The last leg of video poker, knowing what to expect, is
generally the one that I write about the least and is even more
“forgotten” by the average player. Yet, it can be just as important as
the other two key components of Expert Strategy.
Playing expertly takes a fair amount of discipline for any
game. For something like video poker, it also requires learning the relatively
complex strategy. However, even for Three Card Poker, the players that don’t
know what to expect can very easily convince themselves to alter the strategy.
Several years ago, my wife and I were playing Three Card
Poker in Las Vegas. The woman sitting next to my wife was trying to give her
some tips. She told my wife that generally you stay in with a queen or better,
but sometimes, you can beat the dealer with a Jack.
I try to be politically correct when I’m in the casino, but
it took all my strength not to bang my head on the table. Actually, there is NO
way to ‘beat’ the dealer with a Jack high. Perhaps, the dealer won’t
qualify and you’ll ‘steal’ one, but you can’t beat the dealer.
Once you have only a Jack high, you might as well have a
5-3-2 off suit, because you essentially have the same chance of ‘beating’
the dealer (ignoring the slight impact of your own cards affecting how likely
the dealer will qualify).
In this case, my wife already knew the right strategy of
playing with a Q-6-4 or better and she wasn’t about to change this. But,
imagine if some other player was sitting next to this woman and she’s not
getting very good cards. He keeps folding and the dealer keeps not qualifying.
Then this woman tells this other player how sometimes you can “beat the
dealer with a Jack,” so this other player tries it and gets lucky a few
times in a row. Next thing you know, a brand new ‘bad’ player has been
I haven’t bothered to do the calculation, but I’d make an
educated guess and say that if you choose to play all Jack high hands, you
probably nearly double the house advantage of Three Card Poker. I believe that
if a player truly understood what to expect in a game like Three Card Poker they
would understand WHY you NEVER alter the strategy.
Roughly one in three hands the player will fold. Roughly one
in three of these hands the dealer will not qualify. This means that about 10%
of all hands will result in the player folding and the dealer not qualifying.
This is not a rare event. You WILL have multiple hands in a
row occur in this fashion. If you allow it to make you believe that you’re
doing something wrong, instead of realizing that this is just the ups and downs
that happen, then you are more likely to change the strategy and make the fatal
mistake that might just kill your bankroll.
If, on the other hand, you learn what to expect and recognize
that cold streaks occur and that everything that might appear to be ‘wrong’
is really part of the math, then you are far more likely to stick with the plan.
Sticking with the plan doesn’t mean some scheme that I came up with. It means
sticking to the strategy that the math dictates is ABSOLUTELY correct if you
want to maximize your chances of winning.
The tricky part about learning what to expect is that it isn’t
that easy to find much information on it. My best advice for this is to seek out
books, articles and anything else you can find on the games that interest you
the most. Also, pay attention when you are playing. If you see that the player
next to you just had some ‘odd’ thing happen, maybe you’ll realize that
when it happens to you, it isn’t so ‘odd’ after all.
Most importantly, even if you don’t know what to expect,
stick to the strategy.
Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Elliot Frome