Three simple rules for Expert Strategy

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One of my father’s favorite expressions, or at least one that I remember most fondly was “Even a blind squirrel can find an acorn once in a while.” Essentially everyone can get lucky at some point.

This expression is so very true when it comes to casino gaming. On a small scale, there was that time I was playing Blackjack with my son. I couldn’t see his initial two cards, but he took a hit and drew a 6. He took another hit and drew a 10.

I figured he must have busted, almost assuredly. When he made no indication that he did, I assumed he has started with a 5. When the hand was over and the dealer revealed his cards, he has an Ace and a 4. He hit a ‘soft’ 21 when he drew that 10. Obviously, unintentional, but lucky nonetheless.

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On the larger scales, you hear war stories of the video poker player who threw a High Pair to hold two suited High Cards to wind up drawing a Royal Flush. It’s going to happen. It’s going to happen about 1 in 16,215 times. To an individual this seems rare. To the entire universe of players, it is probably happening daily — although I’d like to hope very few players are throwing a High pair for a 2-Card Royal.

Last week, I announced that my latest booklet Expert Strategy for Ultimate Texas Hold’em was complete. As I posted this announcement on social media, one response I got was “An Expert Strategy is required to Master any game.”

And that is the point of today’s column. My dad titled most of his books “Expert Strategy for…”. He defined Expert Strategy as having three major pillars.

The first is knowing which games to play. The second is knowing what strategy to play that game with. The third is knowing what to expect. Without these three concepts, you have little hope of mastering any game.

The first pillar of knowing which game to play is relatively simple if you do some light research. If you stick to low paying games, your odds of winning or not losing significantly is very small over the long run. Sure, some player hits the millions on a Wheel of Fortune slot machine, but the other 99.9 percent of the players are playing a game that pays below 90 percent. You just don’t stand much of a chance.

Of course, table game players are not inherently safe. While most base games have decent paybacks, it’s those side bets paying 80-90 percent that will sap your bankroll over time as well.

Those table game paybacks are only available to the players who learn the right strategy. Three Card Poker’s 98 percent payback only comes with folding anything less than Q-6-4. Decide to never fold and you will nearly double the house advantage.

You’re still better off playing with the wrong strategy than playing slots. On any given night, you may wind up a winner. But over the long haul you will be costing yourself a lot of money by refusing to learn the simplest strategy.

That brings us to the final concept of knowing what to expect. Some might argue that this isn’t so important. Well, you could simply choose to trust me and the strategies I put out there. That might be enough to get you using it initially. But, over time, if you don’t understand what do expect, you will likely begin to doubt the strategy, especially when you hit a cold streak or the strategy appears to not work.

You go in 4x in Ultimate Texas Hold’em on an off-suit A-10 and you get beat a couple of times in a row and all of a sudden you start to wonder if I’m on the casino’s payroll purposefully giving you wrong information. The fact that you’re supposed to win that hand 60 percent of the time or more does not preclude you from losing it two, three or even five times in a row.

It was an acquaintance in the industry who said it, not me — if you want to master a game, you need an Expert Strategy. 

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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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