Take your strategy from the pay table

Aug 1, 2005 11:56 PM

Last week I began reviewing the strategy table for full-pay jacks or better, line by line. This week, I’ll cover the next dozen or so lines, examining the key strategy points.

Previously, I reviewed all of the pre-draw hands with an Expected Value greater than 1.0, which will be winning hands in the long run for the player. Unfortunately, only about 35% of the table consists of these hands. Worse yet, these hands only account for a little over 25% of all the pre-draw hands.

The rest of the hands are net losers for the player in the long run. An expected value below 1.0 means that the player can expect to receive less than he wagered. Of course, in any single hand, he may wind up a winner, but he should consider himself fortunate anytime it does.

The next four entries on our strategy table are as follows:

Hand Expected Value

4-Card Straight with 3 High Cards 0.87

Low Pair 0.82

4-Card Straight with 2 High Cards 0.81

4-Card Straight with 1 High Card 0.74

What we learn from this section of the strategy table is that a low pair is played over all 4-card straights, except one. If you have a Pair of 10s, along with a J-Q-K (assuming no 3-card royal), you play the achieve the payback that expert strategy affords. So, although the difference in Expected Value may appear to be small, these hands will occur so often that playing them consistently wrong will begin to eat away at your bankroll.

The other key lesson from this part of the strategy table is the power of the high card. High cards are defined as any Jack, Queen, King or Ace. There value stems from the fact that a pair of them earns our money back. So, from the strategy table, we can see how a 4-card straight (open ended) is worth about .06 more for each additional high card the hand contains.

Technically, the same is true for a 4-card flush, but given the overall expected value of a 4-card flush (1.22), there is no need to break them out because they are all played the same way.

We break out these hands because it impacts the way we play the hand. This will become even more obvious as we continue our trip down the strategy table to the 4-card inside straights and 3-card straight flushes.

The next few entries in our strategy table are as follows:

Hand EV

3-card inside straight flush with 2 high cards 0.73

3-card straight flush with 1 high card 0.72

4-card straight with no high cards 0.68

3-card double inside straight flush with 2 high cards 0.64

3-card inside straight flush with 1 high card 0.63

3-card straight flush with no high cards 0.63

This part of the strategy table introduces the 3-card straight flush, which is one of the most difficult portions of the strategy table to it is open-ended (or outside), or an inside straight flush or a double inside straight flush. If the three cards are consecutive and allow two to be filled in on either side, it is an open-ended straight flush.

If the 3-card straight requires one card to be filled in, it is an inside straight flush. If it requires both cards in the middle, it is a double inside straight flush.

It should be no surprise that a straight flush has a higher expected value than an inside straight flush, which has a higher value than a double inside straight flush, assuming the same number of high cards.

So, the first 3-card straight flush on the table is the inside straight flush with two high cards (any 3-card straight flush with three high cards would be a 3-card royal, as would a 3-card straight flush that is a 10-J-Q, so none of these appear separately on the table).

As we follow the pattern of the 3-card straight flushes, we find that an additional high card adds more to the expected value than that lost with a hole in the middle. Thus, the next entry is the 3-card straight flush with one high card.

Also from this part of the strategy table, we learn that a 4-card straight is kept instead of a 3-card straight flush.

The third entry on this part of the table is the lowest possible 4-card straight (open ended). Many hands contain 3-card straight flushes of some variety, along with a 4-card straight. In all cases, the 4-card straight is played. You’ll complete the straight about one in six times and this is too valuable relative to the 3-card straight flushes.

Next week, I’ll complete the walkthrough of the full-pay jacks or better strategy table. Besides completing the 3-card straight flushes, it will introduce the 2-card royals and the unique way they are classified, and show us how these hands compare to hands that are played as just unsuited high cards. And, of course, we’ll finish up with the dreaded Razgu.