Riverboat Hold’em Poker

Riverboat Holdem logo

According to approval documents issued by the Indiana Gaming Commission in 2005, the hybrid table game known as Riverboat Hold’em Poker is owned by a limited liability corporation known as River Gaming Concepts.

Unfortunately, in the more than 10 years since those documents were signed, making Riverboat Hold’em Poker a legal casino game in the state of Indiana, River Gaming Concepts LLC appears to have ceased operations.

Thus, no official credit for the game’s invention can be attributed.

Riverboat Hold’em Poker attempted to capitalize on the ongoing “poker boom” and the associated frenzy of the Texas Hold’em fad which took place in the years after Chris Moneymaker won the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event.

The Tradition Continues

Like countless other table games involving the word “Hold’em” in their title, Riverboat Hold’em Poker incorporates both the two-card starting hands of traditional Texas Hold’em and the game’s use of community cards to complete full five card poker hands.

But unlike normal poker, this game pits players against the dealer in a standard table game format. Players have the option of increasing their wager size based on the perceived strength of their two hole cards, and the objective of the game is to form a stronger five card poker hand than the dealer.

Fittingly, the company behind Riverboat Hold’em Poker attempted to land their new game in the two American states home to a large number of riverboat casinos: Mississippi and Indiana.

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Game’s First Appearance

The game first appeared in riverboat casinos, along with land-based properties in both states, in and around 2007. Since that time, it doesn’t seem like Riverboat Hold’em Poker has spread beyond the borders of those particular states, and at this time its status can best be described as “regional niche game.”

Nonetheless, every casino product has its devoted following of fans, so this page was written to provide a comprehensive guide to the game of Riverboat Hold’em Poker. First up is a detailed breakdown and explanation of rules, gameplay, and procedures. After that, we’ll run through a statewide listing of casinos in both Indiana and Mississippi where you’ll be most likely to find tables running. To conclude, we’ll point you in the right direction toward the top casino game strategist around, for helpful pointers and tips about how to play your cards correctly and optimize your overall expectation.

Rules And How To Play

Game Overview

Riverboat Hold’em Poker is played using the standard table game setup, so you’ll join up to five other players on one side of a semi-circular table, while the dealer runs things from the other side.

A standard 52 card deck of playing cards is used, and only a single deck will be in play, rather than a multiple deck shoe.

The objective of the game is to combine your two hole cards with the three community cards on the board to form the best possible five-card poker hand.

Hand Hierarchy

Accordingly, take a look below for the traditional poker hand hierarchy to see what beats what:

Royal FlushBroadway straight (A K Q J 10) in the same suit
Straight FlushFive consecutive cards (9 8 7 6 5) in the same suit
Four of a KindFour of same card (Q Q Q Q A)
Full HouseThree of a kind + one pair (Q Q Q A A)
FlushFive cards in the same suit (2h 6h 9h Kh Ah)
StraightFive consecutive cards (6 5 4 3 2)
Three of a KindThree of same card (Q Q Q 2 A)
Two PairTwo pairs of the same card (Q Q A A 2)
One PairOne pair of the same card (Q Q 4 3 2)
High CardNo pair,  highest card is rank of hand (A K 4 3 2)

Now that you know the basics, here’s how Riverboat Hold’em Poker is played.

Guide To Playing Riverboat Holdem Poker

Step #1: Place the Bet

The game begins when players put up a mandatory Ante bet, which must equal or exceed the posted table minimum. At this time, players may also put up an optional wager known as the River side bet.

Through the rest of this section, we’ll use a running example hand to show you exactly how certain gameplay concepts work from the player’s perspective. For the betting round, imagine we’ve wagered the standard $5 chip on the Ante bet and $5 more on the River side bet.

Step #2: Cards Dealt

When all players have anted up and/or placed their River side bet, the dealer will then proceed to deliver two cards face down to each player, along with two cards face down to themselves.

Naturally, you can take a peek at your own cards, but just like in Texas Hold’em, this is a “one player to a hand” affair. So don’t try to share information about your hand with other players, as the house will consider this a violation of the rules and you might just get the boot.

For the running example hand, we’ve been dealt the Ad Ks combination, to begin with. Also known as “big slick” in traditional Texas Hold’em, one of the top three most powerful hands in that game, ace king is also quite strong in this game.

Step #3: Player Decision

After receiving your two-card starting hand and taking a look, the game’s first and only player decision point occurs: Fold, Call, or Raise.

  • FOLD: you decide to end the hand right then and there, surrendering your cards – and your Ante bet along with it. When you fold, though, your River side bet (if placed) will still remain active, giving you a chance to win even though you’ve bowed out of the main game.
  • CALL: you elect to continue on to see the three community cards, at the cost of an additional Call bet equal to exactly the amount of your original Ante bet.
  • RISE: you elect to continue on in the hand, but in this case, you’re opting to make the Raise bet, which will cost an additional wager equal to twice your Ante bet.

Clearly, the game breaks down into the following structure: fold bad hands*, call middling hands, and raise powerful hands.

*Read through to the strategy section to learn about the ramifications of folding, and whether or not you should be using this play regularly – if at all.

For the running example hand, with our Ad Ks in the hole, we’ll go ahead and make the maximum wager with the Raise bet, putting up an additional $10 ($5 Ante x 2 = $10).

Step #4: The Flop

When all players have made their decision to fold, call, or raise, the dealer will then deliver three cards face up onto the middle of the felt. These three cards are known collectively as “the flop,” and they serve as community cards. In other words, your two hole cards plus the three community cards create your final five-card poker hand.

Returning to the running example hand, the dealer has flopped the Kc 9d 4s – which pairs one card in our Ad Ks hand to give us one pair of kings.

With the flop revealed, the dealer will now table their own two-card starting hand to showdown their final five card poker hand.

The dealer in our running example hand has tabled the Qc 9h, giving them one pair of nines.

When it comes to the dealer’s hand, they must show down a hand valued at king jack high or better in order to qualify. Thus, the worst possible qualifying hand a dealer can show down is K J 4 3 2, while the best possible non-qualifying hand is K 10 9 8 7.

Qualification System

Whether or not the dealer qualifies is important for the player, as this determines the exact amount you’ll be paid when you happen to win. Here’s how the qualification system shakes out:

  1. When the dealer doesn’t qualify, your Ante bet will be paid out at even money, while the Call or Raise bet will be returned as a push. In this instance, your hand is no longer relevant, meaning it doesn’t need to beat the dealer’s hand. When the dealer fails to qualify, you’ll score the even money payout on the Ante bet and a push on the Call or Raise bet every time.
  2. When the dealer does qualify, and their hand beats or ties your hand, all pending bets will be lost to the house.
  3. When the dealer does qualify, and your hand beats theirs, both the Ante and the Call or Raise bets will be paid out at even money.

How It Works

We can use the running example hand to see how this qualification scheme works in real time. We’ve landed one pair of kings to best the dealer’s one pair of 9s, and the dealer’s hand did qualify. Thus, we’d earn an even money payout on the $5 Ante bet (good for a $5 profit), AND even money on our $10 Raise bet (good for $10 more in profit).

If the dealer had turned over something like Q 10 instead, giving them queen high only and no pair, their hand would fail to qualify. In that case, we’d earn $5 profit at even money on the Ante bet, but our $10 Raise bet would only be returned in a push.

Primary Pay Tables

As for the optional River side bet, this wager is based on the strength of your final five-card poker hand alone – regardless of what the dealer shows down. The two primary pay tables used to settle the River side bet in Riverboat Hold’em Poker can be reviewed below:

River Side Bet Pay Table (Indiana)
Royal Flush500 to 1
Straight Flush100 to 1
Four of a Kind40 to 1
Full House15 to 1
Flush8 to 1
Straight6 to 1
Three of a Kind4 to 1
Two Pair3 to 1
One Pair (6s or better)1 to 1
All OtherLoss
River Side Bet Pay Table (Mississippi)
Royal Flush250 to 1
Straight Flush50 to 1
Four of a Kind25 to 1
Full House15 to 1
Flush10 to 1
Straight8 to 1
Three of a Kind5 to 1
Two Pair3 to 1
One Pair (7s or better)1 to 1

As you can see, both jurisdictions in which Riverboat Hold’em Poker can be found rely on vastly different versions of the River side bet pay table.

  • In Indiana, a royal flush is good for 500 to 1 on your money, a straight flush is worth 100 to 1, and four of a kind is valued at 40 to 1.
  • In Mississippi, the numbers are revised downward to 250 to 1, 50 to 1, and 25 to 1 for the same three hands, respectively.

Also, take note of the minimum hand needed to earn a payout on the River side bet. In Indiana, you’ll need to make one pair of 6s or better, but in Mississippi, the goal line is pushed back just a hair to one pair of 7s or better.

For the running example hand, we’ve landed one pair of kings, so we’d earn an even money payout of $5 on our $5 wager (in both Indiana and Mississippi).

Getting Big Payouts

To see how these pay tables can create huge payouts, let’s imagine we still hold A K to start, but the flop comes perfectly with the Q J 10, giving us the Broadway straight. In this case, we’d win the usual amounts for the base game bets, but our River side bet would turn $5 into $30 profit at 6 to 1 odds (Indiana), or $40 profit at 8 to 1 odds (Mississippi).

When the dealer has settled all Ante, Raise or Call, and River side bets, they’ll collect the cards and reshuffle the deck, before beginning a new hand.

Best Places to Play Riverboat Hold’em Poker

Best choicesBased on gaming commission approval documents, Riverboat Hold’em Poker has been approved for play in the states of Indiana and Mississippi.

For a list of casinos operating in Indiana, see below:

Ameristar CasinoEast ChicagoLake
Belterra CasinoFlorenceSwitzerland
Blue Chip CasinoMichigan CityLaPorte
French Lick Resort CasinoFrench LickOrange
Hollywood CasinoLawrenceburgDearborn
Hoosier ParkAndersonMadison
Horseshoe Southern IndianaElizabethHarrison
Horseshoe CasinoHammondLake
Indiana Grand CasinoShelbyvilleShelby
Majestic StarGaryLake
Majestic Star IIGaryLake
Rising Star Casino ResortRising SunOhio
Tropicana EvansvilleEvansvilleVanderburgh

As for the casino properties located in Mississippi, check out the comprehensive listing below:

Take a look below for a full listing of Mississippi’s casino properties:

Ameristar Casino HotelVicksburgWarren
Bally’s Casino TunicaTunica ResortsTunica
Beau RivageBiloxiHarrison
Bok Homa CasinoSandersvilleJones
Boomtown Casino BiloxiBiloxiHarrison
DiamondJacks Casino & HotelVicksburgWarren
Fitzgeralds Casino TunicaTunica ResortsTunica
Gold Strike Casino ResortTunica ResortsTunica
Golden Moon CasinoChoctawNeshoba
Golden Nugget BiloxiBiloxiHarrison
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino BiloxiBiloxiHarrison
Harlow’s CasinoGreenvilleWashington
Harrah’s Casino TunicaTunica ResortsTunica
Harrah’s Gulf CoastBiloxiHarrison
Hollywood Casino Gulf CoastBay St. LouisHancock
Hollywood Casino TunicaTunica ResortsTunica
Horseshoe Casino TunicaTunica ResortsTunica
IP Casino Resort SpaBiloxiHarrison
Island View CasinoGulfportHarrison
Isle of Capri Casino Hotel LulaLulaCoahoma
Lady Luck Casino VicksburgVicksburgWarren
Magnolia Bluffs CasinoNatchezAdams
Palace Casino BiloxiBiloxiHarrison
Resorts Casino TunicaTunica ResortsTunica
Riverwalk Casino and HotelVicksburgWarren
Sam’s Town TunicaTunica ResortsTunica
Scarlet Pearl CasinoD’IbervilleHarrison
Silver Slipper CasinoLakeshoreHancock
Silver Star CasinoChoctawNeshoba
Treasure Bay Casino BiloxiBiloxiHarrison
Trop Casino GreenvilleGreenvilleWashington
Tunica Roadhouse Casino & HotelTunica ResortsTunica

Fair warning regarding these lists: it’s been nearly a decade since Riverboat Hold’em Poker was first introduced, and the table game landscape is constantly evolving to meet current market trends.

This means games like Riverboat Hold’em Poker can come and go in a matter of months from venue to venue. So some of the casinos shown above may not have the game at this time.

Even so, these two states are the only ones which have approved the game for legal play, so your best bet to find active Riverboat Hold’em Poker tables is to call around to a few of the properties on the lists above and inquire about the game’s status. Even if a particular location doesn’t have the game on hand, the table games manager there should be able to provide some helpful information on where to look next.

Strategic Considerations for Riverboat Hold’em Poker

The math shows the following strategies are best when playing Riverboat Hold’em.

Basic Strategy

Shackleford has even constructed a handy basic strategy chart, similar to those used by savvy blackjack players, which provides a simple table to help guide your decision making.

That basic strategy can be broken down quite simply into the following rules:

  • Never fold. No two-card starting hand is bad enough to warrant a fold, so just avoid this play at all times and you’ll put yourself on the right side of probability.
  • When holding any pair, always make the Raise bet.
  • When holding any hand with an Ace in it, always make the Raise bet.
  • When holding any K 8, K 9, K 10, K J, or K Q, always make the Raise bet.
  • When holding Q J, always make the Raise bet.
  • When holding any other two-card starting hand, always make the Call bet.

By sticking to these guidelines, you should find yourself making the Call bet on 73.3 percent of hands while making the Raise bet on the other 26.7 percent of hands.

Overall, the house edge offered by the Ante bet stands at 2.22 percent, so from a strategic standpoint, playing Riverboat Hold’em Poker offers a very reasonable gamble when compared to similarly structured table games.


About the Author
Neil White

Neil White - Editor in Chief

His drive and passion for casinos and the most popular games keep him in touch with the latest news and interests to provide the best for his readers.