Lately I’ve been interested in casino games based on poker games. I’ve written recently about Wild Five Poker and World Poker Tour All-In Texas Hold’em. Today I’m tackling another poker-based game, Premium Hold’em. The rules and game-play are meant to emulate the experience of playing a poker game at a table with other poker players.
The difference, of course, is a big one. With games like Premium Hold’em, you’re dealing with a game banked by the casino. This means the game always has a house edge. In a real poker game, you’re playing with and competing with other players, which means if you’re more skilled, you can get an edge.
Getting an edge is impossible with a game like Premium Hold’em. That being said, most people can’t get an edge at blackjack, either. But they still play. The point of this post is to explain how to play Premium Hold’em in a casino. I also explain the house edge and the appropriate strategy for playing.
How to Play Premium Holdem in a Casino
You can find the official description of Premium Hold’em and how to play at the trademark-holder’s website. Here’s how they describe the game:
That’s pretty vague, though, so let me get into some more details about how you actually play Premium Holdem in a casino. You start by making 2 bets of the same size. These are the ante bet and the “x-tra bonus” bet. You also have the option of making one of the 2 side bets—dealer bonus and player bonus.
You and the dealer both get 3 hole cards. After looking at your cards, you have the following options:
If you check, it’s just like checking in regular poker. You don’t put up any additional money, but you’re still in the hand. (You haven’t folded.) If you play, you make a bet of 3X the ante bet.
The dealer then deals the flop—4 face-up cards that are shared between you and the dealer. Now you get to make another decision, if you haven’t already gone with the play option in the previous round.
Here are your choices in that case:
- You can place a bet of 1X the ante bet.
- You can place a bet of 2X the ante bet.
- You can fold.
After this decision has been made, the dealer turns over his hole cards. The dealer needs a pair of 3s to qualify. If the dealer does NOT qualify, the ante bet is treated as a push. (This means the ante bet gets returned to the player with no winnings. It’s the same thing that happens when there’s a tie in blackjack.)
Keep in mind that this isn’t like a real poker game. Even though there are multiple players at the table, you’re competing with the dealer only. The other players are also competing directly with the dealer. You don’t get to build a pot, and it doesn’t matter how the other players’ hands compare to yours.
Besides the even money payouts, the x-tra bonus bet has a pay table where you make money based on the hand ranking of your final hand. Those payouts are as follows:
|Your Final Hand||X-Tra Bonus Bet Payoff|
|4 of a kind||10|
|3 of a kind or less||Push|
The player and dealer bonus also pays off based on your final hand or the dealer’s final hand, depending on which of those 2 bets you took. (You’re allowed to bet on both, too.) Those payouts are as follows:
|Your Final Hand||Player or Dealer Bonus Bet Payoff|
|4 of a kind||10|
|3 of a kind||2|
The House Edge and Strategy for Premium Hold’em
The thing about these new poker-based table games at the casinos is that it’s hard to know whether the house edge is reasonable. For the most part, if you compare their house edge with the house edge in blackjack, the poker-based games almost always come up wanting. The only exception I can think of off the top of my head is World Poker Tour All-In Texas Hold’em, the 3X version, which has a house edge of less than 1% when played with perfect strategy.
With almost all these games that have side bets, the side bets are sucker bets. They almost always have a much higher edge than the rest of the game. This is true in Premium Hold’em as well, and both the side bets have the same house edge—4.87%. That’s not as bad as American roulette, but it’s still a sucker bet. Your best strategy, as it relates to these side bets, is to just never place them.
In terms of how you actually play your hands, the strategy for Premium Hold’em isn’t that hard. You’ll basically raise with the top 15% of your hands. If you’re a poker player, you can probably figure out which hands those are based on your intuition as it relates to playing Texas hold’em.
It’s also interesting that he looks at whether you can get an edge by colluding with the other players at the table. You could lower the house edge dramatically if you had 5 partners at the table, but the house would still have an edge. That’s too much work to do if you’re not going to have a mathematical edge afterward.
Premium Hold’em is similar to Ultimate Hold’em, but it has its own wrinkles. The house edge is reasonable if you know how to play with correct strategy—2% is okay for this kind of game. Avoid the side bets, though, and take the time to learn the correct basic strategy for the game.
I don’t have specific statistics for this game, but I know that in blackjack, if you ignore basic strategy, the house edge can climb by 3% or 4%, depending on how far off your decisions are.