Mambo Stud Poker

Mambo Stud is a newish variation on poker. It is a four-card game that can be played as a table game or online. It can be played between players or against a machine or real-life dealer.

Mambo Stud is called a widow game because it features a community card dealt to the centre of the table that all players use in their hands.

It’s a high/low game, with the pot being split between a high winner (the best hand) and a low winner (the lowest hand over an agreed low limit) if both are claimed.

Mambo Stud poker is a variant of Three Card Hold‘em, which is itself an offshoot of Texas Hold‘em.

Mambo Stud seems to have first appeared in casinos around 1998 when it was launched at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. It was invented by Mambo Gaming of New York, who have a patent on the Mambo Stud rules. It should soon be possible to play Mambo Stud online.

Rules of Mambo Stud Casino

This version of how to play Mambo Stud – always check the rules of the particular game you are playing before parting with money – are for three-rounds of betting with a maximum of 17 players. It’s better to learn Mambo Stud before playing than pay for your lessons with lost pots.

  • Players put in an ante bet to participate in the hand
  • The dealer deals one face-up card to each player
  • A second card is dealt face-down to each player
  • Players bet. The player with the best visible hand goes first
  • A community card is dealt face-up to the table
  • Players bet again

All the players declare their three-card hands, made using their own cards and the community card. They must declare whether their hand is competing the best high hand, the best low hand or both.

The winners are the best declared three-card high hand and the lowest declared three-card hand, which split the pot. If there’s no winning low hand, the whole pot goes to the high hand winner. Any hand that is declared as high and low must win both categories to win the pot.

Strategy in Mambo Stud Casino

The ranking of hands in Mambo Stud poker is unlike the standard poker league table, being based on three-card games, and if you want to learn how to win Mambo Stud, you need to get your head around this pretty quickly.

Here are the top ranking high hands:

1Q-K-A suited. “The High Mambo”
2Straight Flush
3Three of a Kind
7High Card

The lowest hand that can be declared as a low hand is 6-high.

The highest ranking low hand, the Low Mambo, is A-2-3. The worst ranked low hand is 6-5-4.

Mambo Stud strategy is complicated by several factors that make the game both more engaging and more challenging than a simple battle between competing hands.

The matching with a community card – dealt late in the game – makes betting difficult to judge. And the choice of going for the high or low hand is another complication. And because the game is still relatively new it’s not had the 200+ years of study that have gone into compiling betting and playing guides.

Fortunately, mathematicians at San Francisco University were on the ball when they looked at the game in 1999.

They calculated that there were 45,440 possible low hands from a possible total of 270,725. Meaning the probability of getting a low hand was 0.168 or odds of 5 to 1.

High hands were ranked with the number of possible hands and the probability of achieving them in this table:

Type of HandNumber of HandsProbability
Straight flush2,3080.0085
One pair71,8560.265
High card123,6240.457

The mathematics guys pointed out the large gap between straights and the two hands ranked above them. There are also large gaps between probabilities of hands lower down in the table, and this should be born in mind when betting.

Pro Strategy

Pro player, Lou Krieger, was at the game’s launch and wrote a strategy guide for players based on a few days of play.

Scooping the pot should be your aim at Mambo Stud. That means winning both the high and low hands. Split pots don’t give a great return.

Low hands are more likely to become high hands than vice versa. Concentrate on these. A pair of aces in the first two cards is one exception.

Play close attention to the cards your opponents are holding. If no other player is showing a low card and you are, it’s worth pursuing and could mean a big win.

If you have a low hand already set and can draw to a straight or flush against an opponent obviously playing to win the high hand, raise whenever your opponent bets.

If you have a low and know your opponents are going high, raise at every opportunity.

Bet more cautiously if you are playing for a high hand, even if you believe you’re the only one doing so. Straights and draws are easily made in Mambo Stud. Only raise when you have a very good high hand.

Pairs rarely win in Mambo Stud.

Remember that more than one flush in the same suit is not that uncommon in Mambo Stud, you may need to beat an opponent’s.

Ace-high flushes are very good news as they have the potential to make high and low hands.

If you are dealt one high and one low card you’re probably best to discard them unless your high card is an ace.

A 3-2 is probably the best starting hand in Mambo Stud, and even better when suited.