Strategy’s key to video poker

Jan 12, 2010 5:02 PM


Cut corners and your EV will suffer

As you may know, I sell 50+ Tips on Video Poker. Tip #6 talks about Expected Value which is the critical element of Expert Strategy.

Expected Value (EV for short) tells us how much of each unit we wager we can expect to get back when looking at every possible outcome. This applies to every game in the casino. An EV of 1.00 means that in the long run you will have returned to you 1 unit for every 1 unit you wager. In other words, there is no house advantage and no player advantage.

An EV of less than 1.00 means that the house has an advantage because for every unit the Player wagers, he will have returned some amount less than that 1. If the EV is greater than 1.00 then it means the Player can expect to win in the long run as he will have returned to him some amount greater than his original wager.

When making decisions in a casino, we favor the choice that has the highest Expected Value. In the long run, this will maximize our win (or minimize our loss). In a game like video poker, this is especially important. Every time the Player is dealt 5 cards, he must choose which of the 32 ways he can hold/discard he should play. Most of these 32 are fairly obviously the wrong play. If the Player is dealt a Pair of 6’s, but also a suited 7-8-9, he certainly is not going to keep one 6 and one 9. Basically, he can choose between holding the Pair of 6’s, the 4-Card Straight or the 3-Card Straight Flush.

The correct answer lies in which of these three hands has the highest expected value. For that, we check Tips #13 and 14 and find the Expected Value of a Low Pair is 0.82, of a 4-Card Straight with 0 High Cards is 0.68 and a 3-Card Straight Flush is 0.63. Thus, the correct play is to hold the Low Pair.

How many of you reading this column today just learned something regarding how to play this hand? This is an extremely common type of hand (sometimes it will just have 2 out of these 3 possibilities). Just changing how you play this hand could make your bankroll last considerably longer.

I realize that some of you may still be a bit confused about what the Expected Value is. So far, I’ve just given you numbers, without much explanation. In the simplest terms, we know from computer programs that when you are dealt a Low Pair, if you were to play every possible draw, on average, you will have 82 cents returned to you out of every dollar you wager. So, all 3 of the possible plays are going to wind up losers in the long run. But it is just as critical to pick the lesser of evils as it is to pick the best possible winner.

It should be noted that in order to learn how to play video poker, you do NOT need to memorize the expected values of each hand, you just need to learn the relative order of each possible playable hand. Also, you do not need to know the details of HOW an expected value is calculated. That is why in a simple tipsheet, this is not explained. We leave this to our booklets like Expert Video Poker for Las Vegas. But, you don’t need to run out and buy this booklet either. Next week, I’ll explain exactly how the expected values are calculated for the example from this week.

You can try out your strategy by playing our video poker game.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Elliot Frome