Importance of using right strategy when playing casino is key

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I can’t stress enough the importance of using the right strategy when playing in the casino.

Over the years, I’ve heard all sorts of excuses for why people abandon strategy, ranging from it doesn’t matter in the short run to some anecdotal story about how someone they know threw strategy to the wind and it paid off massively. Yeah, that’s nice.

If you’re a sports fan, you know the importance of having a good coach or manager. There are reasons why Pat Riley, Joe Torre and Bill Parcells are in such high demand. Yes, it is because they win. And they win because they utilize the right strategies for their respective sports.

This doesn’t mean that once in a while their strategies won’t fall apart or that there won’t be times that they’ll execute perfectly. Yet still the other team will win due to a bad bounce. I doubt any of these coaches would abandon their strategy over a bad bounce or a single loss.

The same is true when you walk into the casino. You are the coach/manager of your team. You decide which game to play. This is the first key step in your strategy. In fact, this leaves you with more power than any of the aforementioned coaches.

You can decide whether to play slots, video poker or a table game. If you pick video poker (always a good choice), you determine which variation and to some degree, pay table. You can choose the short-pay or make sure you find the full-pay for the game of your choice.

Joe Torre isn’t going to hit the field with only eight fielders, so why should you play Jacks or Better video poker that pays only 8 for a Full House instead of the full 9?

Once you decide on your game and pay table, the real nitty gritty part of the strategy begins. There are 52 cards in the deck and 2,598,960 ways you can be dealt five cards from a deck of 52. There are 32 ways to play each of these deals, ranging from discarding none of the cards to discarding them all.

You have to make a decision on each of these hands which ones you will keep and which to discard. Fortunately, in about 75% of the cases, it is fairly obvious which to keep. The other 25% is the challenge.

 Unlike the baseball manager who has to outguess the opposing manager and players, the video poker player doesn’t need to outguess anyone or anything.

Video poker is a game of pure math. For each of those 32 possible ways to discard, there is a finite number of ways the hand can be completed. Using computers, we can determine the final hand rank of every hand and determine, on average, how many units the player can expect to have return to him. 

It is true that we don’t know exactly which cards will come up this time. We do know that over time the actual will approximate our expected results. Based on this, we learn that the best choice for the player is to play the hand whichever way results in the highest expected return of units. We call this “expected value” or EV for short.

This concept is used for every decision made in the casino in all games with any strategy. The decision to hit or stick in blackjack is decided by which of these two decisions results in the higher expected value. We fold on Q-6-3 in Three Card Poker and play on Q-6-4. 

In in the case of the Q-6-4, playing has a higher EV than folding. The opposite is true for Q-6-3. You are in complete control.

In video poker, the decisions you make are ones that can result in the machine you are playing having a 100.5% payback or 96%. One payback means you will win in the long run. The other means you will lose a lot more in the long run.

Playing the right strategy mean does not mean you will win every session, just that your chances of coming out ahead increases greatly.

 In today’s world, utilizing the right strategy is important in a variety of situations. I can’t stress enough that the casino is most definitely one of these situations.

Elliot Frome is a second generation gaming analyst and author. His math credits include Ultimate Texas Hold’em, Mississippi Stud, House Money and many other games. His website is www.gambatria.com. Contact Elliot at [email protected].

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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