Note: Mississippi Stud Poker and Cajun Stud Poker are virtually the same game offered by two different table game suppliers. For the purpose of this article, I will be referring to the game as Mississippi Stud Poker.
Last month we examined the alternative game of Three Card Poker (TCP) and various ways to attack the game both legally (advantage play) and illegally (cheating). In this article we will examine similar methods of attack with the game of Mississippi Stud Poker (MSP). There are three functional differences between the two games. The first difference is that most attacks on TCP focus on potential information gained from the dealer’s three hole-cards. In MSP the focus is on gaining information of the game’s three community cards. In addition, in MSP the dealer does not receive a hand and has no hole-cards, and subsequently does not need to “qualify” to play or have a hand that needs to best the players.
Second, in TCP there is only one betting round, however in MSP there are three betting cycles based on information of additional cards as the community cards are revealed. With these three betting cycles, the player can use information when knowing two cards, three cards and finally four cards before making his call/bet/fold decision.
The third difference is that the player in a TCP game has the option only to “call” or “fold” his hand. In MSP the player decides whether to call, fold or raise his hand with the possibility of raising three times his ante wager during any or all of the betting cycles.
Sometimes I am questioned as to why there is a high mathematical house advantage for Mississippi Stud poker, calculated at around 5 percent (using computer perfect betting strategy). The higher house advantage is subject to the ante wager only. However, the three betting cycles and the ability to raise 3X the ante on each cycle, allows a player to have a total of 10 ante units at risk.
Based on computer perfect betting on each round, the average number of total units wagered on each hand is 3.6 units (Wizard of Odds 2022). This same effect is noted when calculating the advantage an advantage player gains when knowing an unexposed community card. Any mathematical gain by the player is compared only to the ante wager and not an average of any additional wagers.
Basic Betting Strategy
To be able to identify bad play, one must first be able to identify good play. This requires the floor supervisor or surveillance operator to have knowledge of the basic betting strategy of the game, especially the strategy used when the player has information only of his first two cards during the first betting cycle. This two-card strategy is as follows:
- Raise 3x with any pair (except 2s).
- Raise 1x with at least two middle cards (6-10) or one high card (J-A).
- Raise 1x with 6/5 suited.
- Fold all others.
There are three different betting strategies based on the cards known during each of the three betting cycles, however, for game protection purposes the most important strategy is what the player will do when seeing his first two cards. It can be assumed that most avenues for attacking MSP have to do with obtaining information about community card to be revealed in the future. This information will influence the decisions made by the player that deviate from the basic betting strategy to wager 3X the ante when the two-card strategy indicates they should wager 1X or fold. Most information gained from future community card knowledge will be apparent during the two-card betting cycle and should be the focus of the casino employee protecting this game.
For a more detailed list of the basic betting strategies recommended for all three betting cycles please click here:
Avenues of Attack in Mississippi Sud Poker
There are two methods management needs to be aware of regarding advantage play attacks in Mississippi Stud Poker:
- Players sharing information when taking up all seven playing positions
- Spying one of the tables three community cards because of careless dealers
You cannot rule out a player collusion attack where all seven players at the table share hand information. The alternative game rule-of-thumb of 35 cards of information before collusion becomes a threat does not hold up in this situation. If advantage players were to take up all seven seated positions at the table and used computer perfect strategies after the exposure of each community card, the team could gain an approximate 1.5 percent advantage over the game.
This situation was recognized during the COVID period since several casinos decided to deliver all the player cards face-up. When one player can see all the cards, it’s much easier (and quicker) to gather the necessary card information. In addition, since the card information is open and available, a team does not have to take up all seated positions as long as regular customers are in those other positions playing. All the information is available for the taking.
However, this is not an attractive attack strategy since the 1.5 percent is applied to each player’s ante bet only. You will understand why the information sharing attacks are kicked to the curb when you realize the incredible percentage the advantage player gains when spying just one of the game’s three community cards.
Pro-active solutions: If your casino is still dealing all the player’s cards face-up, halt this process and go back to dealing the player’s cards face-down. By making information gathering more difficult, the casino will discourage most if not all collusion attempts.
Another solution would be to limit the number of wagering positions. I recommend only doing so if you have reason to believe a team of players is presently occupying all seat positions and exchanging information. In this situation, inform the customers at the table that you will be blocking off one of the betting positions (first or last position). Reducing the possible card information by one spot renders this attack unprofitable for the advantage player. I suggest using this game protection method only when you are sure this form of collusion attack is happening.
Spying community card attacks in MSP are usually limited to the knowledge of one of the three community cards. This situation occurs when using a shuffling machine that drops/deals the community cards in a three-card groups, and if the cards being delivered are by a sloppy or undertrained dealer. Fortunately, when the inept dealer removes the cards from the shuffler, the only card that can be exposed is the bottom card of the three-card group. Seeing more cards of the three is not possible unless the cards are dealt in the older fashion, from a deck held in the dealer’s hand and delivered one card at a time.
The edge gained by the advantage player on hands where he sees a single community card varies between an approximate 50 percent to 100 percent. This edge is generated from the advanced knowledge of future exposed card information and the fact that a player, armed with this information, will be able to make raise decisions sooner. Remember that the player provided with advanced card knowledge can place a series of bets of 3X the ante. It’s also important to remember that knowledge of a revealed community card which is turned up last is much more important than that of a community card turned up earlier.
Detection Tip: Watch for MSP players who appear to be making wagering decisions based on “future” card information. Like all card games, it is important for floor and surveillance personnel to learn the basic betting strategy for each of the three betting cycles. Any serious deviations from this basic game betting strategy, especially when the deviation is aggressive, should be questioned. For more information on spied card strategies click here.
How can management be “pro-active” and help prevent this situation from occurring in the first place? There are several procedural steps that can be implemented to prevent a careless, sometimes under trained dealer from exposing a card when removing the community cards from the shuffling machine.
1. Use a modified plastic cut card or security card inserted into the shuffling machine’s playing card dealing well prior to the start of dealing. The modified plastic cut card/security card is designed (or modified) with an open area cut into the plastic card over the area where a sensor is located in the card dealing well. The sensor will not identify that a plastic card is in the well and will drop the three-card community cards (first group of cards dropped). Even though the modified/security cards have an opening, it is not large enough to expose a sufficient portion of the value of the bottom playing card. The dealer will take the three-card community cards, place them on the table in front of him, remove the plastic card, and place it off to the side. This plastic card will be inserted into the dealing well of the machine at the beginning of each new delivery cycle.
2. Teach all dealers the importance of removing the community cards from the machine and placing them immediately onto the table layout without exposing the bottom card. This sounds like the simplest and easiest procedure to prevent hole-card play, however experience has taught us that dealers will get sloppy and lazy over time and management cannot totally rely on the dealers to keep the hole-card unexposed.
For more information on advantage play in Mississippi Stud Poker click here.
Regarding cheating at Mississippi Stud Poker, the two common methods are.
- Switching cards between two players
- Marking cards for hand play information.
Important note: Although card switching in Mississippi Stud Poker is possible, it is not very likely. Cheaters are hesitant to switch cards in multi betting phase games like MSP. The decision on which cards to switch and the action needed to complete the switch takes time. The decision and action would need to take place immediately after the cheaters received their first two cards. Dealer activity when revealing additional community cards is quick and would not provide enough time for the cheaters to complete the task. Also, the fact the cheaters have only two cards to choose from limits the possible gain opportunity considering the penalty of being caught cheating. Cheaters looking to switch cards would be more attracted to games such as Three Card or versions of Four Card Poker. For more information on card switching in Alternative games, please refer to my November article on Three Card Poker.
Card marking is the next method of cheating. The marking strategy is basic 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 wagering during each of the three betting cycles, or (2) the act of marking the cards by the cheater.
For betting purposes, the target cards of the marker are typically the high cards that constitute the guaranteed “win” pairs of Jack, Queen, King, and Ace. It would be beneficial for the cheaters to mark the cards in a manner to indicate the different value of cards in this grouping so the cheaters know when future unexposed cards will give them a winning hand. Cheaters my also wish to mark all the middle cards as well since a pair of middle cards will provide them with a guaranteed “push.”
Note: Cheaters will opt to mark less numbers of cards for several reasons. Daubing or crimping that marks too many values lead to mistakes in reading the markings which become very costly. In MSP the cheaters will probably opt for less information than more.
Another approach for spotting marked card play occurs 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. 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 usually takes about an hour to mark 90 percent of the target cards, however due to the two-deck feature of the shuffling machine, it may take several hours.
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).
Additional Note: Some daubs are all but impossible the see with the untrained eye. Because most daub paints are sensitive to infrared light, the markings could stand out when viewing the cards through a night vision camera/monitor. Infrared cameras are found in night clubs and areas outside the casino facility that require nighttime surveillance and could be used as a source for viewing daubed playing cards.