The original trademark application for a hybrid table game known as Rabbit Hunter was filed on behalf of Shuffle Master Inc. in 2011.
Shuffle Master eventually became SHFL Entertainment, before being acquired by rival casino game equipment manufacturer Bally Technologies in 2013. Today, Bally Technologies holds the ownership rights to Rabbit Hunter.
The invention of the game is officially credited to veteran casino game designer Roger Snow, who also came up with Crazy 4 Poker, Four Card Poker, and Dealer Bluff Six Card Poker.
Rabbit Hunter, which is a simple five card poker game played against the dealer, made its debut in 2011 at a pair of small California gambling establishments: Pala Casino and Jackson Rancheria Casino. From there, the game made its way to Nevada with an installation at the Sunset Casino in Henderson, just outside of Las Vegas.
The concept of Rabbit Hunter is quite basic, offering players five cards and the ability to purchase a sixth, with the objective being to beat the dealer’s five card poker hand. The term “rabbit hunting” is taken from traditional community card poker games like Texas Hold’em, in which players who have folded before the “turn” or “river” cards may ask the dealer to see what would’ve appeared on the board.
Curiously, in normal player versus player poker games, rabbit hunting, as this practice is known, allows you to see an extra card without paying for the privilege. But in the Rabbit Hunter table game, you’ll be paying a premium straight to the house in exchange for an extra card.
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While the game isn’t all that popular nowadays, with limited casino placements if any at all, the transfer of Bally Technologies to Scientific Games may mean that Rabbit Hunter receives a renewed marketing push sometime in the future. With that in mind, this page was written to provide players with a thorough introduction to every aspect of the game. You’ll find a detailed description of the rules, gameplay, betting, and payouts. After that, we’ll discuss the most likely places to locate active Rabbit Hunter tables, before concluding with a discussion on proper strategy.
Rules and How to Play
As a house banked hybrid table game, Rabbit Hunter is played between up to six players on one side of a semi-circular table, each of whom is attempting to land a better five card poker hand than the dealer.
Card Values and Card Poker Hands
The game utilizes the standard 52 card deck of playing cards, and each card holds its traditional value according to poker rules. Thus, 2s are the lowest card and As are the highest, while the usual poker hand rankings apply. A single deck will be used on each hand and shuffled upon completion, rather than putting a multiple deck shoe into play.
If you haven’t seen a straight or filled a flush in some time, take a look below to see how five card poker hands compare:
|Royal Flush||Broadway straight (A K Q J 10) in the same suit|
|Straight Flush||Five consecutive cards (9 8 7 6 5) in the same suit|
|Four of a Kind||Four of same card (Q Q Q Q A)|
|Full House||Three of a kind + one pair (Q Q Q A A)|
|Flush||Five cards in the same suit (2h 6h 9h Kh Ah)|
|Straight||Five consecutive cards (6 5 4 3 2)|
|Three of a Kind||Three of same card (Q Q Q 2 A)|
|Two Pair||Two pairs of the same card (Q Q A A 2)|
|One Pair||One pair of the same card (Q Q 4 3 2)|
|High Card||No pair, highest card is rank of hand (A K 4 3 2)|
Steps to Playing Rabbit Hunter
Step #1: Place Your Ante Bet
To begin a hand of Rabbit Hunter, players must put up a mandatory Ante bet. This wager can be any size you want, so long as it meets or exceeds the posted table minimum.
Optional : Bonus Bet and/or The Bad Beat Side Bet
At this time, you can also put up the optional Bonus Bet, and/or the Bad Beat side bet. The Bonus Bet must be identical to the Ante bet, while the Bad Beat side bet can be for any amount – so long as it equals or exceeds the Ante bet.
Going forward, we’ll return to a running example hand which will be used to help illustrate important gameplay concepts. So for this betting round, imagine that we’ve put up the standard table game wager of $5 on the Ante bet, along with $5 on the Bonus bet, and $5 more on the Bad Beat side bet.
Step #2: Hole Cards Handed
When all players have anted up, the dealer will then pass out five cards face down to each player, along with five cards face down to themselves.
Of course, you may examine your own hole cards, but no sharing of information between players will be permitted.
For the running example hand, we’ve been dealt the Ad Ks Jd 10d 9d to start the hand. At this point, we don’t have anything but ace high, but we do have four diamonds (Ad Jd 10d 9d) to a flush, and four cards (A K J 10) to a straight.
Step #3: Make Up Your Mind
After taking a peek at your five-card starting hand, the game’s first and only player decision point takes place: Fold, Play, or Play and Buy a Card.
- FOLDING: you simply give up on the hand right then and there, forfeiting your Ante and/or Bonus bets.
- PLAYING: you elect to continue on to the showdown against the dealer, at the cost of an additional Play bet which equals your original Ante bet.
- PLAY AND BUY A CARD: you elect to play as per the procedures described above, but you also pay the house an amount equal to your Ante bet in exchange for a sixth card. This payment goes directly to the house, and thus is not a wager, but you’ll receive a sixth card to help improve your hand. At this point, the best five-card hand out of the six is the hand you’ll play against the dealer.
For the running example hand, we don’t have anything yet, but any diamond will complete a flush, and any queen will complete a straight. We can also catch an ace, king, or jack to make a decent one pair hand, so we’ll go ahead and take the Play and Buy option to draw a sixth card.
This means we’ll need to post the Play bet for $5 (equal to the Ante bet), along with the same amount for the Buy payment directly to the house. At this point, we have $10 in wagers at risk ($5 Ante + $5 Play bet = $10), along with a $5 “loss” for the Buy payment.
The dealer slides us our sixth card, which happens to be the 3d to complete our flush draw.
Step #4: Dealer Five-Card Hand Revealed
When all players have run through this threefold decision process – folding, playing, or buying a sixth card – the dealer will then reveal their five card hand.
Returning to the running example hand, the dealer has tabled the 4c 4h 6d 7h 9s for one pair of fours. This isn’t enough to best our ace high flush, though, so we’ll be winning this hand.
The dealer’s hand must rank at ace high or better in order to qualify, and dealer qualification is important, as this determines the final value of your payouts on winning hands.
- When the dealer does not qualify, your Ante bet will be returned as a push, and only the Play bet will be left as action based on the showdown.
- When the dealer does qualify, both your Ante bet and Play bet will be in action during the final showdown versus the dealer’s hand.
Should the dealer turn up the best five card poker hand, outranking your own, all bets left in action will be lost to the house.When your hand and the dealer’s hand tie, all bets left in action will be returned as a push.
Payouts – How it Works
And when your hand beats the dealer’s hand, all bets left in action will be paid out at even money.
These payout procedures are a bit complicated, so let’s use the running example hand to see how they work out from the player’s perspective. Our ace high flush is best against the dealer’s one pair of fours, and the dealer’s hand qualifies.
This means both of our $5 bets (Ante and Play) are left in action, to be paid out at even money. We earn $10 back on the base game wagers, but we also paid $5 to buy a sixth card, so the total outlay and return on the hand is as follows: $5 Ante + $5 Play bet + $5 Buy payment = $15 outlay, while $5 win on Ante bet + $5 return on Play bet = $10 return. Overall, we profited $5 on this hand.
The Bonus Bet is Also Active
In addition to the base game wagers, you’ll also have the Bonus Bet in play on most hands. This bet is paid out based on your five card hand alone, so the dealer’s hand doesn’t matter at all when settling the Bonus Bet. You can lose the showdown to the dealer and still win money on the Bonus Bet when you have a high ranking hand.
The most commonly encountered pay table used for the Bonus Bet can be found below:
|Rabbit Hunter Bonus Bet Pay Table|
|Royal Flush||500 to 1|
|Straight Flush||100 to 1|
|Four of a Kind||50 to 1|
|Full House||30 to 1|
|Flush||9 to 1|
|Straight||7 to 1|
|Three of a Kind||5 to 1|
|Two Pair||2 to 1|
|One Pair (10s or Better)||1 to 1|
As you can see, the Bonus Bet pay table uses an escalating scale based on the difficulty of forming each five card poker hand. You won’t land winners on this bet very often, but when you do, the big payouts more than make up for the losses (see the strategy section for more details).
In the running example hand, we put $5 on the Bonus Bet and landed an ace high flush in diamonds. At 9 to 1 for a flush, the Bonus Bet would return a cool $45 in profit.
The Bad Beat Side Bet
Finally, the Bad Beat side bet is triggered whenever both you and the dealer showdown one pair of 10s or better. In this case, either you or the dealer will suffer the proverbial “bad beat” – losing even with a strong hand. When this occurs, any wager on the Bad Beat side bet will be paid out at 10 to 1.
For the running example hand, the dealer only had one pair of fours, and not 10s, so we didn’t trigger the Bad Beat side bet. Had the dealer showed one pair of 10s or better, however, and we tabled the same ace high flush, our $5 wager on the Bad Beat side bet would produce a nice $50 payout at 10 to 1.
When all base game wagers and side bets have been settled, the dealer will collect the discards and begin a new hand.
Best Places to Play Rabbit Hunter
Today, it’s nearly impossible to find current information on Rabbit Hunter installations.
This may be due to the sale of Bally Technologies to rival casino game conglomerate Scientific Games, which caused Bally’s portfolio of casino game concepts – Rabbit Hunter included – to change hands.
As of now, the two casinos in California which hosted the game’s debut, along with Sunset Station in Henderson, Nevada, no longer spread Rabbit Hunter tables.
The game is approved for play in the following states:
Strategic Considerations for Rabbit Hunter
According to the foremost authority on casino game analysis, Michael Shackleford of the Wizard of Odds website, the basic strategy for the threefold player decision point in Rabbit Hunter’s base game can be broken down to the following rules:
When You Should …
You should always make the Play bet and Buy the sixth card when holding the following five-card starting combinations:
- Straight Flush which includes cards to a Royal Flush
- Flush which includes four cards to a Straight Flush or four cards to an inside Straight Flush
- Straight which includes four cards to a Straight Flush or four cards to an inside Straight Flush
- Three of a Kind
- Two Pair
- One Pair
- Four cards to a Straight Flush
- Four cards to an inside Straight Flush
- Four cards to a Flush
- Four cards to a Straight
- Four cards to an inside Straight
You should always fold when holding any ace eight high hand or worse, which is not a Play/Buy hand listed above.
You should always make the Play bet alone, without buying a sixth card, when holding any other hand.
By adhering to these strategic guidelines, the overall house edge on Rabbit Hunter’s base game stands at just 1.80 percent. Within the world of poker based hybrid table games, this makes Rabbit Hunter a strategically sound wager in the long run, as you’ll be facing a more favorable house edge than that offered by many similarly structured games.
Make Good Use of the Bonus Bet
When it comes to the optional Bonus Bet, this wager actually offers a positive return for players, so you should put a chip on the Bonus Bet space for every single hand of Rabbit Hunter you ever play.
Avoid the Bad side Bet
As for the game’s optional Bad Beat side bet, the house edge here stands at an obscene 19.72 percent. This represents one of the worst bets imaginable on any casino floor, so the sound strategy for Rabbit Hunter dictates avoiding the Bad Beat side bet at all costs.