Criss Cross Poker – How to Win Against the House Every Time
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Criss Cross Poker is a poker-style table game growing in popularity. It’s a variant of other common casino-style poker games with a few added gimmicks and a bonus bet.
Beating the house at table games is usually a matter of finding the best possible odds, sticking to a few short odds bets, and taking advantage of the rules of the game when possible.
This post is all about Criss Cross Poker, how to play, and how to win.
What Is Criss Cross Poker?
Criss Cross Poker is a table game inspired by the rules of Mississippi Stud but expanded with the use of a specific card layout and additional betting options. It’s also based on informal games played in the online poker community in which a cross-shape was used to hide two sets of community cards. Released as an official game in 2014, Criss Cross Poker is gaining ground, already available in dozens of big casinos around the country.
Besides the cross layout of cards, which I explain in further detail below, the game is known for having players bet on two poker hands at once, using a combination of hole and community cards to form the best possible hand. Players can win on one hand or both – or lose one hand or both.
How to Play Criss Cross Poker
Criss Cross Poker is named for the game’s odd layout of cards. Five community cards are laid out in a cross pattern, and players must manage two five-card hands at the same time using the cards they’re dealt.
Players must start each round with two identical ante bets, one for the Across line of cards and one for the Down line. Players also have the choice of making the additional Five Card Bonus Bet, usually a flat rate of $5 or $10 per hand.
The dealer deals each player two hole cards before dealing five community cards face down in the famous cross pattern. The outer cards will all be revealed, two by two, during gameplay. The final card in the center will be the last to be shown.
At this point, the player has to decide on how to bet. Players can make an Across Bet, based on their Across hand, which is equal to 1x, 2x, or 3x the Ante Across Bet. They can also choose to fold.
First, the dealer reveals the remaining two community cards on the horizontal row of the game’s cross card layout. At this point, all players can make a Down bet, based on the cards in the Down hand, that’s equal to 1x, 2x, or 3x their Ante Down Bet. They can also choose to fold.
Now the dealer reveals the two community cards on the vertical beam of the game’s cross. At this point, players can make a Middle Bet equal to 1x, 2x, or 3x their Ante bets. They can also choose to fold.
Finally, the dealer reveals the last community card, the middle card.
At this point, the game is over. Players combine their two hole cards and the three horizontal cards to form their Across hand. They use their two hole cards and the three vertical cards to form their Down hand.
The game’s Middle Bet pays according to the higher ranking of the two hands, Across and Down.
Criss Cross Poker Odds & Payouts
Criss Cross Poker is a game of multiple decisions. Players have two sets of possible hands to play, four possible combinations of raises, and a few different chances to fold, there are 975 possible outcomes for the game. To say the rules are complicated is to do the game a disservice.
Overall, the house edge on Criss Cross Poker is 4.32%.
This makes it a relatively good game in terms of odds, especially for a poker-style table game. At about 70 hands per hour, players betting $20 on their initial antes are looking at about $60/hour in losses. That puts it on par with many other table games and costs about the same as a nice dinner for two in Vegas.
As a side note, if you could choose which of two hands to bet on based on the first community card reveal, the house edge would be slashed in half, to about 2.16%. That game wouldn’t make the casino much money, but it would be among the best-odds games in any casino.
Here’s the standard paytable for Criss Cross Poker:
- Royal Flush – Ante Bets Pay 1 – Across, Down, and Middle Bets Pay 500
- Straight Flush – Ante Bets Pay 1 – Across, Down, and Middle Bets Pay 100
- Four-of-a-Kind – Ante Bets Pay 1 – Across, Down, and Middle Bets Pay 40
- Full House – Ante Bets Pay 1 – Across, Down, and Middle Bets Pay 12
- Flush – Ante Bets Pay 1 – Across, Down, and Middle Bets Pay 8
- Straight – Ante Bets Pay 1 – Across, Down, and Middle Bets Pay 5
- Three-of-a-Kind – Ante Bets Pay 1 – Across, Down, and Middle Bets Pay 3
- Two Pair – Ante Bets Pay 1 – Across, Down, and Middle Bets Pay 2
- High Pair (face cards) – Ante Bets Pay 1 – Across, Down, and Middle Bets Pay 1
- Low Pair (6-10) – Ante Bets Push – Across, Down, and Middle Bets Push
- All Others – Ante Bets Lose 1 – Across, Down, and Middle Bets Lose 1
Here’s the standard paytable for the Five Card Bonus Bet:
- Royal Flush – Pays 250
- Straight Flush – Pays 100
- Four-of-a-Kind – Pays 40
- Full House – Pays 15
- Flush – Pays 10
- Straight – Pays 6
- Three-of-a-Kind – Pays 4
- Two Pair – Pays 3
- Sixes or Better – Pays 1
- All Others – Costs 1
Criss Cross Poker Strategy
Ideal game strategy says that you should only ever make one of three decisions – fold, make a small raise (1x), or make a max raise (3x). There’s no reason, odds-wise, for making a 2x raise.
For the Across hand, you should fold if they hold cards are unsuited and unpaired unless you have a 6 or higher. If those hole cards are suited (at least J/Q) or there’s any pair, it’s best to make the max raise. In any other situation, make the small (1x) raise.
For the Down hand, you get to see two extra cards compared to the Across hand, but the ideal strategy is the same.
For the Middle Bet, the best strategy is to avoid folding after a max raise. According to ideal strategy, you should only be folding about 4.5% of the time on the Middle Bet, and technically, you have a positive expectation on this part of your wager, as it pays off about 10% in the player’s advantage.
That’s because, by the time you get to the final card reveal, you’ve got a lot of information on your side to help you make a smart decision. However, this is balanced out by the relatively low odds of winning either the Across or Down hands. It all works out to a nice nearly-even proposition in the end.
There’s no real strategy to placing the Five Card Bonus bet. The payouts don’t equal the odds, so it’s a losing proposition no matter how you play it.
If you enjoy the thrill that a bonus bet adds to the game, or if placing the Bonus Bet is the reason you’re playing the game, by all means, place it. But don’t expect to game the system or find an advantage by adding that $5 or $10 bonus bet to each hand. It’s a moneymaker for the casino.
Criss Cross Poker is not a strategically-dense game, and most of the strategy involves deciding whether to fold or play. If you enjoy the more complex strategic choices available in poker or even blackjack, Criss Cross Poker may not hold your attention for very long.
With unique rules and layouts and a relatively low house edge, Criss Cross Poker’s popularity is understandable. People love casino-style poker, in part because it involves less pressure than head-to-head play, and in part because the rules are simpler, and you can have fun while playing without worrying too much about strategy.
Criss Cross Poker has all of those features, plus the fact that it’s new makes it a novel experience. It’s not anywhere near one of the worst-odds bets on the floor, and if you hit a decent winning streak, there’s no reason you can’t walk away a winner.