Should you throw away all five cards in video poker?

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How often do you throw away all five cards in video poker? The question really is should you, but how often does this occur?

Players don’t like to lose when gambling. As a result, many do everything they can to hold it off as long as possible. In blackjack, many Players don’t like to hit a 16 into a Face Card. They don’t want to bust. They’d rather wait the extra few seconds and have the Dealer beat them.

In Three Card Poker, about the only way you can really hurt yourself is to not fold when you are supposed to. But this is the biggest single mistake made by Players.

So, when I said players don’t like to lose, I mean regarding the hand. They don’t like to lose money either, but ironically, as a result of holding off losing a hand they actually tend to cost themselves more money.

Now, throwing away all five cards of a video poker deal is a bit like folding. Many players view this as a type of surrender. Let’s face it, how good of a hand are you really going to draw with five new cards? The reality is not a very good hand.

There is a reason why the Razgu (the term for discarding all five cards) always appears at the bottom of the strategy table. It is the lowest playable hand rank with an expected value of a measly 0.36.

The key word in the last paragraph is playable. As bad as this hand is, it is still a hand that is worth playing when all else fails. It does not mean you can’t pick even worse.

When utilizing a strategy table, we are looking at the hand dealt and comparing it to the strategy table, looking for a match on a portion of our hand. If we never find one then we discard all five cards. But, if you are averse to doing this and decide to play some 3-Card Flush because it somehow feels like it should have a higher expected value, then you’d be wrong.

Imagine if you are dealt the following: 4-hearts, 7-hearts, 10-hearts, 2-diamonds, 3-clubs. Some might wonder if you would be better of holding the suited 4-7-10 rather than discarding all five. Others might be thinking about the 2-3-4 3-Card Straight.

To be honest, I don’t even know what the expected values of these hands are. All I know is it will be worse than the 0.36 expected value the Razgu has.

While you will occasionally pull the Flush or the Straight, these are about your only options for a winning hand. With no High Cards, the only other possibilities are to pull a Pair and have Trips or a High Pair. Once in a while you’ll wind up with Two Pair.

As bad as the expected value of the Razgu is, you still give yourself a chance to catch some lightning in a bottle and draw Quads, a Full House or even a Royal Flush. Given five cards below a Jack would be removed from the deck, your chances of getting at least a Pair of Jacks or better is actually a bit higher than it was on the initial deal.

In Jacks or Better, Razgus will occur about 3.4% of the time or roughly 1 in 30 hands. There are other versions of video poker where it will be far greater.

Playing this hand correctly is just as important as playing every other hand the right way. Asking for five new cards might be a bit painful. Not asking for them might be even more painful to your bankroll.

It takes discipline to play the Expert Strategy way, but any story you’ve ever heard about a Player beating the house begins with discipline.

Buy his book Expert Strategy for Three Card Poker now!

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.co m. Contact Elliot at ElliotF [email protected].

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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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