three Card Bonus bet. Like the ante and Three Card bonus bet, you can’t pull this one back once it’s placed. To win this bet, you need all five cards to be three of a kind or better. Refer to the Bonus bet payout schedule below.
|Bonus Bet Payout Schedule|
|Royal Flush||20,000 to 1|
|Straight Flush||2,000 to 1|
|Four of a Kind||400 to 1|
|Full House||200 to 1|
|Flush||50 to 1|
|Straight||25 to 1|
|Three of a Kind||5 to 1|
How you approach the bonus bets is entirely up to you. Many people prefer to ignore these wagers completely. Especially the second optional Bonus bet which many experienced players consider being a sucker bet. Beginners should probably stay away from the bonus bets and instead focus on developing their strategy.
Final Fictitious Hands
You place the $10 ante the two $10 Let it Ride bets. But, as an action junkie, you decide to try your luck on the bonus bets. You place $5 on the Three Card Bonus bet and $1 on the other bonus bet. That’s a total of $36 in bets. The dealer serves you up a pair of tens and a Jack. Sweet! You know it’s going to be a winner. Not only does the pair of tens guarantee a win on the main hand, but you have also won a 1 to 1 payout on your Three Card Bonus bet. You let it ride.
The first community card is a six. No help. But you still have a guaranteed winner so you let it ride again. The final card is an ace leaving us with a pair of tens. It could have ended up better, but you still ended up getting back $60 from the main pot plus $10 from the Three Card Bonus bet. The $1 bonus bet lost which leaves you ahead by $34.
You’ve made the same bets as you did last hand and it looks like the gambling gods are smiling down on you again. The dealer has served you up 2, 3, 4. All hearts. This hand has potential and meets the guidelines for letting the first bet ride. The first community card is the 5 of Hearts. Straight flushing is absolutely grounds for letting it ride. Then it happens. The dealer flips over the King of Diamonds. Terrible card! You lose the $10 ante, the two $10 bets, and both bonus bets for a total loss of $36. Don’t get down on yourself. You played it right. The gambling gods giveth and they taketh.
Summary of Let it Ride
Let it Ride isn’t as globally popular as established games like blackjack and roulette. Still, it is gaining a strong following as players discover how fun it is and how easy it is to learn. It’s true that the house edge isn’t the most player-friendly, but it is much better than a lot of other casino games. Besides, if you integrate the basic betting strategy into your game, you should be able to lower that house edge.
Can I Play Let it Ride for free?
Yes. There are several sites that allow you to play for free. Players use play money instead of real money. Playing this way is especially helpful for beginners who can get a feel for the game and learn basic strategy without risking anything.
Do all online casinos offer Let it Ride?
No. Let it Ride is owned by Scientific Gaming which means you can only find Let it Ride at sites that feature Scientific Gaming games. Fortunately, plenty of sites feature Scientific Gaming games. Also, a few other software studios have their own versions of the game like Let ‘Em Ride, Let Them Ride, and so on.
Are there any strategies other than the ones mentioned above?
Yes. We have gone through only one very basic, yet effective strategy. The key word is “basic”. Players are urged to check out some of the resources and in-depth strategy guides that are floating around cyberspace.
If I ante $10, can I wager $20 on each of the Let it Ride bets?
No. Your ante and two mandatory bets must be of equal value. However, this doesn’t apply to the optional bonus bets.