Ever learn?

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Some weeks I know exactly what I’m going to write about when I sit down to do my column. Some weeks I leaf through some of our publications to come up with an idea.

After six-plus years of writing, it is not always so easy to come up with something new to write about. I have to remind myself that the nature of GamingToday is that, for the most part, there are different people reading it each week. While that doesn’t mean I should write about the same stuff every two months, it certainly means that repeating myself over time isn’t such a bad idea either.

Based on the events of last week, it is fairly obvious that there are still many more people who need to learn about video poker and Expert Strategy.

Last week, while I was in Las Vegas, I met up with someone who was playing video poker for the very first time. Despite having heard me talk about which games to play and the right way to play for years, he insisted on starting with Double Double Bonus (which was the game I was playing). On a positive note, he started at playing a lone nickel.

While normally, I do not condone playing less than max-coin, one of the best reasons for doing so is that you shouldn’t play max-coin if you are just a beginner. While you risk not earning the ‘bonus’ for a Royal, you are far more likely to burn through your bankroll that much faster by playing maximum coin at less than proper strategy.

It didn’t take very long before my friend started asking me how to play many of his hands. As we all know, most hands are fairly obvious plays. There is little doubt that you hold the pair of Jacks instead of the off-suit 2-7-10. I quickly told him some of the basic common rules – hold a low pair over a 4-card Straight and hold a 4-Card Flush over a low pair. I didn’t get an argument with any of these.

The arguments started when we hit 3 high cards and I tried to explain why you keep the two suited high cards (if they exist). It got more combative when I suggested that you don’t keep the Ace when you have three off-suited cards. It took a while before I was allowed to explain how an Ace harms your chances of pulling a straight if you are otherwise holding a J-Q.

Of course, the point we simply could not resolve is the two pair. We had no argument when the two pair were both low pairs (you keep both) and where one was a pair of Aces (you discard the other pair). My friend, however, refused to accept that notion that when one or both pairs were high pairs that you should STILL keep both pairs. “There are so few chances to get a Full House and if you don’t get it, you only win one. Compare that to the number of ways you can get a Three of a Kind!” he kept telling me.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a piece of paper or pen with me. Nor did I have memorized the exact number of Trips, two pairs and Full Houses that occur when you hold a pair from two pair.

So, I was left with only one simple argument. “Trust me. The expected value of the two pair is better than the expected value of the single high pair in this case.”

You would think that being a second generation analyst would be enough to convince my friend. Apparently not! He spent the rest of the evening holding a single pair when dealt a two pair with at least one high pair and telling me about it almost every time.

Fortunately for me, his strategy resulted in his bankroll not lasting too long. Unfortunately for me, all the distractions had me lose my place several times and I wound up mindlessly hitting the ‘Draw’ button without holding my cards. I don’t think I wound up discarding any big wins.

So, for today, the advice is learn how to play the right way before you venture into the casino, and if you’re the one helping a novice, you might be better off taking the night off from playing yourself!

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


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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