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All of this down time has given me an opportunity to start some of the work on what someday will be the most comprehensive book on casino games. Even the games that I already have booklets on will be reviewed before the finished work is complete.

One of the challenges I’ll have will be finding the subtle difference between perfect strategy and expert strategy. Perfect strategy is just what it sounds like — literally playing every hand to maximize the return of that hand.

Casino game paytables matter when you play

There are two reasons why the strategy presented is not always a perfect one. In some cases, not even a computer program can analyze every single possible hand combination. Take for example, the situation with Ultimate Texas Hold’em. The player is dealt two cards, then three community cards are dealt followed by two community cards. By itself, this is more than 28 billion hand combinations. For each one of these, there are nearly 1,000 possible dealer combinations.

Between some shortcuts and modern-day computer speeds, it is likely possible to run every possible hand over a few months. But to what end? After the computer spits out the true payback of the game, the strategy for all of those combinations will have to be analyzed in some attempt to provide strategy for a player. After all, the player has to play the game from memory (or perhaps a small cheat sheet). He cannot play with a computer at his side.

So, when I analyzed Ultimate the first time while working on its creation, the goal was to create a human playable strategy. Even the one I created is difficult for the average player to follow with a good deal of practice and a strong memory. My estimate says that the payback of this expert strategy differs from a computer perfect payback by as much as 0.2 to 0.25 percent. This is not insignificant. But, a human is still just a human and the goal was a strategy that at least had a chance of being followed.

Then there are other games in which the perfect strategy can be calculated far more easily by the computer and ever put into a human playable strategy, albeit a complex one. This presents a more difficult choice for me. How complex is too complex vs. how much payback is given up?

In the case of Ultimate, I felt it pushed the limits of the strategy as far as they could go while giving up a relatively hefty 0.25 percent. In Four Card Poker, Shuffle Master (now Scientific Games) presented a basic strategy that had only three things the player had to remember to achieve a payback of 98.41 percent.

I worked out an expert strategy that has seven items that the player need to remember that pushes the payback to 98.60 percent. In my booklet on Four Card Poker, I mention that this is still not perfect strategy. But to create this perfect strategy would likely push the strategy to pages long and it would only gain the player another 0.01 to 0.02 percent.

I don’t consider this to be worth it for the recreational player. If you are a professional player you may need this extra payback. But since you are playing a negative game, I’m not sure what the definition of a professional player would be.

Over the years, I’ve taken some heat from a few for “not caring about this extra payback.” I’m not dismissing it. For those who believe they need or want it and have the ability to memorize more complex strategies, I strongly believe this is a good path.

But, if you are the average player just trying to have some fun, I think you need to strike a balance between the complexity of the strategy and the payback. What are your thoughts on the subject? Feel free to drop me a line.

About the Author

Elliot Frome

Elliot Frome’s roots run deep into gaming theory and analysis. His father, Lenny, was a pioneer in developing video poker strategy in the 1980s and is credited with raising its popularity to dizzying heights. Elliot is a second generation gaming author and analyst with nearly 20 years of programming experience.

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