Protecting the Alternative Games: DJ Wild Poker

In the next in his series on alternative games, table-game expert Bill Zender tackles DJ Wild Poker. One bet with a huge house edge is making the difference.

Protecting the Alternative Games: DJ Wild Poker

In this article we will examine the game of DJ Wild Poker. First, I will discuss the game’s computer strategy, or “basic” strategy. Then I will examine the different possibilities of attacking DJ Wild Poker, both through legal advantage play techniques and illegal cheating methods. DJ Wild Poker is a five-card game with one betting round once the player examines the cards in his or her hand. This game takes a unique turn from most five-card Alternative games using “wild” cards that add excitement as well a play variation to a standard five card poker game. In addition, the game is not structured with a “qualifying hand” requirement. The house edge is achieved through the use of a “Blind” wager similar to the Blind requirement in the Alternative game of Ultimate Texas Hold ‘em. The Blind bet loses when the hand loses, but only receives payment when the winning hand is a straight or higher. Note: Like UTH, the blind bet in DJ Wild Poker is subject to a high house advantage of approximately 38 percent, and it is this wager that provides the house with a mathematical edge.

The basic rules of the game are simple. A 53-card deck is used which includes a single joker. The game gets its name from the five cards that are totally wild, the four deuces and the joker. Any of these five cards can be used to make a flush or straight combination, as well as match any rank card(s) to make a pair, three-of-a-kind, four-of-a-kind, and even five-of-a-kind.

The hand combinations are ranked in the following order, from highest to lowest:

  1. Five wilds
  2. Royal flush
  3. Five of a kind
  4. Straight flush
  5. Four of a kind
  6. Full house
  7. Flush
  8. Straight
  9. Three of a kind
  10. Two pair
  • Pair
  • Ace high or less

Play begins with the player placing equal amounts on the Ante and Blind wagering circles. The player may also make an optional side bet on the “Trips” wager.

All players and the dealer receive hands of five cards with the dealer’s card dealt face down and revealed only at the end of play. After examining his cards, the player has the option of placing a “Play” bet or “Fold” his hand. The Play bet must be equal to double the Ante wager.

Once all players have either played or folded their hand, the dealer reveals his cards and compare his hand to that of each player. Based on the previous listed poker hand values, the highest hand wins.

If the dealer has the higher hand, the player will lose the Ante, Blind, and Play bets. If the dealer and player hands tie, the Ante, Blind, and Play bets push and are kept by the player. If the player has the higher hand, then the Ante and Play bets are paid even money. The Blind bet will pay according to a posted pay table, with winning payoffs starting with a straight hand paying even money up to a hand of all five wild cards which pays 1,000 to 1 with a hit probability of once in 2.86 million hands (Wizard of Odds, 2023).

Basic Betting Strategy

As advised in past articles on casino card game play, before a floor supervisor or surveillance operator can identify “bad” play, they must first be able to identify “good” play. This requires the floor supervisor or surveillance operator to have knowledge of the basic playing and/or betting strategy of the specific table game they are protecting.

The computer perfect “basic” strategy to DJ Wild is somewhat simple. The Wizard of Odds states:

Raise with a pair of 4s or better, except with two 4s and a “3” singleton (4, 4, 3, X, X). Otherwise, fold.

The Wizard goes on to explain that being cautious about holding a “3” in your hand reduces the chances the dealer may be holding a lessor hand of a pair of 3s. A computer perfect Play/Fold decision will result in a mathematical house advantage of 3.47 percent of the Ante wager (Wizard of Odds 2023).

Any side bet wagering is not a consideration relevant regarding issues surrounding game protection and for this article is not mentioned.

For a more information on the mathematics of DJ Wild Poker please see here.

Avenues of Attack in DJ Wild Poker

Spoiler alert! The two common methods of attacking alternative games, player collusion and seeing the dealer’s hole-card, have no teeth with DJ Wild Poker. Based on the five wild cards and the importance of knowing if the dealer holds one or more of those key cards, it would first appear that player collusion would be a huge threat to the game. As it turns out, this is not the case. The Discount Gambler’s website posted his analysis of a collusion attack with six players relaying exact card information on every hand. Using perfect computer strategy to determine the Dealer’s possible hands and minimum Player hand requirements needed to profitably make the “Play” bet, Discount Gambler calculated that the colluding Players could slightly overcome the house edge of 3.47 percent. Computer perfect play only provided the collision team with about a 0.5 percent player edge. If the Player sharing hand information used a strategy that could be applied at the table without the use of a concealed computer, the house would still hold an approximate 1 percent edge.

The second common avenue for attacking Alternative games is spying one of the Dealer’s cards in his or hers five-card hand during the removal from the shuffling machine. This approach also falls flat on its face. First, because there is no Dealer qualifying requirement, determining whether to “Play” or “Fold” based on one-card knowledge is useless. Second, seeing one of the Dealer’s five cards does not give the Advantage Player enough information on the strength of the Dealer’s hand to make a profitable deviation from the games basic strategy.


Regarding cheating at DJ Wild Poker, the two potential methods are.

  • Switching cards between two players
  • Marking cards for hand play information.

Switching cards between to players allows the cheaters to increase the strength of a higher wagering hand at the expense of a minimum wagering hand. Cheaters will not attempt to introduce a foreign card into the game because most shuffling machines will identify that card immediately during the next card shuffling cycle. This card switching action is known as the “elbow-to-elbow” switch since the cheating players need to be sitting on the table next to each other with their opposite elbows basically touching.

Once receiving their playing cards, the minimum wagering cheaters will look at his hand for a possible wild card. If he possesses a wild card, he will exchange the card with the higher wagering Player for one of that Player’s spare cards. In this manner, the higher wagering Player has a much improved chance of holding one or more wild cards in his hand.

Each cheater will palm the required card from his hand and place the remaining four cards face down on the table. The palmed cards are then switched under the cover of their forearms and the rim of the table and then once exchanged, palmed back onto the cards remaining on the table. A third cheater will stand behind and between the two switchers, blocking any possible view of the card switching from that angle. Note: The switch team sits in the last two seats at the table.

A fourth cheater will be positioned in the first or second seat at the table with the assigned task to distract the dealer’s attention away from the two cheaters switching. The distractor needs to slow the play on the table allowing the two card switchers time to complete their task before the dealer gets to the switch team’s positions on the table. Usually, six to ten seconds is required to complete the exchange. The distractor is also assigned the task of lookout and will be watching the area inside the pit for any indication the floor has noticed the card switching scam being used. Done effectively, the actual playing cards being switched will not be seen even through video review, only the technique is seen, and is the only identifying factor of this cheating move.

Detection Tips: Since prevention is not a real possibility, detection is where management needs to focus their attention. Following are some indicators that there may be a card switching team working your Alternative game table.

  • Two players sitting elbow-to-elbow, one wagering a significant amount of money, with a third person standing behind them.
  • The two elbow-to-elbow players are also peeking at their individual hand more than one time: also known as double peeking their hands.
  • Another player sitting in either first or second betting position who is a distraction; constantly talking with the dealer and slowing down the game.

Note: It would be wise for Surveillance to conduct a video review any time a large payout is made on any Alternative game. A review should be conducted to insure the validity of the winning hand prior to payment. In addition, reviews can be accomplished from the floor by looking at the card dealt display on the I-Deal shuffling machines.

Card marking is the next possible method of cheating. The marking strategy is standard but the actual card marking technique varies. In most cases, the actual markings on the cards are not detected until the cards can be closely examined. The telltale signs of marked card play are either (1) the cheater’s strategy for Play or Fold, or (2) the act of marking the cards by the cheater.

Marking cards in any card game is done so the cheaters can identify rank or value of specific cards in the Dealer’s hand. For information purposes, at the very least all “wild” cards will be marked. The cheats may also opt to marking several ranks of high cards such as the Aces and Kings. The markings will be applied in a manner so these key cards can be identified while laying or stacked in front of the Dealer.

If the Dealer’s cards are spread five cards wide, the most likely method for marking the cards will be the application of “daub”. Daub is a colored substance that is applied during play by one of the cheaters who specializes in applying and reading the substance.

If the dealer’s hand is placed stacked on the table, the cheaters will bend and/or crimp the cards with the bends/crimps applied in different corners or edges of the card. Using a marking method that physically distorts the appearance of the cards will allow the cheaters to see cards values while in a single five-card stack.

Chances of spotting marked card play is more likely when the cheater is in the process of marking the cards. If the cheater is using a “daub”, the substance is applied with the fingertip while gently rubbing it across the back of the target playing card with the index finger. If the cheater decides to bend or corner crimp the cards, the bend/crimp can be done several ways while holding the target card between the fingers and applying slight pressure. This action is usually NOT spotted by the untrained individual.

It takes about 30 minutes to mark 90 percent of the target cards when the card marker is able to touch five cards at a time. However, due to the two-deck feature of the shuffling machine, it will take twice as long.

Detection Tips: Cheaters using daub will apply the substance with their fingertip of their index finger. The cheater daubing will also be the cheater who will read the markings and signal the marked community card values to any other cheaters at the table. Before the cheating play begins, the dauber will leave the table and head to the restroom to clean off his finger and get rid of the daub cup (holder).

Another detection tip is watching the customer’s Play/Fold strategy. Watch for customers who fold hands containing a pair of 4s or better when the Dealer holds at least one wild card. Deviations from a game’s basic strategy when a Player is wagering a significant amount of money is a key indicator of “future” Dealer hand information.

Articles by Author: Bill Zender

As former Nevada Gaming Control Agent, casino operator, professional card counter and casino consultant, Bill Zender has been involved in various areas of gaming and hospitality since 1976. In the past, Zender has instructed courses on game protection, card counting, advantage play and gaming operations at various colleges and institutions throughout the country. As a member of JMJ, Inc., Zender was an owner and operator of the Aladdin Hotel and Casino and has additional operational experience in card room casinos in California and is considered an expert in Asian gaming. Besides his practical gaming experience, Zender holds a bachelors in hotel administration and a masters in business. As a gaming author Zender has penned seven non-fiction books on gaming including Card Counting for the Casino Executive, and the Casino-ology series. Owner/consultant of Bill Zender and Associates, Zender spent was general manager at a major California cardroom casino from 2018-2019. For more information, visit