How to play the straight flush in video poker
March 15, 2016 3:00 AM
by Elliot Frome
The payout for a Straight Flush is awful relative to how often they occur. A Royal occurs every 40,000 hands or so and pays 800-for-1. Quads show up every 423 hands and pay 25. Straight Flushes occur every 9,600 hands and pay only 50!
Of course, part of the reason they show up only every 9,600 hands is because they pay 50. If they paid 100, the frequency would likely go up quite a bit.
They can be hard to spot: 6-7-10 Suited scattered out of order among a total of five cards can get missed. Related, a 3-Card Straight Flush will often be a 4-Card Straight. If it is an outside Straight (two ways to complete it), then this would be the right play. If your 3-Card Double Inside Straight Flush becomes a 4-Card Inside Straight, you’re better off with the 3-Card Straight Double Inside Straight Flush.
And, they just are hard to play. You’re dealt 2-5-7-9-10 with the 5-7-9 suited. The only choices are between the 3-Card Double Inside Straight Flush and the Razgu (throw all five). With the 3-Card Straight Flush, the only way you win is with help from both cards.
You might get dealt a High Pair, or match up two different cards already in your hand, or get to a Trips or a Straight, or a Flush or a Straight Flush. With a Razgu, who knows what might happen? Maybe you’ll get dealt something good! The reality is the expected value of these hands is just not all that close. The Razgu is 0.36 and the Double Inside Straight Flush with 0 High Cards is 0.44. This is 20% higher.
Admittedly a good deal of that difference is due to the Straight Flush, which is only going to happen 1 in 1,081 hands. Those are long odds. But along the way, you’ll hit some Flushes and Straights and you’ll do so far more often than by drawing five new cards. After all, you got this train wreck of a hand by drawing five cards a few seconds ago!
Don’t get me wrong, you don’t want to be dealt an over abundance of 3-Card Straight Flushes. In the best case (9-10-J), you’re up to an expected value of 0.72, which is still below that of a Low Pair (0.82). But a good deal of video poker is not about playing winning hands, but about minimizing losses on all the losing hands.
About 2% of all hands will be played as some form of 3-Card Straight Flush. It is critical to play them correctly. Throw in the 7-8% of hands that are played as a 2-Card Royal and understand these hands becomes a significant aspect of playing the game to the theoretical payback. It is important to realize that relationship between 2-Card Royals and 3-Card Straight Flushes as they do overlap quite a bit.
Three-Card Straight Flushes also overlap a good deal with High Card Hands. At least one of the other two cards can frequently be a Jack or Better. What’s the right play? Unless the hand is a 3-Card Double Inside with zero High cards (the 5-7-9 described earlier), you would play the 3-Card Straight Flush over one or two High Cards – unless, these High Cards are suited and now you have a 2-Card Royal as well!
In the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to play more video poker than I have in the several months before that. I can definitely relate to how hard it can be to play these 3-Card Straight Flushes. The strategy is tricky and even when you get it right, you just don’t want to do it. I don’t think there is any other hand even remotely like it. The only thing that comes to mind might be holding Two Pair (with one High Pair) in Double Double. But that strategy is straight forward. Three-Card Straight Flushes get tangled with a lot of other hands. It is important that you learn the right strategy.
There are many ways to do this. One of the best is by reading one of our video poker books. For GamingToday readers, I have three of our best at a special price of $7, postage included, or $20 for all three (or three of the same if you really want!).
The three titles are “Expert Video Poker for Las Vegas” (everything you need to know about Expert Strategy), “Winning Strategies for Video Poker” (for someone who gets the concepts and just wants to know the final answer) and “Video Poker: America’s National Game of Chance” (a compilation of about 100 articles from my father, Lenny Frome).
If you’d like to order, please send a check or money order to Gambatria, P.O. Box 36474, Las Vegas, NV 89133.
Elliot Frome is a second generation gaming analyst and author whose math credits include Ultimate Texas Hold’em, Mississippi Stud and many other games. His book is “Expert Strategy for Three Card Poker.” His website is www.gambatria.com. Email: ElliotFrome@GamingToday.com
Buy his book Expert Strategy for Three Card Poker now!
Elliot Frome is a second generation gaming analyst and author. His math credits include Ultimate Texas Hold’em, Mississippi Stud, House Money and many other games. His website is www.gambatria.com. Email: ElliotFrome@GamingToday.com.