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Casino Stud is proving an instant hit, judging from the crowds of players round the tables where the new game has been introduced. The attraction of Casino Stud, which is like draw poker without the draw, is that it offers the player a decision e ach time.

Here's how it works. Each player puts up his chosen stake (the ante) on a hand of five cards against the dealer's hand. The decision is whether to raise or to fold. If your hand looks good, you can raise your stake by twice the amount of the ante. Obviously, with any kind of a hand - a pair or better - you take this option. If your hand is of no value, as happens about half the time, you can fold, surrendering the original bet.

Now comes the showdown. The dealer turns his five cards face up. (He has already exposed the top card before the play, which sometimes offers a clue.) If the player's hand is better, he is paid off at even money. As a bonus, he is paid 2-1 for two pairs,3-1 for trips, 4-1 for a straight, 6-1 for a flush, 8-1 for a full house, 20-1 for four of a kind and 50-1 for a straight flush. But here's the snag. If the dealer's hand's is lower than ace-king, it is deemed non-qualifying and he pays even money on the original ante, not the raise.

Overall, the odds against the player with correct play are 2.4 per cent, which is slightly better than playing the numbers at roulette. But casino stud is a more personal, sociable kind of game, as players on either side compare their luck. It is also rather slow (in Vegas they use an automatic shuffling device).

The key question is which hands to surrender. It is always tempting to play on rubbish, in the hope that the dealer has a non-qualifying hand, in which case you win your ante, regardless. According to statistical analysis in America, it is correct to fold all non-pair hands unless they are at least A-K high and include a dealer up-card (as exposed at the start). I think casino stud will prove popular, though it will never rival blackjack, which is a game of skill.

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