Questioning my dad's math doesn't compute

Questioning my dad's math doesn't compute

May 09, 2017 3:00 AM


Through the years that I have been analyzing games, occasionally I get an email from someone criticizing my dad’s work. They had found some error or imperfection in his math. Well, my dad was human and it was possible for him to make a mistake, but when it came to math, I know he didn’t make many.

As for the “imperfection,” my dad did not usually set out for “perfect” strategy but rather “expert” strategy. Keep in mind, players are not allowed to use their cell phones (i.e. mini computers) at the tables and 20-30 years ago smartphones didn’t yet exist and laptop computers weighed about as much as today’s desktop computer. A lot of good it did you to know a game paid 98.73% if you had no reasonable way to attain it.

Quite frankly, I’ve heard the same criticism of my work on occasion, too. Another writer took my work on Ultimate Texas Hold’em and deemed it flawed because I said the game had a payback of X, when he felt it had a payback of X + .2%. But, the same writer admitted he had figured this by running an exhaustive analysis of the game that was computer perfect, but provided absolutely zero assistance to the player.

Ironically, had he read my original report, it states the payback was for the human playable strategy I presented and a computer perfect strategy could achieve higher results but it was highly unlikely any human could come close to achieving that.

Expert Strategy is meant to be a human playable strategy – period. Now, different people are capable of different levels of strategy. In some cases, I have presented a “basic” and an “expert” strategy. Sometimes, Expert Strategy and perfect strategy are one and the same. In Three Card Poker it doesn’t get any easier than Q-6-4.

Expert Strategy consists of three important elements. The first is to know which games to play. Some games simply don’t offer the player much of a chance to win. Others offer the player no way of knowing what the payback is. Video keno tends to payback in the 85% range. You can win in the short run playing video keno but in the long run, not likely. From a mathematical and bankroll standpoint, it is not a good choice.

The second element is to know the right strategy. This means learning the strategy for the actual game you are playing. You’ve learned Jacks or Better video poker strategy, but you sit down to play Deuces Wild. Using your Jacks or Better strategy will not serve you well. You know blackjack strategy well, but you decide to play Spanish 21 or Free Bet Blackjack. You need to learn the strategies for these games. Yes, they might overlap 75% or 80% of the time, but that other 20-25% will cost you big time.

The last aspect of Expert Strategy is knowing what to expect. This is the biggest and most confusing part of them all. It can’t really all be memorized because it is nearly endless. You can remember which games to play and memorize the strategy for it. But understanding what to expect means so many things. Understanding that many hands you will play are actually net losers, but that you’ll lose less by playing than by folding is a critical part of Three Card Poker (and any other game with a similar betting structure). Understanding why it is critical to not be timid and to play UTH by making the 4x wager on roughly half of the hands is important to attaining the 99%-plus payback.

Learning there will be hot streaks and cold streaks is essential. Comprehending what happened in the last 20 hands is immaterial for the next hand. Understanding why we do what we do is a key component to Expert Strategy.

This week would’ve been my father’s 91st birthday. As such, I’m making Expert Video Poker for Las Vegas available to GamingToday readers for $5, which includes postage and handling. It lists for $9.95 and usually sells for $7 for GT readers. Please send a check or money order to Gambatria, P.O. Box 36474, Las Vegas, NV 89133. Mark the order with “Lenny’s 91st birthday special”.