A new Texas Hold’em bot is available in Las Vegas. It is called “Texas Hold’em Fold Up.” The machine is located at Harrah’s on the Las Vegas Strip. The game is in a slot bank a few steps away from the buffet.
The game was invented by Michael Baker. Texas Hold’em Fold Up is distributed by IGT, the same company that rolled out the heads up Texas Hold’em bot machines in 2010. Texas Hold’em Fold Up plays five bots against the player. It is similar to playing a six-max cash game.
The game begins with the player choosing a denomination. Harrah’s spreads quarters, half dollars and dollars. Marketing material from IGT suggests that these are the only available limits for this game.
Texas Hold’em Fold Up rakes 25 percent
The Texas Hold’em Fold Up machine rakes nine units up to 25 percent. This means that a $9 pot reaches the rake cap of $2.25 at quarters. The quarter denomination plays as $.50/$1 fixed limit Texas Hold’em.
Half dollar players will have a rake cap of $4.50 on an $18 pot. Half dollars play as $1/$2 fixed limit. Dollar players will see a $9 rake cap on a $36 pot. Dollars play as $2/$4.
The average pot on my quarter game was around $12. That still puts the average rake near 20 percent. Pots with 30 big bets were not unusual. A pot of that size has a rake of about 7.5 percent.
Bots fold face up
As the Texas Hold’em Fold Up name implies, a folded bot hand is placed face up. This creates what I perceive to be a narrow advantage to the player. This could be used to determine whether straights should be chased, especially gutshots with no other serious draws.
A low pocket pair becomes an easy fold when a match is folded face up by an opponent. There were a few hands I folded on the flop because I saw too many parts of my draws dead among the folded hands.
Starting a hand of Texas Hold’em Fold Up
Texas Hold’em Fold Up is played limit with a deviation from normal rules. Instead of blinds, which could be exploited in this format, the player antes two units before cards are dealt. The button moves one spot clockwise after each hand.
The button remains in the same position when a player cashes out. This prevents positional angle shooting.
A player must have 50 credits in the machine to play a hand. This is the maximum number of chips that can be in action in any given hand.
The payouts are listed on the screenshot to the right based on two credits. The bonus bet pay table can vary with a range of 96.5% to 99.91%, according to marketing material distributed by IGT. The casino determines which pay table is used.
The Texas Hold’em Fold Up bonus bet only pays out the highest winning hand. For example, if a player flops a full house but makes quads on the turn, the bonus bet only wins 100 credits. This differs from the IGT heads up bot machine where a player flopping the same hand would pick up the full house flop bonus, as well as the turn and river quads payout.
There is an annoying bug in the machine that all too often would reset the bonus bet to five credits. It is the default when starting play. Players must adjust it to the preferred number.
I noticed several times that the game would revert back to five credits on the bonus bet for no apparent reason. Moving between denominations causes this, as does scrolling through help screens. There was no explanation for why it changed the bonus bet back to five credits other times. I would only notice that the bet went from my initial two-credit wager up to the five-credit max after winning the wager, even though I had done nothing to reset the game. Players should be aware of this before playing.
Texas Hold’em Fold Up preflop action
The action starts to the left of the button. Since there are no blinds, there is an option to check. Even if there is no bet, the fold button is still available. This seemed like a bug to me. The action I gave the heads up Texas Hold’em machine and my online poker experience made it difficult to avoid folding when I could check. This cost me several winning pots until I was able to break the habit.
In addition to open folding, players may check or bet if a bot has not opened or call and raise if there is action pending. A bet is equal to two units before the flop.
It was rare to find too many raises before the flop by the bots. Once a bot opened, there was a good chance that it would only take one bet to see the flop. Capped pots guaranteed monster starting hands among the bots.
Preflop limp/check reraises were very uncommon but not completely out of the question. When this occurred, it almost certainly meant the bot had pocket aces or kings or one of each of those cards.
The flop percent for the bots was well above 50% when it only took one bet to see the flop. Raising the opener, especially if it was immediately to my right, would clear the field and often create heads up action.
The opening bot would rarely three bet in this situation or any other. If it did, it was a good sign that a big pair or big ace was held by the opponent.
It was very rare for any hand to end before the flop. In my five hours of play, I won fewer than 10 hands this way. There were not many instances of a bot taking the pot down preflop if I folded.
I found that the best preflop play was to only come in with hands that could make nut straights, higher suited cards and pairs. Any other hand would create a difficult post-flop scenario not worth pursuing.
After the flop
The action after the flop was often wild. It was nearly impossible to put the bots on anything unless there was a tell before the flop, like a three bet or cap. Four-bet multiple action was common after the flop.
A bet is equal to two units after the flop. I found that a bot would have to completely miss the flop to fold here. This was easy to note as the bots fold face up. An opponent with one over card or runner-runner draws would usually stay in the hand.
The only exception to this rule I discovered was when a bot would fold on the flop with an open ended straight draw where the board contained three connected cards and the bot held one. It did not matter if the bot held the bottom or top draw.
The turn sees less action than the flop. Bots that missed and had hopeless hands would fold here. Capped pots were far less common on the turn. Capped turn action often meant that my hand was weak. A turn bet is four units.
River action was completely unpredictable. The bots had no issue with opening the river with an unimproved ace or king. Even more unusual was that they would call raises with these same hands, even with action pending behind them and callers in front.
The screenshot to the right shows where I held a straight and an unimproved eight-high called me at showdown with action behind. A second bot called an unimproved king in this hand. Both were crushed by my straight.
Another hand included a board of AAJJ5 where pocket deuces called my river bet. Two bots were still in the hand behind it and called.
These examples were frequent. My big hands were almost always paid off by weak hands, often by multiple bots holding nothing more than a high card.
One scenario I disliked on the river was the number of times that a bot would have top pair no kicker into a terrifying board and jam the pot when another bot had the nuts.
For example, I would have the second or third flush into a four-flush board. One bot would have the ace for the nuts and the other would have king-rag that paired the king. The king-rag bot would raise and reraise an obvious loser into the nuts, trapping my hand that is a tough fold in Limit Hold’em with a huge pot.
I was eventually able to avoid these situations. That took multiple hours of play to gain enough experience to not fall for it.
While that play would be suspicious at a live table, it also fell my way. I held the nuts several times when the bots were happy to reraise me with very weak hands. In one hand, I made quads. The bots continued to raise me with no chance of winning.
It happened far more often the wrong way because there are five bots playing me. I feel this scenario would give a player with a small sample size a reason to question the game.
Action after player folds
One odd feature of Texas Hold’em Fold Up is that the game continues on after the player folds at a hyper speed. The bots would often cap each other on every street all the way to the end. In my experience, there were weak hands involved in this aggression that capped all the way to the showdown. I wondered if this was a way to show the player that there was action at these tables.
The winner in an all-bot hand is irrelevant. They do not have chip stacks. They are bankrolled with unlimited chips. This made me draw the conclusion that this loose action was only for show.
I discovered after playing a while that I could bypass this phase after I folded. There is an “End Game” button that is essentially a pre-fold that is found in fast-fold poker games. If I knew I was going to fold to any bet, I would press the button as soon as a bot opened the betting. The hand ended immediately and I could move on to the next one. The bonus bet would still be paid as the board would get dealt out in its entirety. The bots would stop the reraising if I chose this option.
Atrocious rake rewards bad bot play
The bot play is some of the worst I have ever seen. It reminded me of PartyPoker in 2004. The bots had no issue chasing one over-card runner-runner flush draws for multiple bets on the flop, only to fold the turn on a miss, or worse, hit the long shot for a terrible bad beat.
I drew the conclusion that this bad play was rewarded in multi-way pots. The implied pot odds are one reason, but the fact that a four-way pot created a freeroll for one bad hand to get in added to that.
With a 25 percent rake, only two of the bots in a four-way hand are putting house money into the pot until it caps. Even with two bots and a human player, the amount a nearly dead hand contributes chasing a miracle is negligible and well rewarded when it nails the nasty runner-runner double inside straight into one over card.
The bots will call down virtually anything. This gives great value betting opportunities to mediocre player hands. It destroys any bluff value.
I discovered that bluffs are virtually worthless at this game. Nearly all were called with any high card. I turned this into a strategy where I would value bet any pair in late position. The bots would rarely check around with any significant match of the board.
Total Rewards available on Texas Hold’em Fold Up
Texas Hold’em Fold Up at Harrah’s Las Vegas accepts the Total Rewards card. This is the loyalty card used by all Caesars Entertainment properties. The game returns $1 in comps or $.50 in free play for every $1,000 wagered when a Total Rewards card is inserted into the machine.
I earned about 800 Tier Credits during five hours of quarter action spread across two days. I would have earned 3,200 Tier Credits playing dollars on the same level of action. Part of this came before I discovered the “End Game” option so my average hands per hour is lower than it should have been. I estimate that a dollar player could earn about 1,000 Tier Credits per hour on this game.
Most players will find this amount of comps and Tier Credits to be nearly worthless. Caesars is not known for its immediate rewards to players, especially those that choose video poker.
Total Rewards offers often come in the form of mailers. This includes free hotel rooms, meal vouchers and free slot play tickets. The Total Rewards website displays offers to players based on action. Texas Hold’em Fold Up appears to qualify similar to any other game as it is not a restricted point machine.
The Total Rewards website does not always display all offers. Players that give action to this machine or any other with a Total Rewards card should attempt to book a room and see what comps are available. Free rooms not advertised in a player’s offers tab will often appear at the end of a booking.
A comped room still carries the applicable resort fee. That is $25 plus tax in Las Vegas if a player does not hold a Diamond or Seven Stars players card.
Total Rewards Diamond in a Day
Texas Hold’em Fold Up is a candidate for Diamond in a Day. This is a program where a Gold or Platinum tiered Total Rewards player can achieve Diamond status based on a single day’s action. A player that earns 5,000 Tier Credits in a day, which runs from 6am to 6am, reaches Diamond status. This typically requires 15,000 Tier Credits in a year.
Diamond players obtain special privileges at all Caesars resorts. This includes line passes, access to the Diamond Lounge and a birthday dining credit.
Fun game, but probably unbeatable
The weak play of the bots gives the impression that Texas Hold’em Fold Up is a beatable game. The excessive rake probably makes that impossible.
Texas Hold’em Fold Up is a very fun game. It was the most enjoyable machine I have played in Las Vegas since the heads up Texas Hold’em bots were rolled out five years ago. With that said, I don’t think anybody is going to beat this game because of the 25 percent — up to nine credits — rake. Any player that can grind out a profit in this game is probably better off playing live or online poker.
The above observations occurred during two separate surveys of Texas Hold’em Fold Up. The first was on November 7, 2015. The second was on November 10. Total play was about five hours, equal to approximately 3,500 hands of action.
Image Ameri-Kantaro / Shutterstock.com