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# Stay or stop?

10 June 2018

I never volunteer advice on strategy while playing in casinos, but the temptation was strong in early May when I found myself at a Mississippi Stud table where a new player — let's call him Bill — was being coached by a friend.

Bill anted \$5 and made an equal bet after seeing his two cards. After the first community card was turned up, Bill hemmed and hawed.

His friend — call him Bob — told him, "Your hand was good enough to bet the first time, so you want to see this through to the end. You don't just fold and give away \$10."

I bit my tongue, but good players should know there are times to fold despite early bets. It may hurt to lose the investment, but it can hurt more to stay and lose additional bets.

Mississippi Stud strategy, as detailed at wizardofodds.com, uses a simple point system. Count zero points for 2s through 5s, one point for each 6 through 10, and one point for each jack through ace. A hand such as 8-6 would be worth two points — one for each card. So would jack-3, with two points for the jack and none for the 3.

With that in mind, here's the optimal strategy after you've seen the third card:

Bet 3x your ante with a pair of 6s or better; three parts of a royal flush, or three parts of a straight flush with no gaps if 5-6-7 or higher, one gap with at least one two-point card, or two gaps with at least two two-point cards.

Bet 1x your ante with any other three suited cards; any pair of 5s or lower; at least three points; or three parts of a straight with no gaps of 4-5-6 or higher or one gap if it includes at least two one-point cards.

Now let's turn to strategy for betting after your first two cards and what could happen to cause you to fold after the third card is turned up.

• You're dealt a pair of 6s or better: This is a pat winner regardless of the remaining cards, so you bet the 3x max at every opportunity.

• Your initial hand is worth at least two points: With two points or better on the deal, your best play is to make a 1x bet, with the bet equaling the ante.

However, after you've seen the first community card, you need to pair up one of the cards, see a third point, or see a potential straight flush, flush or straight before you bet again.

If you start with jack-3 and you're dealt a zero-point card without pairing up and with no flush draw, you have a two-point hand. That's folding time.

And if you start your two points coming from middling cards such as 8-6, then you have to fold with an unsuited 2, 3 or 4. A 5 would allow you to cling to a straight possibility for a 1x bet, but the lower cards just leave you at two points. It's folding time there, too.

• You're dealt two cards of the same suit, 6-5 or higher.

Unless the third card brings a pair, a third card of the same suit, straight possibilities or two more points, you need to jettison this hand. An unsuited 2 or 3 would leave a one-point hand, and an unsuited 9 or 10 would leave two points. That's foldable.

The third card sometimes undermines promising starts. Good players adapt and know there are times you have to fold 'em.

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John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

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John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.