One game plan does not fit all, the right strategy for each game

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One of the traits I inherited from my father, Lenny Frome, is that I am a perfectionist. This is not to say that I am perfect (far from it).

The joke in our family was always that one of my sister’s brought home a “99” on a test and my father, not missing a beat said “why not a 100?” Fortunately, for me, by the time I came along, he learned to temper his ways a bit.

I try to focus most of my perfectionism inward. Nobody takes it harder when I find a mistake in my work more than I do.

At the same time, I try very hard to be practical about things too, where strategy is concerned. Us mere mortals do have limitations to our ability to memorize dozens of video poker game strategies.

It is why I strongly recommend that you learn one or two different games and do your very best to perfect the strategies to those games. But, what are you to do if the games whose strategy you memorized are not available when you go to the casino or if you’re just in the mood to try something different?

In these cases, you just have to use some common sense. If you try to bring your Jacks or Better strategy over to Joker Poker, you may find yourself in deep trouble. But, what happens if you use your basic full-pay Jacks or Better strategy on a full-pay Bonus Poker machine? What will this really cost you in theory?

Calculating this – with the help of some of my video poker analysis programs – is relatively easy.

We simply run the numbers on a full-pay jacks or better machine using Expert Strategy for Jacks or Better. From this program, we extract the frequencies of all of our winning hands. We then use these frequencies against the Bonus Poker pay table to get a theoretical payback of Bonus Poker using Jacks or Better strategy.

We then run the numbers on Bonus Poker using Expert Strategy for Bonus Poker and compare the results.

The theoretical payback for Bonus Poker using Expert Strategy for Bonus Poker is 99.16%. The theoretical payback for Bonus Poker using Expert Strategy for Jacks or Better is 99.15%. If you were to play all 2,598,960 possible 5-card deals using jacks or better strategy you would find that you cost yourself about 200 coins.

In other words, while it is still preferable to learn the right strategy for Bonus Poker, if you use your Jacks or Better strategy, your bankroll will not take a big hit. However, this should not give you free license to play Jacks or Better strategy on any game you want.

If you were to take your Jacks or Better strategy to a DOUBLE Bonus Poker game, you would find that it will play at about 99.6%. This might sound good (after all jacks or better itself plays at a bit less than this), but you have to remember that Double Bonus Poker is one of the few positive games out there. If you play it using the proper strategy, it can afford you a 100.1% payback.

So, what’s the point? Good question. Nobody should expect perfection when they head to the casino. The simple mathematical fact is that every deviation from perfection, however, will cost you. It might be peanuts as in the case of playing Bonus Poker using Jacks or Better strategy. If you play a hundred hours a year as a $1 max-coin player, you’ll cost yourself $30 per year. We’d all rather have that $30, but we’re not talking a significant amount of money.

Do the same on our Double Bonus scenario and we’re talking about $1,500 per year, which I dare say is quite significant.

So, while we shouldn’t shy away from video poker because we might make a few mistakes, we should still be prepared to learn the right strategy for each game and to do our very best to utilize it every time we play. This is the very essence of Expert Strategy – Know which games to play, know what strategy to use and know what to expect.

For those of you who want to learn the subtle differences between Jacks or Better strategy and Bonus Poker strategy, both strategies can be found in Expert Video Poker for Las Vegas and Winning Strategies for Video Poker.

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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