Pick the right game!

Dec 5, 2006 1:15 AM

The top rule of Expert Strategy is to know what machines to play. Playing the proper strategy can help you achieve the best possible payback on that machine, but it cannot make the machine payout more than the theoretical maximum, over time. If you pick the wrong game and play it perfectly, you still are very likely to go home a loser.

The doubters like to tell you that the game you pick is immaterial. All you need is luck and discipline. The wrong word in the previous sentence is all.

It certainly helps to have luck, especially in the short run. Discipline is a good idea, too. You have to know when to walk away, both as a winner and as a loser. But luck and discipline are not ALL that you need.

You need to know which games to play and how to play them. Luck may help you win on a single night on a bad machine. But, you’ll need a lot less luck if you start out on the right machine. The doubters like to tell you that one little coin doesn’t make any difference. Being paid less on a flush isn’t as important as the cards you get. I disagree.

To prove my point, I’ll use a simulation of the Pair Plus wager of Three Card Poker. I use this wager because there is no strategy to get in the way, it is easy to change the paytable and it runs rather fast on my PC. I ran 1 million 100-hand sessions (about 3 hours of play at a table) and compared the results using two paytables. The paytables are shown below:

Hand  Paytble 1 Paytble 2
Straight Flush 40 40
Three of a Kind 30 30
Straight 6 6
Flush 4 3
Pair 1 1
Payback  97.68%  92.72%

As the paytables show, 1 little coin difference in the flush payout translates to a whopping 5% difference in the overall payback. But surely, a little luck can overcome this. There’s no reason for a player to seek out a table playing Paytable 1 instead of Paytable 2, right? The results seem to say otherwise.

Result Paytble 1  Paytble 2
Win more than 20 19.94% 17.51%
Win less than 21 20.07% 16.08%
Lose more than 20 29.61% 27.60%
Lose less than 21 29.15% 37.42%
Win 40.01% 33.59%
Lose 58.76% 65.03%

While there is little doubt that even with Paytable 1, the player is nearly 50% more likely to lose than to win. However, with Paytable 2, the numbers get far worse. The likelihood of losing is nearly twice that of winning. Additionally, losing sessions will consist of larger losses than winning sessions will consist of larger wins.

This simulation compared 3-hour sessions of 100-hands. The longer the sessions or the more hands per hour, and the worse it gets.

For the doubters, I included one more simulation. I put two players side by side, one playing on Paytable 1 and the other on Paytable 2 and I compared how they each did after the 3-hour session.

The player using Paytable 1 won 55% of the time and the Player using Paytable 2 won 44% of the time. Again, this is in a relatively short session of 100 hands. The disparity will grow as the number of hands goes up.

The bottom line is that the amount of luck required to make up for playing the wrong game is simply too much to make up the difference. Help yourself by picking the games with the best paytables, whether it is video poker or a table game.