Mississippi Stud Poker

To those who are familiar with the history of poker, the name “Mississippi Stud” will suggest that this is a game that boasts a long history – after all, most modern forms of poker originated on the gambling riverboats which sailed the Mississippi River in the final years of the 18th century.

If that were the case, however, then the likelihood is that every devoted fan of poker would be intimately familiar with the game. In reality, many avid fans of poker have never even heard of Mississippi Stud! How can this be? The answer, perhaps unsurprisingly, lies in modern marketing techniques.

So, just how did Mississippi Stud get its name?

In truth, Mississippi Stud Poker is one of the newest games to appear on the casino floor. The name was almost certainly chosen with the deliberate intention of convincing players that this is a game steeped in history, but it feels quite unfair to me to suggest there was any malicious intent behind this choice of name.

If something has existed for a long period of time, most of us will consequently assume that it must be inherently trustworthy; this is why many shops and other commercial establishments will proudly proclaim “Established 1837” or similar outside their premises.

Sometimes, the business will have switched industries multiple times since the date of its formation; the products or services being offered will almost certainly have changed drastically during the years since the advertised date; often, the current owner of the business will not even be part of the same lineage as the original owner! Somehow, none of these seemingly obvious facts matter to a significant portion of the public – long-established businesses are somehow regarded as being inherently more trustworthy than those start-ups.

What is Mississippi Stud Poker?

Don’t let the name fool you – despite featuring both “Stud” and “Poker” in its name, Mississippi Stud is not a form of stud poker. This is a casino table game, which works similarly to games such as Blackjack and Baccarat. It’s a simple game to learn, and the correct strategy is easy to pick up and memorize too.

Over the decades that Blackjack has been popular in casinos, dozens of variants have gained popularity. While some players might enjoy scouring the various casinos of Las Vegas to find the “best game in town”, for most this is just an unnecessary chore.

Mississippi Stud is one of several “next generation” table games, designed specifically to appeal to younger audiences by offering one set of rules, a simple strategy, and a fair house advantage. Some sources even claim that Mississippi Stud has a lower house edge than “traditional” blackjack, though I think this is stretching the truth a little myself. See our section on House Edge later in this article to learn more about this.

How the game works

As a poker-based table game, Mississippi Stud is played against a house dealer rather than the other players seated at your table. It is seemingly heavily inspired by “Let it Ride”, but also borrows ideas from Seven Card Stud, Texas Hold’em, and Three Card Poker.

This effectively makes Mississippi Stud a “house-banked” game, but unlike other games in this category, the result of each round is not determined by comparing your hand to that of the dealer.

Instead, bets placed on Mississippi Stud are settled according to a fixed payout table, just as in Video Poker games such as Jacks or Better, Aces & Eights, and Deuces Wild. This sets alarm bells ringing in my mind – how long will it be before casinos begin to tamper with the payout table to increase their profits?

A late discovery

At this point in the article, I had originally written that I was surprised that this had not happened already. Then, just before I finished writing the last couple of sections, I discovered the reason for this important difference between the older casino classics and newer games such as Mississippi Stud.

When a new table game is invented, the person or company who creates it will trademark the name of the game, copyright any aspects of it that they can, and set up a licensing scheme for casinos to join should they wish to offer the new game at their land-based venues or websites.

The terms of these contracts include specific clauses which stipulate that any table advertised as offering “Mississippi Stud” must operate using the official rules and paytable that were set out by the inventor of the game. This is the reason why newer table games have not become fragmented in the same way as Blackjack or Video Poker.

Some casinos choose to skip paying these licensing fees, and will instead offer a nearly identical game that has slightly different rules, or minor changes to the paytable. In some cases, an operator may even choose to use the exact same format as Mississippi Stud, but the trademark owned by the copyright holder prevents these casinos from using the name “Mississipi Stud”.

Many decades from now, the trademark and patent rights held by the inventor of the game will expire, leaving casinos free to modify the rules in any way they see fit. That day is a long way off for now, however, and until it does the only legal way to offer a game called “Mississippi Stud” is by using the original rules and payout schedule.

The short but unique history of Mississippi Stud Poker

New casino games tend to have a very limited window during which to become successful before they disappear from the casino floor, never to be seen again. This can be extremely disappointing for the inventor of the new game – it can take years to design and test a new game, and most countries require all new games to be reviewed and regulated before they can even be tested in a casino environment.

Mississippi Stud was invented by Mark Yoseloff, who was the Chief Executive of Shuffle Master at the time when he was working on the game. For clarity, Shuffle Master is a casino accessories company who specialize in creating automated shuffling machines and similar devices designed to increase the number of hands per hour that can be played at tables offering games such as Blackjack and Baccarat.

Conveniently, the use of an automated shuffler also prevents card counters from using their knowledge and skill to gain a small edge over the casinos. Whilst this is bad news for the card counters, many people don’t realize that the use of an automated shuffling machine results in a sightly lower house edge at the Blackjack table, which benefits all players. This is because the most valuable cards – the tens and aces – are returned to the shoe at the end of every hand, rather than being placed in the discard pile.

The first five years of Mississippi Stud

As the brainchild of a Chief Executive heading up one of the gambling industries most influential hardware suppliers, Mark was in a unique position to twist a few arms and get his new game out there for people to play. The story goes that during the first five years after Mississippi Stud was presented to over a dozen casino managers, only two of them liked the game enough to allocate it space on the floor of their premises.

If Mississippi Stud had been created by anybody else, it is unlikely I would be writing it about it today – it would simply have disappeared without a trace. You can’t gain a foothold in the casino industry with just one or two tables, but Mark did not give up – he believed the game was a winner, and who was going to tell him otherwise? He was a CEO, after all.

It’s impossible to verify the veracity of such claims, but some have even suggested that Shuffle Master would offer a discount on their equipment if a casino was willing to make a commitment to hosting tables of Mississippi Stud. All of this may have ended up being for nothing, were it not for the “poker boom” caused by Chris Moneymaker winning the World Series of Poker in 2003. Over the next few years, countless poker-based table games were created in the hope of cashing in on the buzz created by this freak event, but the majority failed to gain any transaction. Thanks to a concerted effort by Mark Yoseloff, his game was one of the few which managed to succeed, and can now be found in casinos all over the United States.

And, by the way…

Why was Mark Yoseloff so determined to ensure his game was a success? You don’t need to be a genius to work this one out – it all comes to money, of course. One of the biggest reasons why casinos are still filled primarily by Blackjack, Baccarat, and Roulette tables isn’t because these are the best, most amazing games ever to be created – it is because they are now so old that any patents or copyrights which may have been filed against them have long since expired.

Games such as Mississippi Stud, on the other hand, have only recently been patented. This makes them more expensive for a casino to offer, whilst simultaneously providing a constant stream of passive income for the inventor of the game.

In addition to creating Mississippi Stud, Mark Yoseloff also holds more than 100 gambling-related patents. This goldmine of intellectual property has allowed Mark to focus on his latest venture – the International Gaming Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

How much can you win playing Mississippi Stud Poker?

The paytable for Mississippi Stud is very straightforward, as follows:
Hand Pays
Royal Flush 500 to 1
Straight Flush 100 to 1
Four of a Kind 40 to 1
Full House 10 to 1
Flush 6 to 1
Straight 4 to 1
Three of a Kind 3 to 1
Two Pairs 2 to 1
Pair of Jacks or Better 1 to 1
Pair of 6’s, 7’s, 8’s, 9’s, or 10’s Push
Anything Else Loss

 

Online vs Land Based – Where is the best place to play Mississippi Stud Poker?

Because Mississippi Stud is owned and trademarked by Shufflemaster, both land-based and online casinos are required to pay a license fee if they wish to offer the game. This ensures that every casino offering “Mississippi Stud” is bound by their licensing agreement to offer the game using the official pay table and rule set.

Many players prefer to play table games in land-based casinos, preferring the atmosphere of the casino environment over the arguably far less exciting experience of playing these games alone at home. Online casinos have sought to counter this by introducing “Live Casino” versions of games such as Blackjack, Roulette, and yes, Mississippi Stud.

Live casino games emulate the casino environment as closely as possible by having a human dealer handling the cards and allowing the players at the table to converse with each other using a live chat feature. The most recent innovations in Live Casino technology have seen Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality casinos appear, providing an incredibly immersive alternative to actually visiting a land-based casino.

On the other hand, “virtual” implementations of Mississippi Stud can also be found online too. These are usually played one-on-one, with heach hand including just yourself and the computer-controlled dealer. In this format, the cards are dealt using a random number generator, and you will usually be able to play vastly more hands per hour than you ever could at either a land-based or live casino.

Some players do not trust random number generators, but these fears are almost always unfounded. As long as you play at a licensed and regulated online casino, you can feel confident that their random number generators are frequently spot-checked to ensure players are not being cheated. Gamblers are a superstitious bunch though, and simply do not trust computers to deal the cards in a fair and random manner.

Personally, I adore a night out at the casino – both men and women will usually make a big effort to look their best when visiting these venues, and something about the whole experience just feels special and unique to me. When I visit a land-based casino, however, I will usually take far more money with me than I tend to deposit for a night in playing online slots or poker.

If you only ever play online, I thoroughly recommend taking a trip to your local casino to experience the action in its original form. Similarly, if you enjoy gambling but have yet to try playing online – whether due to trust, or some other reason – the industry is now fully developed, and you are missing out on a fantastic way to play a short game of poker, try your luck on the slots with $10 just for a bit of fun, or discover what it is like to play at a live casino table. My advice is to live life to the fullest – give both options a try!

Mississippi Stud Poker Strategy

The number one tip I can give you for playing this game is never to make the medium raise – mathematically, there is no situation is Mississippi Stud where making this bet makes sense. Sometimes you want to stay in the hand because you have a reasonable chance to improve on the next card, so you want to make the minimum bet required (there is no option to check).

Any time your hand is good enough to warrant making a bet larger than the minimum required, you should always choose the maximum 3x option. We’ll demonstrate a couple of examples of this in the follow section titled “Example Hands”.

The simplest way to value your hand in Mississippi Stud is to assign a value to each of the cards on the table.

  • Jacks through Aces are regarded as “high” cards and are worth two points.
  • A six through to a ten is considered to be a “medium” card, and is worth one point. Notice that this co-incides with the minimum item on the paytable, which is a push for any pair of sixes or better.
  • Finally, deuces through fives are considered junk or “low” cards, and a value of zero points.

Two Card Strategy

After placing your initial ante bet you wil receive two cards. There are very few options at this stage of the game, so be prepared to fold a lot of your starting hands.

  1. If you have a pair, you don’t need to consider points – always make the 3x raise.
  2. If your initial two cards total two points, make a 1x raise.
  3. There is a single edge case – a suited five and six are worth risking a 1x raise.
  4. In all other situations, cut your losses and fold the hand.

Three Card Strategy

Things seem a little more complicated once the first community card is dealt to the table, and indeed this is by far the most complex round to memorise. In reality though, your next move will be obvious most of the time, and when it isn’t you just revert to the points system.

  1. If you have a made hand – that is, a pair of sixes or better, or anything and everything further up the paytable, go right ahead and make the maximum 3x raise. You can only improve at this point, so there is no reason not to get as many chips on the table as possible.
  2. Three cards to a royal flush – 3x raise.
  3. Three contiguous cards to a straight flush starting at 5/6/7 or better – 3x raise.
  4. Three cards to a straight flush with at least one high card and only one gap (eg 8/9/J) – 3x raise.
  5. Three cards to a straight flush with at least two high cards and two gaps (eg 9/J/K) – 3x raise.
  6. Any other three suited cards – 1x raise.
  7. Low pair (fives or below) – speculate with a 1x raise.
  8. Three points of any other configuration – 1x raise.
  9. Three cards to a straight with no gaps starting at 4/5/6 or higher – 1x raise.
  10. Three cards to a straight with one gap and at least two medium cards (eg 6/7/9) – 1x raise.
  11. Fold everything else.

Four Card Strategy

You are paid out as soon as the final card hits the table, so this is the final betting round. Many decisions are even more obvious than the previous round, so this part shouldn’t take you long to learn:

  1. Once again, if you have a made hand, always make the maximum possible 3x raise. You know your payday is coming, the bigger the better!
  2. Four cards to any flush – 3x raise.
  3. Four cards to an outside straight (8 high or better, eg 5/6/7/8) – 3x raise.
  4. Any other straight draw – 1x raise.
  5. Low pair – 1x raise.
  6. Any other four point total – 1x raise.
  7. If you made a 3x raise in either of the previous rounds and have at least three points – 3x raise.
  8. Fold Everything else.

You will need to learn to follow this strategy exactly in order to ensure you do not inadvertently increase your own house edge, but thankfully, unlike Blackjack there is no need to learn a separate strategy card for every casino or rule set – the single one I have created below is sufficient for any game of Mississippi Stud.

I initially found it quite challenging to create a graphical representation of this strategy, but was eventually stunned when I realized just small the eventual strategy card ended up – if you are struggling to follow the steps described above, take a look at the table below and you’ll soon realize that the correct strategy is much easier than it sounds!

Mississipi Stud Poker – Optimal Strategy (4.91% House Edge)
Your Hand: Two Cards Three Cards Four Cards
Bet x3 Bet x 1 Bet x3 Bet x1 Bet x3 Bet x1
Mixed High and

Mid Cards

1 High or

2 Medium

2 High or

3 Medium or

1 High + 1 Medium

2 High or

1 High + 2 Med or

3 Med + 1 3x Bet

Any Pair Always Medium+ Low Medium / High Low
Flushes &

Flush Draws

5/6+ to S/Flush 5/6/7+ to Straight Flush

3 to SF w/1 High & 1 Gap

3 to SF w/2 High & 2 Gaps

Any 3 to a Flush Any 4 to a Flush
Straights &
Straight Draws
4/5/6+ Adjacent

3 w/1 Med + 1 Gap

5/6/7/8+ Adjacent Any 4 to Straight

Remember, there is no rule that prevents you from using a strategy card such as this at the table when you are visiting a land-based casino, so don’t hesitate to print this out and take it with you until you feel comfortable playing the game without one!

The House Edge of Mississippi Stud Poker

Earlier in this article I mentioned that some sources I have found online claim that Missiissipi Stud has a lower house edge than Blackjack, a statement that is demonstrably false. Naturally, this led me to wonder where such a claim might have come from.

Element of Risk

There is a little-known statistic in casino gaming known as the “element of risk”, which is a number that describes your expected return across multiple wagers. You often hear the house edge of various games being discussed, debated, and dissected, yet this alternative metric is often ignored.

When playing a slot machine, each spin costs a fixed amount, perhaps a dollar, and you know with certainty that no matter what happens during the spin, this cost will not change. Tables games such as blackjack work differently – you may be presented with the option to double or split, for example.

If you accept the offer to split your hand, you are effectively placing a second wager which has a different house edge to your original bet. In this scenario, the house edge for this individual hand is now different to that of the game as a whole.

In a game such as Mississippi Stud which features multiple betting rounds during every hand, this makes the house edge far less useful as a metric by which to gauge your potential returns while playing the game. By contrast, the element of risk takes into account the possible future bets you could place as each round proceeds.

This could potentially be the reason for the confusion surrounding the house edge of Mississippi Stud, and how it compares to that of Blackjack.

Which is more useful – house edge, or element of risk?

When playing Baccarat, Roulette, Video Poker, or Slots, the only number you need to be concerned with is the house edge. When comparing games such as Blackjack and Mississippi Stud, the element of risk is arguably a more useful metric by which to assess your odds. The following table lists the house edge and element of risk for several of the most popular casino games where multiple wagers can be placed during a single round:

Game Notes House Edge Element of Risk
Caribbean Stud Poker 5.22% 2.56%
Mississippi Stud 4.91% 1.37%
Let it Ride 3.51% 2.85%
Three Card Poker Ante & Play Bets 3.37% 2.01%
Blackjack Worst Possible Rules 2.48% Unknown
Ultimate Texas Hold’em 2.19% 0.53%
Blackjack 8 Deck Atlantic City Rules 0.43% 0.38%
Spanish 21 Dealer Stands on All 17s 0.40% 0.30%

As we can clearly see, the house edge of Blackjack is close to the very bottom of the table, beaten only by its super high-variance cousin Spanish 21. I tried inputting the worst possible Blackjack rules into a house edge calculator, too – eight decks, dealer hits a soft 17, no double after split, double on 10/11 only, and even included blackjacks pay 6:5 instead of 3:2.

These are the kind of rules that would make any semi-competent Blackjack player giggle at the audacity of the casino, and yet the resulting house edge is still more than 50% lower than that of Mississippi Stud. Unfortunately I was not able to establish the element of risk under these rules, but this should not be important as you are extremely unlikely to ever find a real game being offered that uses them.

Mississippi Stud is heavily based on Let it Ride, which has a lower overall house edge but a much higher element of risk. Here’s why: in Let it Ride, players have the option to decline to place additional wagers when the odds strongly suggest that they should. The simpler strategy of Mississippi Stud is less flexible in this regard, subsequently creating far fewer chances for players to make mistakes.

The end result is that despite having a relatively high house edge, many players will be more successful playing Mississippi Stud than Let it Ride. The cold, hard, truth, however is that anybody who wishes to play a poker-based table game is far better off learning to play Ultimate Texas Hold’em instead – that game boasts far better numbers in terms of both the house edge AND the element of risk.

Better yet, why not simply learn Blackjack instead? It isn’t difficult, is just as much fun, and has odds which are so much better than any of these alternatives that you are far, far more likely to finish the night with a profit. And if you don’t come out on top, you can at least take comfort in the fact that you will almost certainly have spent a much longer period enjoying yourself at the tables.

Why do so many websites claim Mississippi Stud has a lower house edge than Blackjack?

Mississippi Stud actually has one of the highest house edges of any casino table game, but actually compares quite favourably to most other table poker variants in terms of the element of risk. At 1.37%, it still doesn’t come close to matching Blackjack, so I remain fascinated as to how some online sources have reached the conclusion that Mississippi Stud is the game with the lower house edge.

I do have a theory, however – one such source that makes these inaccurate claims is none other than Wikipedia, one of the most popular and content-rich sites on the entire web. Despite having a reputation for often publishing incorrect and unverified facts, many people still quote the site verbatim without performing any fact-checking of their own.

My best guess is that all of these poor quality articles were written by people whom possess little gambling knowledge, and were too lazy to do their own research.

Your Mississippi Stud Poker Questions Answered (FAQ)

If every round in Mississippi Stud requires a forced bet, doesn’t that mean that a $5 table is actually a $20 table? What happens if I do not have enough chips to place one of the bets?

The average wager per hand tends to be quite high in Mississippi Stud. If you are seated at a $5 table and play the hand all the way to completion, you’ll require a minimum of $20 to do so. If you don’t have enough chips, your only option is to fold.

If you receive great cards and the correct strategy dictates you should place a 3x bet at every opportunity, you are going to need a total of $50 to complete a single hand at a $5 table! This scenario only ever occurs when you are absolutely certain of winning, but the last thing you want to happen is find yourself in a spot where you are guaranteed to win at the end of the hand, but are forced to place low bets – or worse, still, fold a winning hand.

The average spend per hand is roughly $17, due to the fact that you will often end up folding before the third community card is dealt. Nevertheless, you are quite right to say that you need a minimum of 4x the table stake to play a hand to completion, and should *always* have 10x the table stake in available to bet if you are going to play at all.

Does it matter if the other players at the table see my cards?

No, as Mississippi Stud is played against the dealer rather than the other players at your table. Proper etiquette, however, is still to keep them hidden just as you would at any other poker table. By sharing the value of your cards with the other players, you are giving them additional information as the remaining composition of the deck. This may be frowned upon by the casino, so keep your cards hidden at all times.

Why are the returns in Mississippi Stud so low compared to say, Jacks or Better? A Royal Flush pays 800 to 1 in Jacks or Better, but only 500 to 1 in Mississippi Stud.

There are a few reasons for this. In all video poker variants that I know of, you receive all five of your cards immediately after placing your initial (and only) wager. In Mississippi Stud, you have several chances to increase your wager as you see each new card dealt to the table. This grants the player a huge advantage, although you certainly wouldn’t know it by comparing the house edge of the two games.

What are the odds of winning the jackpot (IE, a royal flush) when playing Mississippi Stud?

Not good, I’m afraid – following the correct strategy, there is only one line that finishes in a royal flush, according to all of the analysis I have been able to find. I tried really hard to find something that contradicts this, as I really struggle to see how it can be accurate, so please do take this with a pinch of salt.

The source I used for these numbers, however, is Mike Shackleford – he is one of the most respected gambling mathematicians in the world, and by his calculations there are only 240 paths to a royal flush in Mississippi Stud. This gives a probability of 0.000002, or one in 500,000. I really feel like there has to be something not quite right here – surely the prize would be much higher if this number is accurate. Please do let us know if you can shed any light on this.

My local casino offers a number of side bets on their Mississippi Stud tables. Are these worth playing?

Side bets are almost always a bad deal compared to the main game, and all but one of the common examples I have found are no exception. That exception is a progressive side bet, which is apparently quite popular in some parts of America and maxes out at a $1,000,000 for a royal flush in spades.

This apparently costs $5 per hand to participate, so would be a terrible bet if it were not for the fact that there are lower wins ranging all the way down to $150 for a simple straight. I certainly wouldn’t play this every hand, but it sure sounds a lot more tempting than many other table game side bets!

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