Statistically, free ride is a negative expectation game. There is no free ride strategy that will overcome the house edge and make free ride profitable for the player. You must, however, use some reasonable strategy when playing free ride or you can deplete your bankroll very quickly.
When you play free ride there are four basic decisions you have to make:
1) how much money to wager on the original bet;
2) whether or not to place the one-dollar progressive jackpot bet;
3) whether or not to make the first additional bet; and
4) whether or not to make the second additional bet. Each of these four choices will have a major effect on how much on win at free ride.
There have been attempts to develop a simplified strategy for free ride. However, every time researchers backed off from the best mathematical free ride strategy, the house edge just got out of hand. Therefore, there is only a single strategy choice for free ride, which is a mathematically perfect strategy. This strategy is not that complex, so even casual recreational free ride players can memorize it easily. There is only one reasonable approach to free ride strategy. It is called the perfect strategy, and it is outlined on this page. As the name implies the free ride perfect strategy gets the house take as low as mathematically possible. It is summarized as follows:
Perfect Playing Strategy for free ride
Rule 1: Never bet more than the table minimum.
Rule 2: Never place a one-dollar bet on the progressive jackpot.
Rule 3: Three-Card Strategy – Only make the first additional free ride bet if your initial three-card hand contains any of the following: Any paying hand (pair of tens or better), A possible royal flush, ore a possible straight flush.
Rule 4: Four-Card Strategy – Only make the second additional bet is your four-card free ride hand contains any of the following: Any paying hand (pair of tens or better), a possible flush, an open ended straight.
The four rules given for the free ride perfect strategy work very well for most serious and recreational free ride players. It squeezes the last little bit out of the house advantage and may keep you from losing your shirt too quickly. So that you understand them correctly, we will review each of the rules in some detail.
Since free ride is a negative expectation game, the more you bet, the faster you will drain you resources. So always play the table minimum when playing free ride. You won’t lose so fast. Also, by placing the minimum free ride bets, there is no chance that you will run up against the aggregate payout limit, no matter what the limit is. You wouldn’t want to place large bets, get a hot free ride hand, and then get shortchanged on the payout.
Investing one dollar in the free ride progressive jackpot is a much greater negative expectation gamble than the basic game. In most casinos, the house percentage on the bonus payout ranges from 25% to 35%, or more. Yes there are schedules that pay the house only 13% or less, but they are very hard to find. Since the house edge on basic free ride (with perfect strategy) is as little as 3.5%, why hurt yourself by betting the bonus?
Rule 3: Three-Card Strategy
Place the first additional bet if your initial three-card hand contains any paying hand. With three cards the only possible paying hands are three-of-a-kind or a pair of tens or better. If you have one of these winning free ride hands, you don’t have to think any further. Just place both additional bets and collect your winnings.
Place the first additional bet if your initial three-card free ride hand contains a possible royal flush. A possible royal flush consists of any three cards from a ten to an ace, all of the same suit. Since the payoff for a royal flush is 1000 to 1, the reason for this rule is obvious. Place the first additional bet if your initial three-card free ride hand contains a possible straight flush. This may be either an inside or outside straight flush. If it is inside, however, it should have no more than a one-card gap in the sequence. This free ride hand is worth playing because of the high 200-to-1 payoff; if you miss it, you may still get a flush.
Three-card free ride hands that should not be played: In free ride, there seems to be a tendency for some people to bet hands on which the hand should not be made. Many of them will hopefully play a three-card straight with the odds against completing it being much. Also, never bet on a pair lower than tens. The chance of picking up a third card of the same rank or making two pairs is worse than the payoff odds of 3 to 1.
Rule 4: Four-Card Strategy
Place the second additional bet if your four-card free ride hand contains any paying free ride hand. In addition to three-of-a-kind and a pair of tens or better, a pat four-card free ride hand can also be two pairs or four-of-a-kind. If you have any of these, you know what to do.
Place the second additional bet if your four-card free ride hand contains all cards of the same suit. In addition to a possible flush, this would include any possible straight flushes and royal flushes. Place the second additional bet if your four-card free ride hand contains an open-ended straight. This is a four-card sequence with no gaps, and open at both ends. Thus, the lowest card should not be less than a deuce and the highest card should not be greater than a king.
Four-card free ride hands that should not be played: Some people have a tendency to bet on inside straights. This is never a good idea. So you started off with a three-card straight flush and the fourth card was out of suit and turned into an inside straight. Cut your losses and don’t place the second additional free ride bet. Or, you were hoping to convert that low pair into a trip. It didn’t happen on the fourth card, and it probably won’t happen with the fifth one. There you have the free ride perfect strategy. The free ride strategy may not make you a ton of money, but it can help prevent you from losing too much. Good luck.